Experiencing freedom from sexual bondage, whether that be freedom from pornography addiction or some form of sexual acting out, means experiencing healing in the soul. Isn’t that why Jesus came? To heal our damaged souls?
The root of addiction: emptiness & trauma
It helps to realise that struggling with sexual sins is not about sex, but about how we deal with the pain of life deep in our souls.
Modern culture in general is completely confused about this. On the one hand people tend to think that those who struggle in this area have a form of “perversion.” On the other hand at every turn sex and sexuality have become a dominant narrative in media and advertising. It’s condemned and it’s encouraged all at the same time. Sometimes we have our own inner voices of shame. We may agree with society’s condemnation of others, yet ourselves be drawn to our own secret sexual lusts and hate ourselves for it. Ultimately stigmatising a behavior never helps one get free inwardly.
Have you ever seen a person change because they were called a sleesze bag?
The reality is, addiction is a “soul sickness” because every single human being has suffered some form of personal trauma or simply experiences an emptiness deep in their soul, be it through overt abuse or just neglect. This is the impact that sin has had on us. It may not excuse doing something wrong, but it does help explain ‘why we keep doing the things we don’t want to do’. This experience also doesn’t exclude Christians. In fact the apostle Paul wrote those words in Romans chapter 7.
We live in a fallen world. We tend to minimize our personal pain because for us the pain was and maybe still is a normal part of our lives. On the other hand we may sense that if we ever talk about it we might just be on the receiving end of someone trying to “explain” it for us.
Furthermore, we all have some form of family dysfunction. Even if we grew up in a wonderful home, our parents were not perfect. Sometimes there are deep Father wounds because our dad’s didn’t mentor us and express emotion. Sometimes there are mother wounds.
Struggling with sexual sins is not about sex, but about how we deal with the pain of life
At the end of the day, this isn’t about blaming Mom and Dad, it’s about understanding the past to be able to move on into the future. Also, as delineated in another article, we are living in a fallen world and the wallpaper of our society is sexualised so that sexually, ‘right has become wrong and wrong has become right.’ A broad definition of pornography is visual material intended to stimulate sexual excitement. Suggestive images are everywhere on billboards and in advertising. They have become a normal part of social media and people’s deepest fantasies are just a mouse click away. Our personal trauma and family dysfunction combines with the sexualised outlook and wallpaper of our culture to trigger us into medicating our pain – past and present – in sexualised ways that become almost normal routine.
Growing up with that sort of baggage leaves its mark even on a Christian. It is the impact that sin has left on our lives
Consider that a normal part of a teen’s life in the last thirty to forty years may have included watching raunchy movies, masturbating, playboy magazines, fantasising and getting sexual experiences. A normal part of growing up in the last 10 years as a teen combines all of that with early exposure to hardcore pornography through an Ipad or Iphone. The internet has supercharged sexual addiction like crack cocaine and the internet pornography is a bottomless pit of endless supply. Growing up with that sort of baggage leaves its mark even on a Christian. When a crisis or life’s pressures begin to wear us down in adult life, we slowly drift or relapse into full blown addiction because the underlying pain and patterns were never really dealt with. This is what Dr Ted Roberts calls the addictive root. (i)
The mindset of addiction: shame
Furthermore, we could have a mindset that makes us vulnerable to addiction. We may at times feel worthless, unlovable, and like we can’t get things right, so we overcompensate by working hard and achieving in everything we do. This is distorted thinking because of past sins or failure as we now think: “I am bad”, or “I am a failure”, rather than, “I have failed at certain things, but I am not a failure”.
I feel unlovable, worthless, alone, and I just can’t seem to get it right
Deep in the back of our minds we feel that God could never be pleased with us and it’s never enough. Added to that, may be a type of preaching in church that communicates the sense that God is only interested in performance and us doing things. When this happens we start to isolate emotionally and feel that the only thing that ultimately brings us pleasure or some relief from the feelings of worthlessness is a sexual high. This is an addictive mindset. (ii)
The lifestyle of addiction: medicating
When sexual bondage is full blown a person gets into a distinctive cycle called a ritual. There is pressure and there are triggers. We then start fantasising and begin a well worn ritual like ‘I’m just checking email’ or ‘I am just going for a drive through the red light district to pray’ or ‘I am just checking youtube and facebook.’ The ritual is part of the process and starts a journey of “no return.” Entering the ritual takes me away from reality and eventually makes it impossible for me to stop my sexual acting out.
A person gets into a distinctive cycle called a ritual
At the end I feel deep remorse and shame, promise God I will never do it again, put more rules in place (tighten the rule lid) and then slowly drift back into a cycle of stress building up, triggers, mental preoccupation, rituals, acting out etc. This is the addictive lifestyle. (iii)
The cover-up of addiction: blame
Part of how we stay in this place is by blaming others (wife, stress, work, children, my church, God), deluding ourselves that we can carry on “because no one is being hurt” (a lie), and continuing in denial that we actually have a major problem on our hands.
Just trying harder with more rules and self effort will tighten the straight jacket
This is like an Addictive cloak (iv.) Together the addictive root, mindset, lifestyle and cloak form a straightjacket around the soul. Just trying harder with more rules and self effort will tighten the straight jacket. You have to get healing for the soul as an ongoing process to get free.
An approach to healing the soul
To get healing for your soul you will need to surrender to a process that involves the following:
1) Getting out of isolation
2) Breaking denial by opening up to a counsellor
3) Getting into a long term recovery group to open up about those traumas which feed the addictive lifestyle.
4) Identifying within the group, patterns of medicating personal pain through sexual highs and learn new patterns of living and relying on God
4) No longer blaming others, but relying on God’s gracious love for you as well as relying on your group to move forward step by step
It comes down to this: give up control and surrender to the process
(i, ii, iii and iv are based on the book Pure Desire by Dr Ted Roberts)
Jesus death on the cross was great enough to atone for all sin because he was a propitiation and the scope of his death was such that he set us free from the fear of death and power of the devil:
Scriptures to take to heart
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
“The shed blood of Jesus guarantees there is a way out” – Ted Roberts
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death
The shed blood of Jesus guarantees there is a way out of addictions. He has forgiven us and he is not obsessed with our sin and does not want us to be obsessed with it, but to focus on the power of the cross. If we focus all our energy on not doing a behaviour it actually gains energy and power, like Paul experienced in Romans 7. If we try go it alone and then continually act out we will feel diminished and dirty despite personal confession to the Lord, because we are not in a support group – we are still hiding in isolation and basically in denial.
If we focus all our energy on not doing a behaviour it actually gains energy and power
Until we take steps of doing the footwork of discipleship through relationship, confess our sins to another member of the body of Christ who is on the same journey to be cleansed, and allow ourselves to be reminded by another of God’s loyal love we will battle to reprogram the mind and heal the heart. If we confess our sins, his blood cleanses us. In Isaiah we read that by his wounds we are healed. The atonement of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our salvation and our holiness. God wants to apply the blood to our lives so that we can stop living under shame and guilt. His grace will be powerfully mediated by the Holy Spirit in the group context as we confess our sins to one to another and pray for each other that we may be healed (cleansed inwardly on an experiential level)