by Jonathan Daugherty
What is the best remedy for complete burnout, total fatigue? More work, of course! You just need to tap into the right formula. Obviously, you're doing something wrong. If you weren't, well, you wouldn't be so tired now, would you?
This, unfortunately, is the answer many well-meaning people are shoving down the throats of already burned out, and broken, sex and porn addicts.
Therapists, good-natured friends, and even pastors heap up massive servings of rules, along with some side orders of shame and fear, to sexually broken people searching for help. It's no wonder that very few sex and porn addicts ever taste the sweet morsels of freedom and peace.
Jesus once said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)
You should see the looks on some guys faces when I tell them their mission in recovery isn't "doing more." It's like I've knocked over their apple cart with all their carefully positioned, platitudinal answers to all life's questions. What? Getting free from sexual bondage doesn't mean I have to take on more rules and tasks and burdens? How can that be?
I'm always amazed and encouraged by how Jesus cuts to the heart of what we need without blinking at all our excuses. He knows that our hearts need rest. So, he invites us to rest...in Him.
"But, Lord, I know that I need to get cleaned up and stop acting out first."
"Come to me," Jesus says.
"Well, I know that I need to get in a group, pray every day, read my Bible, and go to church."
"Come to me," He beckons.
"C'mon, Jesus, I need to know that everything I'm going to give up is really worth it, and that everything I'm going to work so hard for will impress you."
"Come to me."
Keeping the rules has never transformed one sinful heart.
Jesus alone transforms hearts. He alone can heal your sexual brokenness, the abuses from your past, the anger and fear in your heart.
Rules and programs and books, these things become a noose around your already broken neck if you don't understand that you must first come to Jesus. He gives rest, no one else does. No one else can.
Sometimes it's hard to recognize rest (i.e. peace) as your essential need. It feels more like the primary need is figuring how to just not act out anymore. But I have come to see that when a soul has found its rest in Jesus, the motivations it once had to act out are gone.
Finding rest, and continuing to rest, in Jesus gives the soul all it needs to live life in fullness and joy, no longer seeking the facade of true intimacy promised by lust.
Now, don't think that prayer, Bible study, community and counseling are rubbish. They are not. But when one seeks in those activities what can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ, there will be no rest, only anxiety.
Be careful to keep the central thing first: Jesus gives rest to all who come to him. Everything else is secondary.
3 Tips for Finding Rest in Jesus
While it is true that Jesus offers us the generous, open invitation to come to Him to find rest, there are some insights to be gained from those who have traveled this road before us.
Here are a few tips I've learned from others over the years that might help you find the rest your heart longs for in Jesus:
1. Tear Up Your Agenda
Even when your soul is weary, it's easy to have an agenda for what you think rest should look like (and feel like). But this won't help you find true rest.
To bring an agenda to Jesus when your soul is frazzled and worn is like bringing your bankruptcy paperwork to Bill Gates as a strategy for creating wealth. Jesus knows what your soul needs to find rest. If you knew, Jesus wouldn't have made the invitation.
So, lay down your ideas of what you think it will take to find rest, and instead place yourself in the competent and caring arms of Jesus.
Sometimes just laying down your agenda brings a wave of rest your soul hasn't felt in, well, maybe forever.
2. Listen More than You Talk
Jesus says that He will give you rest. This means that He knows what it takes for your soul to be at rest. Therefore, it's to your advantage to listen to whatever He tells you.
I have been leading a weekly support group for sexually addicted men since 2000. Sometimes a guy shows up and on his first time there talks more than everyone. He has answers, but no solutions. He doesn't even realize it.
Maybe you have had a lot of "answers" for the restlessness of your soul, but have yet to find any solutions. You talk and talk and talk. But your answers only add more anxiety and turmoil to your life.
Sit still. Focus on Jesus and His Word. Listen. Stay silent. Just listen. You may not hear anything for awhile. That's okay. This is Jesus calming your mind and heart so that you can receive the rest He wants to give you.
The kind of rest Jesus offers cannot be received by a proud heart. Not until you admit you don't have all the "answers" will you be truly ready to receive the rest Jesus has for you.
Listen more than you talk...
3. Wear Jesus' Yoke
There is a kind of rest that Jesus offers that is totally free. It doesn't cost you anything. Just come to Him and receive it. It's wonderful. But it's not all that Jesus has to offer.
There is a deeper rest that Jesus offers to those who are willing to be "yoked" to Him. This He calls "rest for your soul."
The first kind of rest is a release from the burdens of all your toil and labor in trying to generate the peace that only Jesus can bring. And we all need to be released from the prison of self-righteousness and pride.
But the deeper rest is found in a new kind of toil and labor, the work that Jesus wants us to do alongside Him.
He says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matt. 11:29, emphasis mine)
To be "yoked" to Jesus means that He is going to put you to work in learning from Him what it means to live life the way He intended it. This is not easy and it doesn't come naturally. But by His grace, and through His power, you can do the work God made for you to do. (Eph. 2:10)
And this work that Jesus invites you to do alongside Him will lead you to discover a rest for your soul that you could never find on your own.
Are you laboring? Heavy laden? Even in recovery? Come to Jesus. He promises to give rest to all who come. So, what excuse is holding you back from receiving what your soul truly needs? Just come...
In this post we will help you define porn addiction, understand the biology, psychology, and theology of porn addiction, and then share the best resources available to help you break free from porn -- for good!
What Is Porn Addiction?
Let's break down the terms:
Porn -- sexually explicit media, whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal.
Addiction -- the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
So, porn addiction is an enslavement to viewing sexually explicit media that causes arousal.
In years past, one might have argued that viewing porn was simply a personal choice that didn't have any empirical effect on one's body, mind or behavior. But research is showing that is simply not true.
In order to understand porn addiction and its effects, it is important to address the whole person: body, mind, spirit.
Therefore, we need to explore the biology, psychology, and theology of porn addiction.
The Biology of Porn Addiction
What happens to the body of the porn addict? Or more specifically, what happens to the brain of the porn addict?
Everything you do with your body is processed through the brain. It is like the "CPU" (Central Processing Unit) of the human body. To wiggle your finger or smell a rose, the brain is vitally necessary.
Your brain is full of neural pathways. These pathways are what "carry" bits of information from one place to another in the nervous system. They are formed whenever you learn something new, and they grow stronger the more you repeat that thought or action.
So, if you view porn over and over again, you are forming very strong neural pathways that eventually become "unconscious" because of the repetitive behavior.
Your brain, in a sense, becomes "hard-wired" for porn. This is why porn addiction can be so difficult to overcome -- biology is powerful!
Before you feel hopeless at this news, let me encourage you. New neural pathways can be created that can "override" the old pathways. This is called neuroplasticity. Your brain doesn't have to stay perpetually "stuck" in old patterns of porn-addicted thinking.
As you focus your mind on what is true and good and beautiful, you can create new neural pathways that grow stronger than your old "porn pathways." Over time, you can "rewire" your brain away from porn to healthier thoughts and behaviors.
One other notable biological aspect of porn addiction is the "feel good" chemical that is released in the brain when viewing porn: dopamine.
Dopamine acts like a chemical reward for pursuing thoughts and behaviors deemed pleasurable. In some ways, dopamine could be described as the "want to" drug of the brain that develops an appetite of "craving" the more it is released.
Therefore, when you look at porn (or even think about looking at porn) your brain releases dopamine. Simultaneously, neural pathways are carrying bits of information along a "track" reinforcing the behavior. Repetition of this activity strengthens both the dopamine release and neural pathway development.
Over time, the "craving" for porn biologically intensifies.
The Psychology of Porn Addiction
While the biology of porn addiction looks at the brain and neural pathways and pleasure chemicals, the psychology of porn addiction focuses on the mind and emotions. What emotional and mental factors play into porn addiction?
In years past there seemed to be a pretty consistent psychological model applied to porn and sex addiction: early trauma in childhood followed by introduction to sexual stimuli, topped off with weak or dysfunctional family relationships.
While this model still applies today to many who develop a porn addiction, a new model is emerging: high media consumption reinforced by cultural normalization of porn, topped off with little to no experience with emotionally bonding to another person.
Research is showing that the ubiquity of consuming digital media is actually reducing our ability to read emotional cues from others (i.e. facial expressions). And when you add porn into this mix, it only magnifies desensitization toward human connection. The mind and heart eventually grow cold and numb.
One of the most common refrains we hear from men who attend our Gateway to Freedom 3-day workshop is that porn "numbed out" their ability to feel empathy or compassion or even desire toward anyone.
Another psychological factor in porn addiction is shame. Shame is the core belief that your value is equal to your performance. In other words, you are only as good as your behavior.
Shame can create a mental "spiral" of thoughts that are highly self-condemning. It's as if there is a perpetual microscope analyzing every minute detail of thought and action.
Shame creates a standard you can never live up to. You are never enough, never wanted, never known. Always less than, always left out, always hidden.
The use of porn only increases the unhealthy shame thoughts because porn never truly satisfies and therefore reinforces the shame lies. Addiction is a vicious cycle of self-destruction.
Porn addiction doesn't just take a toll on your biology, it diminishes your heart and soul, too. Relationships inevitably take a huge blow because of porn addiction.
Over half of all divorce cases "involve one party having an 'obsessive interest' in pornographic websites." The psychological, social and familial cost of porn use can be very high.
But porn addiction isn't only about biology and psychology. There is also a theology to porn addiction. God cares about how you use the body He gave you.
The Theology of Porn Addiction
Does God's Word really have anything to say about porn addiction? Yes!
Regarding pornography, Jesus said, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has committed adultery in his heart." (Matt. 5:28)
To look with "lustful intent" fits the definition of porn: "whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal". Jesus said this is a sin of the heart, not merely behavior.
Pornography is not only about behavior ("biology"). It is an invitation to draw your heart away from what is true and good and beautiful, and instead incite you to lustfully devour with your eyes the flesh of fellow image bearers of God.
Elsewhere the Apostle Peter said:
"...For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved." 2 Peter 2:19b
This clearly fits the definition of addiction: "the state of being enslaved to a habit."
God did not create us to be enslaved to our sexual urges and desires. His design was that we be free to love and be loved in the expansive boundaries of His created order. Sexual expression is reserved for the context God designed: covenant marriage.
Freedom from porn addiction is not merely about tweaking brain chemistry (biology) or seeing a therapist (psychology); your sexuality is a deeply spiritual thing because God created it.
Your sexuality is a beautiful and wonderful gift from God. You were made male or female on purpose -- with a purpose.
God's purpose for your life is not to be addicted to porn. And the good news is you don't have to be! (see below for resources)
Where to Get Help for Porn Addiction
We have looked at the definition of porn addiction, the biology of porn addiction, the psychology of porn addiction, and even the theology of porn addiction.
But now it's time to turn our attention to getting you the help you need to be FREE of porn addiction.
As we have noted in this article, you are made up of body, mind, and spirit. Therefore, in order to get the best help possible for overcoming your porn addiction, you need help physically, mentally/emotionally, and spiritually.
Here are some of the best resources available in each of these categories:
Physical Help for Overcoming Porn Addiction
We recommend you get a check up with your personal doctor to assess your overall health in light of your addictive patterns. Oftentimes other issues like depression, anxiety, or dual addictions can present alongside a porn addiction.
Here are other resources that might also help you better understand and address the physical side of porn addiction:
Mental & Emotional Help for Overcoming Porn Addiction
For help finding counselors and other professionals skilled in treating porn addiction, consider these resources:
Spiritual Help for Overcoming Porn Addiction
There is a growing number of resources available for addressing the spiritual needs of overcoming porn addiction. The following links can help you pursue freedom from a biblical framework:
Help for MEN with Porn Addiction
Help for WOMEN with Porn Addiction
For help finding support groups for porn addiction recovery, visit Groups.Bebroken.com or download the Live Free app at LiveFreeCommunity.org.
For additional resources to overcome porn addiction, visit PureCommunity.org.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
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Life is stressful. Can I get an 'Amen'?
Stress (or anxiety) can come from lots of places: medical issues, broken relationships, work problems, trauma, mental health disorders, addictions, drugs, alcohol, heredity, and many others. Just about anything can be a trigger for stress.
Stress, for the purposes of this article, can simply be defined as worry -- to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.
So, how are you handling your stress?
Let me suggest that the following exercises might help you manage your stress in healthier ways:
1. Read and Pray Every Day
While there certainly can be physical reasons for anxiety, one thing seems to always be present when we are stressed: obsessive thoughts about our fears.
What you think about matters to how you feel. And what you think about is affected by what you focus on. So, what are you focused on?
A simple way to refocus your mind away from your fears and anxieties is to read and pray every day. Read a passage of Scripture that reminds you of your inherent value or of your identity in Christ.
Pray throughout the day. Share your struggles and fears with God. Be honest and open about the difficulty you are having; even expressing any doubts you are having about God and goodness and life.
Also, it is important to read other good material on understanding your emotions and how to respond to them in healthy ways.
Read and pray every day. It makes a difference for handling stress well.
Stress creates a sense of panic. And when we panic everything speeds up -- thoughts, heart rate, and even breathing.
So, a very practical exercise to help deal with stress in a healthy way is to focus on your breathing. And keep it simple: breathe in and breathe out.
According to Medical News Today, something called the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help reduce tension and stress. (I'm not advocating for yoga; this is only a simple way to breathe that has positive effects on your body.)
Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds. Start easy by doing this for 3-7 minutes, then work your way up to 15-20 minutes a day. I suggest lying down or sitting down when you start, just in case you get light-headed.
To enhance this breathing exercise, meditate on Scripture or pray the Lord's Prayer. Breathe in God's grace and truth, and breathe out any lies of shame and all the things you can't control. Focus your mind on God's truth and grace.
Breathing is essential to life. Learn to breathe deeply and focus on what is true. This will help you handle your stress far better.
3. Name Your Fears
Stress seems most powerful when it attaches our fear to the unknown. And the unknown is whatever is unnamed.
Have you ever noticed that the stuff that scares us most is usually the stuff we know very little about. Take something extremely difficult, like cancer, for instance.
When someone has cancer but doesn't know it, their fears about feeling sick can go in a million different directions. But once the cancer is named, those particular fears are not as strong -- even though the thought of fighting cancer is very daunting.
Once the diagnosis is made, new fears emerge, right? But why? Because now there are yet more unnamed realities that must be faced.
Naming your fears is healthy self-talk. The Psalmist says, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (42:5) And follows this up later with a specific question, "Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
Finally, after naming the specific fear (oppression of the enemy), the Psalmist fights it with pointing his will toward truth: "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
The more you can name your fears and combat them with truth, the more you can limit their power over you -- and the more your stress will decrease.
4. Connect with Healthy People
It is not easy to deal with stress, or name your fears, alone. You need to connect with healthy people who love you and can listen thoughtfully to your full story of stress and anxiety.
Healthy people are those who understand the difficulties of life, and have likely traveled through some valleys themselves, but know how to direct you to wisdom with love and compassion.
The more you try to handle your stress alone, the more you are likely to drown in it. Healthy people lift your head above water so you can see from a different vantage point, and breathe the air of hope and truth.
I'm sure you're asking, "Where do I find these healthy people?"
Start right where you live. Plug into a local church where you can connect with Christians who can love and support you.
Seek out professional counseling to deal with any underlying roots to your stress, whether they be psychological or physical.
Connect with others in a confidential support group.
5. Embrace Your Limitations
There is no "cure" for the difficulties of life. Sure, there are things you can do that help with responding to such difficulties in healthy ways, but be careful of "magical" thinking that says you just need to get the formula right and all your troubles will disappear.
You and I have limitations. And each of us is different. I'm amazed at how "easily" some people seem to handle stress. It's like nothing bothers them. But I'm not them. And neither are you.
Admitting you are weak is not weak. It's actually quite powerful. The Apostle Paul said as much:
"But he [Jesus] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (1 Cor. 12:9-10)
Stress isn't fun. It seems to "torment" with relentless persistence. But you can respond with confidence; not in yourself, but in the grace of God.
Preach this message of truth and hope to yourself every day: though I am weak, my God is strong. I will trust in His power, not my own. I rest in Him.
May you grow in grace as you learn to handle stress in healthier ways.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Addiction destroys life. Over time, with each acting out experience, a little more life is drained from the addict. Eventually, all that remains is a walking dead person.
Easter is the celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He conquered sin on the cross and then crushed death by His resurrection. Many addicts are Christians, they believe Jesus Christ is their only hope of salvation. So, how come many are not experiencing freedom and victory from their addiction?
The story of the resurrection of Lazarus might give us some insight into why many Christians are not experiencing freedom from addiction, and how they can.
The full story is found in John 11 in the bible. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. His sisters, Martha and Mary, were too. Lazarus gets sick and his sisters ask Jesus to come heal him. Jesus doesn't come immediately, and Lazarus dies. Not exactly what the sisters expected from Jesus. And that's the first thing we need to understand about recovery: God's path to freedom and new life won't be what we initially expect.
Most addicts who enter recovery expect the process to be quick, easy, and not terribly uncomfortable. But such expectations are just the underlying lies of addiction. ("If you smoke this, drink this, or look at that, all your dreams will come true.") God has a far better way for addicts, but many never realize it because they can't get over the initial challenge of recovery not being what they expected or hoped for.
Jesus eventually arrives on the scene after Lazarus has been buried. Martha and Mary express their grief and disappointment to Jesus. He responds to both with truth and grace. To Martha he gives a theology lesson (v. 20-27). To Mary he offers his tears (v. 32-36). This is the next thing we need to understand about God's path to recovery: Jesus responds to our pain personally.
No two addicts are identical in their stories or suffering. Each one has unique pain. Some addicts are hardened cynics. To these God may bring a hard truth to break their pride. Other addicts are crushed victims. To these God offers tears of understanding to lead them home. God knows that we need and when we need it on our journey of recovery.
Now the moment comes when Jesus is brought to the tomb where Lazarus was buried. This is the scene that will take our breath away -- literally!
"Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.'" (v. 39a)
You cannot walk out of the grave of addiction until the "stone" locking you in is removed. And you need a community willing to move it.
Dead people can't move stones. Yet, so often addicts are preached at to "get up" or "stop it" or "just make better choices." If Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead without moving the stone, Lazarus would have been "alive" but living in a locked tomb. The stone had to be rolled away for him to come out of the grave. The "stone(s)" in the addict's life must be rolled away before they can come out of their addiction.
Some common "stones" that keep addicts imprisoned are:
And many more. Each of these stones require the help of others to remove. The addict drowning in shame cannot remove that stone by sheer willpower or "positive thinking." Other people need to speak truth and hope and grace in order to remove that stone.
But even after the stone is removed, Lazarus is still a dead man. And he stinks.
"Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him [Jesus], 'Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.'" (v. 39b)
Addiction stinks. The people who come around the addict to help remove the stone need to know this: What lies on the other side of grave stones is a stinky dead person. And depending on how long the addict has been dying in their addiction, the stench can be quite putrid. But it's good to smell the stink. Here's why.
Many addicts, especially those addicted to "non-substances" like porn and lust, are great at hiding their addiction. Their grave stone is securely in place and therefore the "stink" of addiction isn't easily recognized by others. This means friends and family may not know that their loved one is dying, or already dead.
When the grave stone is moved and the horrible smell of death hits you in the face, it is a powerful moment. Don't rush past it. Yes, it hurts when the stinky truth about a loved one knocks you over. But you can learn from it. Breathe it in so you can become familiar with the stench, so that when you pick up that scent in others, you know what to do to help them break free from their grave of addiction.
Finally, the moment has come for Jesus to do the miraculous; to raise Lazarus from the dead.
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. (v. 41-44)
When Jesus, the author of Life, speaks, death must flee. Death could not hold Lazarus when Jesus called him out of the grave. And addiction cannot hold the addict when Jesus calls them out. But an addict might ask, "Why, then, don't I feel free?" Easy, you're still wrapped up in your death clothes.
There are a lot of "walking dead" in recovery groups. They are "alive" in the sense that God has given them new life, but they are still bound by their former, familiar grave clothes. This, again, is why we need a strong, loving community around us to help take off the death garments.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (v. 44b)
Jesus alone can call a dead man (or woman) back to life. Jesus alone can break the deadly power of addiction. But Jesus expects the community around the addict to "unbind him, and let him go." Addicts need the power of community to loose them from the familiar, stinky clothes of their old ways.
Are you struggling in your recovery? Do you still feel "dead" on your journey? What is God trying to show you from the resurrection of Lazarus that needs to be applied in your life?
Remember these words of Jesus, "...everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Do you?
May you, by the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ, and the presence of a loving community, walk today in freedom and victory over addiction.
For help finding a group in your area, visit Groups.Bebroken.com.
by Gerard Terry
Last night we had a fantastic men's group. We focused on the teaching of Brennan Manning, particularly where he said that when struggling with an addiction, a good starting point is to understand that God loves us as we are, not as we should be. I agree and know the strength one can draw from the confidence that the God of the universe is for you. This offers us security. The question which arises involves next steps. Where do we go from here? And, what is the goal of our Christian life once we know God loves us as we are?
The Basic Problem of Pornography
Pornography offers comfort for hurting men and women. Rather than take a pill or grab a bottle, we turn to its comfort as our go-to remedy to dull the pain of life. Since pain is everywhere, after a while our porn use becomes a habit. Although this habit does not tear us from the love of God, it has consequences. It distances us from hearing God's voice which offers comfort in difficult times. Porn hurts our wives, suggesting that quick sex is all women are good for. Porn robs us of time with others and kills our ministry to them. God's plan is that we be in a powerful relationship with Him through His Holy Spirit, truly love our wives, have meaningful fellowship and use our time here on earth to influence others toward Him. When done right, this is sufficient to overcome life's difficulties.
I believe there are two main reasons we turn to pornography, instead of God, when life happens:
1. We Don't Believe or Trust That God is Sufficient
I admit this is true for me. I don't have confidence that God will rescue me the way pornography does. Pornography is quick, easy, and reliable. It is available on demand. I don't need to wait on God's timing, which can be slow. I live in America and I want my pain relief NOW. Of course, God's faithfulness to me is proven over time. He always comes through. And, waiting on God allows Him to grow and change me during these waiting periods. He also teaches me to trust in Him for small and big things in the wait.
Pornography teaches me nothing and offers no growth. It stunts my development and leaves me as a child. Imagine the 6-year-old who got instant relief to life's problems with a simple fix - like a candy bar. He would stay a child, unable to cope and handle bigger challenges. God's plan is to grow us up so he can use us in bigger and better things as He equips us. Look back over time and see if you don't agree that He has rescued and strengthened you repeatedly. Consider how He has provided timely for your needs.
If you are not convinced, ask for the testimonies of others in your life. Seek out examples from other believers in history. Study the Bible daily - it is packed with examples. God has demonstrated that He is worthy of our trust and that he is sufficient for all we'll encounter. We need to be disciplined to wait on our Father’s timing for relief. Don't demand instant relief.
2. We Don't Know How to Enter Into the Designed Relationship
God desires depth in a relationship with us, not just a quick prayer shot up in desperation. That depth comes over time from three primary sources:
A. Reading the Word of God
The Word of God has long been the primary way He speaks to us. We simply can't draw close to God without reading His Word. The Bible covers all areas of life, including sexuality. God invented sex, still thinks it is a good idea, and speaks in His Word of how sex apart from His plan can hurt us and others. In a tight schedule, you can listen to the Bible every day while you drive to work as it is read on a podcast over your phone. Try the Daily Audio Bible. I download several at a time and always have a few ready to go on my phone.
B. Prayer with God - a Two Way Street
Prayer involves quiet meditation before God, listening to his spirit, and talking with Him. It is not designed as a time to present our shopping list to our loving Father. Yes, He wants to hear petitions for us and others, but that should not be the extent of your prayers. If you are too busy for 15 - 30 minutes of quiet prayer, you are too busy for a relationship with God. I frequently recall the saying, “if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”
C. Fellowship with Others
Fellowship is fun. Never miss a Sunday after finding a church where you enjoy the worship, teaching and opportunities for friendships. Join a small group which meets midweek. Next, check out the thousands of webcasts where you can hear teaching from top notch preachers. Podcasts are a great way to download daily content in this area as well. Christian books are available on any subject and will provide tools from those who have been there before. Christian radio is a favorite place of mine to listen to teaching and hear encouraging music. Find friends from church or a men's support group and you will have a valuable resource when you encounter temptation. Choose carefully who you hang out with, since “birds of a feather flock together.” I tell my kids to think about who they spend time with, since they will become like those people.
Lack of Sin is not the Measuring Stick
As I mentioned above, lack of sin is not the immediate goal. Getting to know God and developing a heart after Him is our first step in beating the porn problem. He wants a relationship with you. We cannot experience victory over life's challenges, like porn, without the filling of God's Holy Spirit and closeness to Him. He provides the direction, tools and strength to victory as we cling to Him and His plan for our lives. He is worthy of our trust. As you walk closely with Him, you will notice the grip of sin slowly loosening. It will lose its appeal in comparison to the joy found in God's company. Life at its fullest is available for free to those who lean on Him.
God's focus has always been on the heart. Throughout the Bible, stories are told of men involved in sin, who have turned to God with their whole heart. Imagine David, the murderer and adulterer, as described by God to David's son Solomon, "if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did. . .." How did David do it? He invited God into all he did. God wants us to do that too. He invites us to "love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." Deuteronomy 30:6. He wants us to, "turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 30:10. You can best steer your heart toward our Father by filling your time with thoughts of Him.
Seek first a relationship with God. Pursue him. Get to know him as your closest friend. Fall in love with Him with all your heart. Your sinful lifestyle will pale in comparison to fellowship with the God of the universe.
by Jonathan Daugherty
Life is hard. Sin is real. Death is inevitable for us all. And for those in bondage to sexual strongholds, it is easy to feel alone, hopeless, and unworthy of anything good. It is often in such a state that the weary soul of an addict glances toward heaven and cries out the question so many in this world ask, "Is God really good?"
Because of the universal struggle that life is, it is common for us to try and define God through our cloudy lens of circumstance. When illness strikes, or resistance to the same temptation collapses for the 1000th time, we often make assumptions about God based on our brokenness and pain. But to do so is to miss two very important factors our heavy soul actually needs to deal with such pain: truth and hope.
Jesus said that God is good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19). Either Jesus was lying or he wasn't. If he was telling the truth, then God truly is good -- all the time. Our circumstance, no matter how painful or difficult, cannot affect God's goodness. But how does this truth help us in our pain and struggle with the very real challenges of life?
The truth of God's unwavering goodness brings hope to our daily struggle. Because God is good, he is trustworthy to do what is good, even if we can't always perceive it. And because he loves us (John 3:16), the good he does is for our benefit (Rom. 8:28), not our harm. This idea is best understood from the perspective of a loving parent.
My son recently came down with pneumonia. It really knocked him out. I love my son, and to see him in such physical agony ripped my heart out. In order to help him heal, we had to give him medicine that quite frankly made his whole face contort because it tasted so disgusting. He dreaded each application of the medicine, even asking to skip doses. As a loving father, would I stop his treatment because he didn't like the taste of the medicine? No! The medicine was the very thing helping him to heal.
God is our loving heavenly Father; a better dad than any human! He longs for our healing, and he knows the best "medicine" we each need. I'm not suggesting that every painful circumstance in life is God "giving us medicine," but I am suggesting that because God is good he has the best vantage point for knowing what we need at any moment of our lives, in any circumstance. And his goodness is worth celebrating, despite our hard circumstances.
Psalm 34:1 - I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
The practice of praising God "at all times" is the practice of a heart that knows God is good in spite of life's difficulties. And such a heart discovers another great truth about God: he is close to us in our suffering.
Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Life is hard. God is good.
Sin is real. God is near.
Death is inevitable. God is life.
May you find rest for your soul in the truth of God's goodness and love. While he may not remove you from your difficult circumstance, he will be with you through every moment of it -- like a good father caring for his sick child. Trust in the good hand of your loving Father...
by Brian Waltmann
When I was 8 years old, my dad died of cancer, leaving a gaping hole in my heart... and in my life experience. I didn’t have a father-figure to model manhood for me, so I faltered and floundered throughout adolescence.
But God had a plan for me. When I was 20 years old, a man by the name of Charlie helped me begin a relationship with Christ and began mentoring me in my spiritual life. He taught me how to study the Bible, how to memorize scripture, how to have a quiet time, and how to pray conversationally with my Heavenly Father. In short, he taught me how to grow in my relationship with God.
Not only that, Charlie also helped me grow in character. He challenged me in my relationships with the opposite sex. He helped me grow relationally. He taught me the importance of Christian fellowship. But most of all, Charlie modeled the Christian life for me and gave me a living example of what it means to follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
So, how did Charlie help me grow in all these areas? First of all, he spent time with me. He was present in my life. We ate lunch together. We lifted weights together. We went camping and canoeing together. We went to church events together. We served together. We studied the Bible together. We prayed together. And when we were separated by distance (when I went back to school), he called me every week to see how I was doing -- and to quiz me on my scripture memory verses!
By mentoring me, Charlie became a father-figure in my life and filled many of the gaps that were left by the loss of my dad. And by God’s gracious plan, I have also had many other mentors in my life after Charlie, who had an equal impact on my growth and development. The man I am today has been largely influenced by the mentors that God has put in my life, and I am tremendously grateful!
After I had been “walking with God” for a few years, I began to mentor others, as Charlie had done with me. And by God’s grace, I have been mentoring others ever since. And it is a BLESSING! The men I have invested in are dear to me. They are my “glory and joy”! (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
Sadly, I think that my story is quite rare. Many Christians--dare I say most Christians--have never been mentored in their faith, nor have they had the opportunity to mentor someone else.
And in the recovery realm, very few men have received personal help in their recovery from sexual struggles and strongholds.
If you would like help finding mentors or accountability partners, please search our Groups Network or check out some of the coaching links on our Counselors Page.
Whatever you do, don't try to grow alone. You and I need each other in our journey of personal growth. Step out in courage and connect with others. And if you stumble, get back up. Fail forward.
by Jonathan Daugherty
Recovery is a process of healing from compulsions and growing in our God-given identity, for the purpose of serving others with similar struggles.
This is the final post in our Heal --> Grow --> Serve series, outlining the overall process and aim of recovery from sexual addictions (or any addictive patterns). In the first post, we explored what it takes to heal our sexual brokenness. In the second post, we examined what it takes to grow emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. In this post, we uncover the greatest gift of recovery: serving others.
If one isn't careful, recovery can simply become another way to feed self-centeredness, much like addiction does. The focus in the early stages is very self-focused, working to close the gaping wounds of lust, pride, childhood trauma, and more. This self-focus is healthy and necessary at this stage, but it is only the beginning of the journey. If one gets stuck in healing, they never fully break free to the joys of serving.
Acts 20:35b - ...and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
If you want to experience the deepest riches of recovery, don't get stuck in healing. Work hard to grow in grace so that you can serve others with pure motives and a clear conscience. Here are a few tips to help you serve well.
Serve at Home
The obvious place to "practice" serving others is at home, right where you live. Serving is not an "event" or project, it is to be a way of life. And each of us does life every day at home. Begin to seek out ways you can serve your family, keeping in mind that serving is about placing other's needs above your own.
Philippians 2:3-4 - Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Are you counting your family as more significant than you, their needs as an opportunity to serve? Serving your family doesn't have to be complicated, but it does require that you know their needs. To serve them you must know them. To know them you must spend time with them, talking and sharing and listening.
Here are some ideas of how you might serve at home:
Serve your family. Your joy in recovery will be multiplied.
Serve at Work
When you read "serve at work" it may feel redundant. Don't you already serve at work? Isn't that what "doing a job" is all about? Yes and no. Yes, you serve at work in the sense that you have a boss or shareholders or a mission that is the driving force behind the specific tasks you do. But that isn't the same as the kind of serving God wants us to do at work.
1 Peter 4:10 - As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.
Serving at work is about serving the people you work with. Are you being a good steward of God's grace in the workplace? Are you helping others without ulterior motives? Are you making sacrifices for the advancement of your co-workers without regard for your own success?
Here are just a few ideas of how you may serve at work:
Your "job" is the place God put you to serve. But you are not there just to serve your boss, you are there to serve God by serving your co-workers. Do this well and your treasure will be great in heaven.
Serve Every Day
Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
The example Jesus set for us was clear: love others. He walked from town to town sharing the Good News of His Father, and caring for the needs of the people. He spent His earthly life touching lives. Every day.
It is easy to get lulled into thinking that recovery is all about you. But this is no different than what your lustful addictions taught you. Recovery is about Jesus, and the beautiful, eternal work He wants to accomplish through you. As you get "cleaned up" and deepen your growth in grace, you will discover that your recovery was always intended for the benefit of everyone your life touches. Will you allow God to use you in such a profound and enriching way?
Every day, serve someone. It is the entire reason for recovery. It is the way Jesus taught us to live. Anything less is woefully unsatisfying. Live in such a way that when your life is over it lingers on in those you served...
by Jonathan Daugherty
Recovery is a process of healing from compulsions and growing in our God-given identity, for the purpose of serving others with similar struggles.
There is a process to recovering fully from sexually addictive patterns. It is simple: Heal --> Grow --> Serve. In a previous post I wrote about what healing looks like in this process. In this post I want us to explore the next stage: Growing. This stage focuses on three primary areas of growth: emotional, spiritual, and relational.
No one struggling with sexually addictive patterns is emotionally healthy. You might want to pause and reflect on that statement for a moment. You might even want to argue with it. But in my many years of hearing thousands of life stories of sexually addicted men, I have yet to meet one who exhibited emotional health in conjunction with their addictive lifestyle. Emotional health and addictive lust just don't go together.
Therefore, it is essential that emotional health be a high priority when seeking to grow into a man of sexual integrity. This means "growing up" and leaving childish ways behind.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Most sexually addicted men act like children emotionally. This is largely due to the fact that lust teaches a man to be self-centered, controlling, ill-tempered, angry, and deceptive. Just like a 2-year-old. But in order to be a mature man of integrity, he must give up such childish ways.
Often, counseling can be very helpful in understanding and overcoming childishness. Also, getting into a group of mature men can help sharpen these emotional skills.
The bible promises that if we walk by the Spirit of God we will not gratify the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). But how do we "walk by the Spirit?" By deepening our intimate relationship with God through Jesus. We must grow in our dependence upon God.
Most of us know the things to "do" when it comes to "spiritual growth," but few engage these activities in the way God had in mind. We know to pray, read our bibles, feed the hungry, care for orphans and widows, and serve the poor. But too often we engage in these disciplines with a "box-checking" mentality, not with a heart eager to know God.
Spiritual growth never occurs through activity alone. God is a Person, to be related to intimately, not as something we do, but rather as Someone we know.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Spiritual growth is about knowing the Way, not as a religious ritualistic journey, but as one knows a Person. Jesus is THE WAY! On this journey of growth as a man of integrity, you must know Him. May this change how you engage prayer, bible study, and fellowship with others. These are not means to an end, they are ever-present points of contact with the living Jesus.
Every sexually addicted person has damaged relationships. Lust and love are not synonyms. Therefore, in order to move forward to a life of integrity, you must grow healthy relationships. You must learn to relate well with others.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Healthy relationships require stuff that doesn't exist in addiction. Stuff like sacrifice, forgiveness, sharing, communication, honesty, faithfulness, patience, and lots and lots of love. These are not characteristics that tend to come naturally, especially if you have had lots of practice being a self-centered, addicted jerk. But there is good news! These are skills, therefore, they can be learned.
The best context to grow relationally is -- in relationships! Duh. So, talk to your wife. Spend time with your kids. Share your story with someone. Connect, connect, connect. Don't worry about "messing it up." There is no such thing as a "perfect" relationship. But you can have healthy ones, if you will work on growing in the area of relating well with others.
Growing is essential in becoming a strong man of integrity. There are no shortcuts on this journey. But from a solid foundation of healing, you can grow into the man you always wanted to be. And from there, well, some pretty amazing things can happen...
by Jonathan Daugherty
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." -Chinese proverb
If you or someone you love are addicted to pornography or other unhealthy sexual activities, there is certainly sickness present. It may not be a physical sickness (although many porn addicts report they don't feel well most of the time). But there is always emotional and spiritual sickness in those who develop sexually addictive patterns. And if the one sick is to become well, healing must occur.
Before we dive into what it takes to heal from sexual addiction, we must understand the overall process and purpose of recovery. Recovery is a process of healing from compulsions and growing in our God-given identity, for the purpose of serving others with similar struggles. It is a lifelong process that invites a person to exchange their life of addiction (self-centered idolatry) for a life of purpose and meaning (selfless acts of service). With this in mind, let's dive into what it takes to heal from sexually addictive patterns.
Proper healing never happens without proper diagnosis. If you suffer from a head cold and a doctor inaccurately diagnoses you with bronchitis, whatever treatment is prescribed will have little effect on your actual illness. It is important to assess the problem carefully in order to develop a quality treatment plan.
When it comes to sexual addictions, it isn't as easy to diagnose as a head cold (or even bronchitis). There are many variables: family of origin issues, abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual), trauma, sexual history, exposure to porn in childhood, religious beliefs, and more. This part of the recovery journey can benefit greatly from counseling by a qualified sexual addiction counselor.
Take your time in the diagnosis stage. Be careful not to get "stuck" in analysis, but also don't be too quick to rush to "solutions" before you have adequately unpacked all that has been bottled up deep inside. Secrecy is a big part of developing (and perpetuating) an addiction, so it is likely that it could take a while for everything that has been hidden to come into the light for examination. Be patient and keep bringing it all out. It will be painful, but it is pain with a good purpose: healing.
Once the diagnosis is made, there must be a plan for treating the sickness. How would you like to go to your doctor with the head cold I mentioned earlier, and after he diagnoses your cold he stands up, shakes your hand, and dismisses you from his office? No prescription. No advice. Not even a "hope you feel better" as you head for the door. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't keep that doctor.
The same should be true in recovery. Too often people keep going back again and again to "doctors" (i.e. helpers in recovery) who do nothing more than tell the patient, "Yep, you're addicted to porn and sex. Good luck." What? Healing from a sexual addiction does not occur through diagnosis only. There must be a plan for getting well.
The combination of counseling and support groups can be very helpful when developing a plan for your specific needs. These are environments that are designed to give you the time and space you need to absorb new thoughts and engage in healthy relationships that motivate you to live in a different way -- free from addiction.
But a "prescription" doesn't fill itself. You ultimately have to "take your medicine."
"Take your medicine"
I remember being sick as a kid -- a lot! It felt to me like I was going to the doctor every week with a sore throat and fever. Every time I started to feel bad, I knew what was coming: the spoon. Yeah, I think you know what I'm talking about. The spoon that carried this liquid that was a color no one can describe. And the taste. Well, I'd rather not talk about it anymore. I'm not feeling too well...
I'm not sure why most medicines can't taste good, but it seems to be that way when it comes to the ingredients that make us well. The same is true in recovery. I wish I could say it "tasted" good to confess, to make amends, to humble myself before God and others, to resist temptation, to reach out for help, to set up boundaries at home and work, and much more. But what the "prescription" for purity lacked in taste, it made up for in effectiveness. This is what it takes to heal.
When you discover that the prescription, or plan, for your recovery is actually for your good, you won't be as likely to resist it. In fact, you will reach out for the "spoon" and drink the weird-colored medicine because of its healing effect. Over time you will even begin to "feel" better, not wallowing about in the cloud of addiction, loneliness, and shame. This is what healing looks like, and its the first step of the long, and rewarding journey of recovery.
For help in healing from sexual addiction, consider the following resources:
Gateway to Freedom (3-day workshop for men)