Why do Christians who love God and seek him with all their heart still fall into pornography addiction?
i) Emotional pain being the main one. ii) The other is isolation. Because of broken trust we feel, “no one else can be trusted to meet my needs.” It sounds like this: “How are things mate?” – “yeah good, good.” And that’s how deep it goes.
iii) Add to that our ideal of an individualistic performance spirituality.
iv) Then put into the mix the war of the enemy against God’s people. The enemy knows that “if he can seduce you, he can reduce you” (Dr Doug Weiss).
We then get really foolish and take that independent mindset into our walk with God and live out of achievement and isolation, rather than relationship and interdependence and the results are predictable.
To get back to the elements of isolation and emotional pain: If we read the Bible with discernment we will see that the fall recorded in Genesis 2 resulted in a profound mistrust towards God and each other.
The result was that people began to look to idols for comfort, having lost the intimacy with God in the garden.
The Bible shows throughout its long narrative that because of original sin, everyone has ‘multiple addictive coping mechanisms’ (whether socially acceptable or not). They are called idols. And when it comes to the idolatry of pornography addiction – which is a secret sin – simply working harder through willpower won’t help to get free. You have to take steps in the right direction, but trying this in secret with your own willpower is not the direction that will bring healing.
Thankfully there is also another way. Early on, people began to call upon the name of the LORD (Gen 4:26)
Theologically what are the reasons for addiction?
Firstly, when we became Christians we did not become inwardly perfect.
Hebrews 10: 14 says “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made Holy.” We were born again and received a new nature. We were made “positionally sanctified” or made perfect in Christ becoming the righteousness of God in him. But inwardly, emotionally – psychologically we entered a growth phase called “progressive sanctification”. In progressive sanctification we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to deal with the impact that generational sin and trauma has had on our lives and we enter a process called discipleship.
However, it’s hard to get into close knit discipleship relationships because of our performance obsessed culture which breeds masks.
It feels natural to gloss over our blind spots in our relationship with Jesus, be secretive, completely independent and expect instant automated change, rather than progressive organic change.
It is very possible for Christians to remain addicted because of old inner emotional wounds and thinking patterns that still need healing and renewal, but have lingered below the surface
The culture of today is so individualistic and so broken that all you need is a belly button and a “it can’t happen to me attitude” to crash. Addiction is a ‘soul sickness’ and can apply to anything: to work, to status, to drugs and alcohol, or the internet and gaming. When this is the case it’s because there is often still a strong sense of shame intact, mostly invisible to oneself. When the LORD created Adam and Eve we read in Genesis 2: 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. But after they had sinned and their fellowship with God was marred, we read this in Genesis 3: 10 He (Adam) answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Genesis 3: 10 He (Adam) answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Secondly, the problem with shame from the fall
This is what happens when there is unresolved sin and shame. We feel inwardly naked, exposed and therefore afraid. We feel diminished by that exposure. Guilt means “I have done wrong” but shame communicates: “I feel wrong” or “I am bad” and “if people really knew me, they would reject me”. We then hide behind masks of performance rather than finding healing in our new identity in Christ. Most of these thoughts in fact come out of the area of emotional memory rather than just our cognitive thinking. We often feel the shame rather than just think it.
With shame we feel inwardly naked, exposed and therefore afraid. We feel diminished by that exposure
This is the essence of what sin has done. But at the cross God took care of our guilt and our shame. “There is therefore now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). He gave us a new identity as children of God who are in Christ. So why should we ever feel shame and struggle with addictive behaviour to cope in life?
Thirdly, the natural tendency to gain acceptance through performance
i) It is a natural human tendency as humans to find our identity in “doing” and “performing” rather than “being the beloved.” This is especially true for us men as we are uniquely hard wired for novelty, adventure, risk and goal orientation. It becomes dysfunctional if we had parents and others who shamed us by telling us there was something wrong with us, or who humiliated us when we failed.
There is not much space to fail or have deep struggles in a performance culture
The emotional memory of those wounds were stored deep in the Amygdala (A part of the Brain). So the message we grew up with was: “Perform and you will be out of trouble, mess up and you will be exposed.”
PS: Does God want us to perform and reach goals (bear fruit / make disciples)? Absolutely, but it’s not to gain self worth, but rather because you have worth in Christ already.
2) The performance culture of some churches and / or families communicate the message:“you must be Holy, be good and be successful for us and God to love and accept you.”
3) Preachers sometimes communicate: “When you come to Jesus everything (including your emotions and your mind) is renewed. You just have to be obedient and grow after that.”
The problem is that there isn’t much space to fail or have deep struggles when you find yourself in that context. Have you ever been invalidated by someone when you opened up to them about a deep hurt or something you felt terribly ashamed of, and they just gave you a quick fix solution or started lecturing you? It didn’t feel so good and you probably never opened up to that person again? If the focus in a church is mostly on performance its easy enough to transfer the fears of failure or worthlessness onto God.
Have you ever been invalidated by someone when you opened up to them about a deep hurt or something you felt terribly ashamed of, and they just gave you a quick fix solution or started lecturing you?
These are the subconscious voices that then drive us: “He will reject me if I fail.” “In order not to be a disgrace I need to work hard at being good enough.” “My friends in church will reject me if they really knew my pain and my personal struggles.” When grace is not consciously communicated and applied as a doctrine and as a spiritual foundation in the life of a church our shame can remain unhealed. This then leaves us vulnerable to secretly medicating our pain through addictions and now more and more sexual addiction in the current climate of sexualisation. And because sexuality is so close to our identity there is a huge fear to acknowledge struggles in this area. Our falling short of the standard that gets communicated, then leads to further emotional isolation and bondage.
Quick fix spirituality
Add to that, the cultures of so many churches where deep struggles are frowned upon because the leaders don’t know how to deal with them and ‘quick fix’ solutions are offered for deep struggles:
Is it any wonder then that out of 3000 data points Pure Desire Ministries International found that between 60 – 70% of men in a church were struggling sexually and losing the battle?
A quick Scripture, a quick prayer of deliverance or a puzzled look with a “real Christian’s don’t have those struggles” look is offered to those struggling. Really? Is it any wonder then that out of 3000 data points Pure Desire Ministries International found that between 60 – 70% of men in a church were struggling sexually and losing the battle? For real inner change and renewal to take place, we will have to go against our cultural, family and even maybe church grooming.
Real Christians don’t have those struggles. Really?
We will have to learn to be real, vulnerable, safe and truthful with each other in the context of Christian support groups and learn to support each other, rather than judge or give quick fix solutions. The good news is this: God loves us and has given us a new identity as Sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. He took our shame and guilt upon himself. Because we now belong to him, the inner wounds can receive healing as an ongoing process by the Holy Spirit because of the cross. This happens when the church family is supportive and loving.
Christian “support groups” are not a new idea
Support groups for discipleship
Christian “support groups” are not a new idea. John Wesley’s “Rules for Small Groups,” written in 1816, is an outline that embodies “the Method” from which the name “Methodist” came. This method resulted in one of the greatest revivals the world has ever known. Believers gathered together in small groups, sharing honestly, becoming accountable to one another, asking probing questions, praying for one another with a deep knowledge of their mutual needs and struggles. Any believer can benefit from this type of gathering. It can be a tremendously healing and encouraging experience for those in recovery.