“He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Today during my time with the Lord this scripture just seemed to leap off of the page at me. Maybe because it’s along the same lines of a quote I heard about a week ago (by Pastor Chris Hodges) that I can’t stop thinking about: “Temptation is not a test of your will power. It is a test of your relationship”.
I have a new client who came to me after one visit with a different counselor. For her sexual behavior that has lasted nearly thirty years she said that the counselor told her they were going to work on some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I certainly am not opposed to CBT, but I believe that more than just a behavior needs to be changed for any type of addiction. Somehow, my client knew she needed more and questioned the counselor about meeting the underlying needs that led her to act out in the first place. She intuitively knew that just being strong and changing the behavior wasn’t the only answer.
Apparently the Word of God agrees. God is not impressed with our will power. Although at times we may be, He is not. This is hard for us to grasp in a society that embraces strength and a “do it yourself pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. Those of us though, who have been at this game of recovery for a while know that white knuckling it and relying on our strength can only get us so far. We have an endless need at the core of our soul. An endless need can only be met by an endless Resource. There is only One endless resource, and that is our God and His unfailing love.
True transformation comes in the area of our addiction when we learn to trust in God’s unfailing love, not our own strength. I can almost hear someone thinking, “Well, I do rely on His love, Kim! Yet, I’m still stuck in my addiction”. If that’s you I’d like to challenge your thinking on that, as I’ve had to challenge mine. If we are really relying on His love we’re not going to need our sinful coping mechanisms. (For me currently God is dealing with me about this regarding food.) What does it look like practically to rely on His love instead of acting out sexually? Well, it looks like being raw and honest with God about our temptations. Ie: “Lord, right now I’d love to look at pornography. But I know that what I see in porn is a cheap substitute for Your plans. I don’t need to see a naked body God, that won’t meet my deepest need. Only You can meet my deepest need, God. My heart and my flesh feel that this is what they are crying out for. But truly my heart and flesh cry out for You. I will fight against this lie and stand here in tears if I must while I wait on Your unfailing love.” I’ve found myself doing this probably a thousand times. Sometimes in tears as I fought through my temptation to stand on God’s truth. I’ve gotten even much more explicit with the Lord than I’ve listed above. He can handle it. He isn’t ashamed of our sexuality like we often are.
There are many things that I’ve learned and have done on my journey of recovery. But learning to trust (and continuing to learn to trust) in His unfailing love has made the biggest difference!
"So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them;
male and female created He them."
Male and female, we both are created equally and uniquely in God’s image. As a woman there are unique ways in which I represent God that a male does not. As men, there are unique ways that they represent God that women cannot. Men are amazing at portraying God as strong, a protector, a provider, and a father. Women uniquely portray Him as nurturer, gentle, tender, and relational. Not that either gender cannot represent God in ways that are typical of the other sex, but it is wonderful to see God’s unique design for the genders. I likely will address this more in the future, but want to talk about another aspect of our unique design that can and has gotten many of us into trouble.
Men, as creatures made in God’s image, love and are drawn to beauty. God loves beauty, and so do men. Women, as creatures made in God’s image, are beautiful. God is described as beautiful throughout the Word, and women reflect that beauty.
What an incredible design our God has made. Men appreciate beauty, and women are beautiful and love to be beautiful. This aspect of creation has been the basis of some of the most awe inspiring romances that make all of our hearts flip flop. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Man in his strength, goes after the beauty that is woman. Seriously, what a glorious and brilliant design this Mastermind of a God came up with.
As most of us know, where God has a plan, the enemy has another plan set up. He has had a plan in the area of our sexuality for as long as man has been alive. Every aspect of our sexuality that is positive he in some way uses against us. In our generation, one of the biggest ways in which he does this is through pornography. He has taken women’s legitimate God given characteristic of beauty and has used it to lure in man with his God given love for beauty.
Women who willingly are placing themselves in pornography are not doing so because they are perverts. The enemy has lied to them about the way to display their beauty. Men who look at pornography are not doing so because they are pigs as many people proclaim. They are doing so because they have an appreciation for beauty, but the enemy has lied to them about where to find that beauty. When we settle for pornography, we settle for a lie.
Obviously, we are sexual beings so there are many aspects that go into our porn use. However, one way we can begin to defeat this is by renewing our minds and understanding who we were created to be. For a man, to view pornography goes against the very image of God as protector. Men are to protect a woman’s beauty, not exploit it. As women, the fullness of our beauty is to be veiled for the man who is willing to fight for and protect it. Let’s ask God to help us see ourselves as we truly are, made in His image. Let’s not settle for the enemy’s counterfeits of that image. We must settle for nothing less than the design by which we were made. Anything less will leave us empty.
“No more __________”, I wrote across the top of the January page of the following year’s calendar on New Year’s Eve approximately 15 years ago. I didn’t fill in the blank, but I knew what it stood for. It stood for something that had held me bound for about 15 years, since I was 11 years old. It stood for something that I had let become my safe place since my dad’s death at the same age. It stood for something I despised, and had countless times tried to stop. But this time, I was convinced; I would be done with it. I had my fill and was disgusted with myself. So, I vowed that New Year’s Eve, for the 1,576,382nd time, that I was done with the habit of masturbation. This time would be different. I just knew it. I would be steadfast in my resolve. Unfortunately, that New Year’s resolution didn’t make it past January of that year.
And so it went. I continued to stumble over this sin (the Lord showed me that for me, this was sin) for the next several years, even as I was a recent Bible College graduate and involved in several ministries. One evening during service in the church I attended my pastor preached about a character I had never heard of. It was a man named Hazael and his story mentioned in II Kings 8. Essentially, this man was sent to Elisha to get a Word from the Lord for his king. God gave a Word through Elisha, but also gave a word to Hazael. Elisha prophesied to Hazael of the future sin he would commit. Hazaels response was not one of humility. Instead, he stated, “Am I dog that I would ever do such a thing?” Well, as the Bible records, Hazael ended up doing what was prophesied. During that message the Lord dealt with me that if I didn’t stop the masturbation it would lead to other things. I wish I could say I responded differently than Hazael. My heart became hardened as I ignored the conviction. Within less than two weeks I became involved in my first anonymous sexual encounter. That encounter led to approximately 9 more years of stumbling over masturbation, porn, and countless more anonymous encounters. And it all started with the “innocent” habit of masturbation.
Masturbation for many is a coping mechanism and addictive. For those who say it isn’t for them, I would argue that even if that is true, it still is not God’s plan for sexuality and I believe ought to be avoided. If you’re reading this and even questioning it, then it is likely that the Holy Spirit may be trying to pin point this area of your life that He may bring true freedom.
I am happy to say that I am off of the cycle of continually vowing to stop masturbating. In a short month it will be 11 years since I engaged in it. The difference did not come in “white knuckling it”, trying harder, or making more vows. The difference came when I finally hit rock bottom and cried out to Jesus, willing to do whatever it took. Thankfully, Jesus led me to the right resources to lead me into freedom. Like the old Chinese proverb says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” What did it take? Well, for me it took a willingness to submit myself to counseling for several years. It took me humbling myself and sharing my struggle, and being accountable every day in this area for over two years. It also took me allowing people to connect with me. I was looking for true connection, not an orgasm. An orgasm is the easy way out. Being truly relational takes real risk and hard work, and as painful as it was God helped me to do it. Many people on this journey want to continue trying it on their own. My question would be, “How has that worked out for you so far?” God, for the most part, uses someone to present us with the gospel. The way that our journey started, is the way that it continues. He uses people. It is not just God we need, nor is it just man that we need. We need both on our journey. If it were not so, scripture would not be full of admonitions such as, “Exhort one another daily”, and “forsake not the assembling together of yourselves”. But it didn’t just come in learning to be relational with other people. It came in learning to be relational with myself in healthy ways. It also came with learning to be intimate with Jesus. I spent hundreds of hours at his feet crying out to Him asking Him to meet me in the place of my heart that caused me to go after my sin. He was faithful to meet me. I have found Him and all His provision enough.
Your journey may not look exactly like mine. But I have no doubt that it will not be a complete journey without taking many relational risks and inviting others into this area of your heart. Our sexually addictive behavior is really about an unmet relational need. Unmet needs don’t just go away. They manifest themselves in ways they were never intended to.
Let’s let Jesus and the body of Christ do what God intended all along. Let’s risk laying down our coping mechanisms, and understand that He is our shield. Jesus and His ways are more than enough.
Kimberly ~ Counselor, speaker, teacher, author and most importantly broken but beloved daughter of Jesus.