If you have struggled with any sort of sexual addiction or any sin for that matter, you’ve probably tried what is referred to as ‘white knuckling‘. This can play out in a number of ways, but it typically means relying on your own willpower and any safeguards you have set up (such as internet filters and personal accountability) to modify your behavior.
In the short term, this can work. For me, this tactic has not worked much longer than a few weeks. The truth is there is only so much our own strength and willpower can accomplish.
The good news is there is hope for long-term change and it is not entirely up to our own willpower.
Now, I want to caveat that by saying filters and accountability partners are wonderful, and they are certainly part of our restoration toolbelt. However, according to the men I have talked to who have begun to have victory over habitual sexual sin, those things alone are not enough.
We really do need a power outside of ourselves and therein lies the rub.
Have you ever asked God why the struggle to overcome habitual sin is so damn hard? Why do we fall, take steps forward, and then backward?
Couldn’t God in his almighty power and infinite wisdom just take it all away? I have asked God this many times.
The apostle Paul essentially asked God the same thing. In his second letter to the church in Corinth this super apostle of Christ said he was “given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Cor 12:8 NIV)
We are not told what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was; perhaps it was a physical ailment or maybe it was a habitual sin he struggled with. All we know is that he asked God to do exactly what most of us do when faced with such a difficulty – he begged the Lord to remove it.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me,” Paul writes. However, despite Paul’s fervent prayers, God did not just remove this “thorn” instantly.
Instead, the Lord told Paul this: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9 NIV)
Say what? The Lord’s response runs counter to the way the world thinks about overcoming addictions and habitual habits. Instead of relying solely on our own strength and wisdom, we are to rely on God’s strength. It is both incredibly humbling and amazingly freeing at the same time (isn’t that how the gospel always is though?)
In response, Paul says, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak I am strong.”
Like Paul, our weakness forces us to rely on God moment by moment as we walk through our recovery. It humbles us. It also makes us able to better relate to those who are going through the same struggles we have faced – and to provide encouragement and hope.
After all, if Paul, the man who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament of the Bible, struggled with his own weaknesses, shouldn’t we also expect to wrestle with our own frailties?
As I have learned in my roughly 15-year struggle with pornography, growth and healing are a process. While I have asked for quick fixes so I could just “get over this” and get on with my life, God has asked me to slow down, to be self-reflective and to find community.
If you haven’t taken those steps yet, today is the day to move forward. Join a community. Small Groups Online is a safe and accepting place to share your struggles and have accountability.
He calls me to rely on him each day, take up my cross and follow Jesus.
Yes, recovery takes time and change is not always instantaneous. But I believe that like the apostle Paul we can find victory if we keep pressing on and pressing into God’s power.
So set up your internet filters and go to your weekly small group meetings, check-in with your accountability partners regularly and be careful about what media you consume.
But don’t just stop there. Really ask God to search your heart and change you.
Earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
God isn’t satisfied with just modifying our behavior. Jesus died for much more – to make us a new creation!