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...
It is with some difficulty I begin this posting. Over two years ago Be Broken invited me to contribute to this blog and I did so enthusiastically! For those who may not remember or may not have read the posting it was not much more than an introduction and an explanation of where my sexual brokenness had brought me -- namely, to a Federal Prison.
I was excited! I was finally being called to serve in the very area that was my downfall. Be Broken had been a major factor, or rather, the major tool used by the Lord to minister to me and to get me to recognize and embrace my brokenness. Of course I was excited! I finished that first article and quickly began working on my second...
Life inside these walls can be quite similar to life outside. We, the incarcerated, are faced with daily struggles and problems. And just like you, the "free world," we have to decide to turn to God or to ourselves in these times. This fact is probably no surprise to anybody, incarcerated or not. Perhaps what the incarcerated do know better than those not incarcerated is the way life in prison can drain a person of hope.
Hope. Two years ago hope was going to be the subject of my next posting, my second posting. I contemplated hope. I prayed for understanding of hope. I formulated words to express my understanding. As I sat down to put my words on paper a dark cloud settled over me. I began to understand that I was not convinced that I believed all I was saying about hope.
To clarify, I believed it all, but even as I wrote the words I knew I was not living as if I did. I did not have hope in and for my future. I did not place all my hope in the Lord. In referring to the words of St. Augustine, I was not living as if I already received that which I hoped for.
I was spiritually smashed by the revelation. I had my pen in hand when this realization came to me. I literally put down my pen (and article) for the last two years.
Prison seems to do that to a person -- in my experience, at least, and many of those around me. You may not have steel bars, concrete walls, or razor wire imprisoning you, but what holds you prisoner? Is it the desires of your flesh; selfishness that allows you to discount the feelings of your spouse or family; your sexual brokenness?
We are all held prisoner, it seems, by something. These bars and razor wire are not the things that make me a prisoner, but my sin. The dark one holds the other end of a noose placed around our necks. What outcome could one possibly hope for when tethered to the noose-end of that rope? Struggle as I might I cannot remove this noose myself. Only One can free me: Jesus.
But will He do it if I continue to run the other direction holding on to my noose as if it were a comfy scarf protecting me from the cold? And is this not the real issue with sin? We hold on to it because we think it comforts us, make us feel good in our flesh, or worst of all, feels like home because of its familiarity.
It is my sincere prayer that one day you and I can enthusiastically say with Paul, "I (insert your name here), a prisoner for Christ..." Perhaps one day my thoughts on hope will be fully realized in my heart and mind and my thoughts-set-to-paper will see the light of day. Until that day I at least know that I cannot hope for anything I am not willing to make sacrifices for, nor can I put my hope in myself but in the Lord.
Be broken, but be hopeful.
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
A couple years ago I built a wooden bench from reclaimed lumber out of a 100-year-old house. It was my first attempt at building a bench. I wouldn’t identify myself as “handy.” I’m more monkey than mechanic; perfectly able to mimic someone more skilled when attempting to engage “handy-type” projects, but not likely to initiate a launch on my own into the realm of handyman-land. So, I can assure you I wasn’t overly confident when considering the idea of building a bench out of priceless old lumber.
Before I ever picked up a piece of that old wood I had a glorious image in my mind of what I hoped would be the bench I could eventually sit on. It was strong, solidly built, able to withstand rain and storm (and my expanding waistline). The picture in my mind was perfect, and I was content for quite some time to simply close my eyes and grin as I imagined the joy I might feel if I were to create such a seating masterpiece. But I discovered a problem with this; I could never actually sit on the bench in my head!
It was fine and good for me to dream about the classic wooden bench I wanted to build, but until I actually picked up the wood and started putting it together, there would be no bench. The bench project would never be finished so long as it only remained a dream in my head. And so too are the dreams of a life of wholeness, integrity, and purpose if we choose to only imagine such things. We must act. The world of fantasy, however elaborate, does not carry the substance of reality.
The imagination is a powerful gift we possess as those made in the image of God, our Creator. It allows us to reason and think and wonder and amuse. God intends that we use it to glorify Him, but so often we use it to worship ourselves and the creation around us. Porn is a great example of this. It lures the viewer into an imaginary world where he is the center of attention and his desires are all that matters. He focuses his God-given imagination on his own ultimate pleasure. But when he reaches out to grasp what such illusions promise, the essence of the fantasy vanishes like a mist.
This is the problem with lustful fantasy: it creates an imaginary world that disconnects us from reality. I'm careful how I worded this. Imagination is not the problem. God gave us the ability to imagine, and He expects we use it. The problem is that when we engage fantasy (like pornography) we use our imagination to draw us away from the real world, not to better connect with it.
Everything about our being, including imagination, is meant to glorify God. Every thought. Every action. Every motive of the heart. When our lives are anchored in Christ, we become more connected to the world in which God placed us, not less connected. When our mind (imagination) is filled with good thoughts (Phil. 4:8), we are drawn into fellowship with God and others because God designed the immaterial realm of imagination to inspire us, motivate us, process reason, dream, and challenge us to greater impact for good in the material world around us.
This is why lustful fantasy is so dangerous. It lures us into a false world where we are the god. But we aren't God. We are a weak, pitiful substitute. Therefore, no matter how "thrilling" the fantasy in our self-worshiping world, our imagination will eventually be stunted. Why? Because in such a world we can never imagine beyond its creator: us. And since we are finite, limited, weak, and broken, our fantasies will match that capacity. They, too, will be finite, limited, weak, and broken.
But when we turn our imagination to the true Creator, we find a limitless expanse of wonderful possibilities. And not mere possibilities that remain disconnected from our material world, but very real possibilities for richer relationships, more meaningful work, and beauty that builds others up. A God-centered imagination has no restriction on the amount of good that can come from it. Why? Because God is infinitely good, and with Him as our center of attention, the problems of fantasy are vaporized.
Turn your imagination's gaze to the Creator, and see what a difference is made. A difference not only in your mind, but also in your actions. For wherever your mind is focused, your feet will follow. And wherever God leads you in your imagination will produce good in your actions -- if you trust and obey. Don't remain content to simply dream about the "bench" God wants you to build in your life. Pick up the hammer and bring the dream to life...
by Gerard Terry
Kids from Single Parent Homes
We have all read the statistics – kids from homes with single mothers have life complications. They have more problems at school, are susceptible to teen pregnancy, and experience more substance abuse. The bottom line? Kids need two parents. The uncontested conclusion is that dads matter and quality time with kids is critical. Untested, is exactly how much time. Regardless, we know that more time is better.
Pornography Takes Dads From Their Kids
Pornography takes a dad away from his kids. Whether dad is sitting at a computer at work viewing pornography or at home doing the same, he is not interacting with his children. He misses their life experiences and they adapt. Another result is the dad who gets so involved in porn that he engages in sex with a prostitute or has an affair. The end result is predictable, as divorce follows and the family splits up. Then, dad is not home when the kids wake up or when they go to bed. Time with kids is lost.
Let’s Look at You
So, are you devoting time to pornography in place of time with your kids? Are you coming home from work late? Are you stopping off at an adult book store along the way home? Have you chatted sexually with another woman or met someone for sex? Are you robbing your kids by leaving their mother after meeting another woman? Have you exposed your wife to an STD and threatened not only the emotional health of your home, but its physical health as well? Your wife and kids will not escape unstained by your sexual sin. There is a toxic overflow from this nasty habit and it spills onto your loved ones.
We are foolish when we think, “this is my problem and I can insulate my family from the effects of my porn habit.” Choosing to involve yourself in pornography will necessarily rob your family of time with you. Kids are a treasure and gift from God. So is their mother. Have you considered the consequences of eroding your relationship with them for a temporary thrill?
Your Family Deserves all of You
You must deal with this issue for your children’s sake and for your marriage. Don’t look back 10 years from now on a wasted life full of regret. Your family is your greatest responsibility. Too often, we men are slowly drawn into changing our schedules and loyalties without notice. Porn is sneaky and dangerous. It can change your work schedule, when you get home, and your attitude toward your family.
Have you ever resented your wife or kids for interfering with your desire for pornography? Have you ever been possessed by shame or anger over the time you wasted with porn? Your kids and wife suffer when you snap at them, avoid them, or are absent from home or activities. Your heart matters too – you can’t fully love your family and a porn mistress at the same time.
Don’t be one of the men who chooses his porn and lust over his family. Make the decision today which you will never regret. Start seeing a counselor, join a men’s support group and attend a Be Broken Ministries weekend intensive workshop. Your family needs what only you can give: your time.
(Now, re-read this blog post inserting "self-idolatry" for the word porn or pornography. Maybe this will come closer to exposing the real heart of the issue...)
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)
by Gerard Terry
Our reality is composed of what we do in a day, what we think about and who we interact with (including who we care for and who cares for us). For a week, our reality is what we did, what we thought about and who we interacted with for seven days. The same goes for a month and a year. Cumulatively, these form our life.
Today, I went to a couple’s house after church, where I found several other people I knew. I brought ingredients for nachos, while others brought meat, potatoes, beans, drink and desert. We spent nearly five hours watching football in one room and talking in the kitchen. I left there thinking I experienced love and fellowship. I was so glad I went and so glad I did not stay home and isolate with my computer and TV. At my decision point on whether to go, it was uncomfortable to step out of my comfort zone.
Tonight, I am thinking of what I would have done if I had stayed home. TV and a computer are not healthy companions. Through them, my fantasy life takes root and I search for media which will further it along. I predictably give in to lustful thoughts and a craving for pornography. Then follows the guilt. Then follows the shame. I am embarrassed to say this occurs way too often, and forms a substantial part of my reality.
Defining Our Own Reality
Did you know that our experiences shape who we are? Fortunately, in most cases, if we exercise discipline and spend our time thoughtfully, we get to decide what we will be thinking about later as we reflect on our day. Through fellowship, we can have memories of laughter, love, and encouragement as we interacted with others. The opposite of fellowship is isolation. Through isolation, we can have feelings of loneliness, emptiness and regret which accompany isolation, guilt and shame.
One of the most common characteristics of sex addicts is that we have few friends. If we are not intentional about how we spend our time, our drift is toward decisions of isolation. Isolation is easier and appears more restful. Unfortunately, isolation is where sin thrives. When was the last time you openly sinned in the presence of a group of friends?
Your Reality Costs Something Either Way
Just like the consequences of time spent looking at porn (broken relationships, guilt, and shame), building relationships has a price. The cost always includes energy to step outside our comfort zone to interact with others. It is work to ask good questions, give genuine compliments and meet the needs of others. I also risk embarrassment that I won’t measure up, or that I may encounter conflict. Yet interacting with others has an upside: we become fully alive as we live the way God intended. People are good for us.
God Values Fellowship
Time spent with others is usually God honoring. We are made to have fellowship with others. In that time, we can encourage and be encouraged. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) In the end, fellowship is designed to result in greater connection to God for all involved.
Interacting With Others in Relationship is Guilt Free
The most wonderful emotions I feel tonight are the joy of connecting with others and the lack of guilt from what I did today. My day was spent in valuable experiences building great memories. I laughed. I listened to others and what they had to say. They valued me too. Someone even told me they loved me. That is the reality I want to purposefully build for myself.
Be Intentional, Don’t Drift
With something as valuable as building your reality, don’t just let it happen. Don’t lay around the house waiting to see who will call or watching TV. Call someone to come over. Get out of the house. Attend God honoring events where like-minded people will be found. With intentional planning, you can have purpose in your day and control what memories of your day, week, month and year will look like. You can build a positive reality as you live the way God planned for you, in fellowship with other believers.
by Jonathan Daugherty
We rarely, if ever, put the idea of blessing into the same realm with pain. They seem opposed to one another, like trying to mix oil and water. But having worked in addiction recovery for the past dozen years, I have discovered uncanny links between them. And if we pay attention to these links, we might find that our pain can have a purpose that is good and redemptive.
Everyone who knocks on the door of our ministry for help does not like the circumstances surrounding their addiction. There are broken relationships, unfulfilled promises, histories of trauma and abuse, and too many lies of self-deception to count. In other words, they are drowning in pain. And they all want one thing: relief!
Of course, we don't like seeing the devastation of what their addiction has caused. It grieves us to see broken families, sexually transmitted infections, and all else that can come from a life of sexual addiction. But if we really want to help these hurting people find true relief, we need to guide them into a bigger understanding of pain's purpose. Otherwise, they may spend the rest of their lives only trying to avoid pain, rather than acquiring the rich blessings that can come from facing their hurt head on.
There are three primary blessings that I believe can come from pain, if you will allow it. And that's the key: to listen to your pain, and thereby receive the blessing hidden within it.
1. Pain ALERTS us of danger.
I previously wrote a blog post that addresses this idea of pain being a warning system, but I want to highlight it again here in the context of blessing. Imagine if unhealthy choices, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual were allowed to occur without warning. What an incredible mess of destruction would follow!
And what if horrible atrocities were conducted against humanity and nature without any feelings of hurt, anguish, or grief? What a sad existence. What a loss of hope for anyone suffering abuse. We need pain to alert us that something is wrong; something needs correction. This is a blessing, because without such pain, we might not even know what kind of trouble we're in.
2. Pain ANNOUNCES our weaknesses.
Similar to alerting us of danger, pain also (and sometimes in very demanding ways) announces where we are weak. I recall a surgery I underwent a couple years ago in which two major incisions were required across my abdomen. For several weeks after the surgery it was excruciating to move; simple actions like getting in and out of chairs became endeavors that required every ounce of energy and attention. The pain was a constant reminder of my weakened condition.
You might be wondering how "announcing our weaknesses" is a blessing. Well, it is a blessing because we were not made to live independent of our Creator, or one another.
Genesis 2:18 - Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him."
Galatians 6:2 - Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Our weakness is opportunity for fellowship with God and one another. When we admit our weakness, it opens us up to the grace of God more fully. We recognize that we don't have to carry the burdens of this life alone. We can't carry them alone. We need help; our frailty in body and mind regularly confirm this.
3. Pain ARMS us for compassion and service.
When you travel the difficult road of heartache, or illness, or addiction, or persecution, or fill in the blank with whatever pain you have faced, you are being trained for compassion and service to others who are in similar pain. Your pain does not have to be seen as a "waste of time" or meaningless.
I started my journey out of secret sexual addiction in August 1999. At that time I couldn't see any good coming out of what my life was up to that point. I was selfish, angry, depressed. I hurt everyone who loved me -- I betrayed them all. I was living in pain, and I had inflicted untold pain on to others. How could anything good come out of something so bad?
Through recovery God started to show me how He could redeem what I had destroyed. He could remake my life, rebuild my relationships, restore my innocence, and even give me a purpose in all of it: to help others who were carrying the same burden.
Believe it or not, when people ask me if I could change anything about my past, I actually say, "No." Why? Because there is no way I could help sex addicts recover like I do today if I had not walked through "the valley of the shadow of death" of my own addiction. The blessing I receive when I look into the tear-stained eyes of a broken man as he embraces hope for the first time just because I shared my story with him is worth all the agonizing tears I shed on my own journey. I could not have the compassion I do for sexually addicted men if I had not lived that pain myself.
What have been your "valleys of death" on your life's journey? What pain have you endured? Are you heeding the alarms your pain might be sounding? Are you allowing God and others to share your burden, acknowledging where you are weak and need help? Will you allow your pain to be used for the good of others, as compassion grows for those with similar weaknesses and struggles?
There is blessing in the pain. May you have the courage to embrace it...