Anyone who has struggled with porn for any length of time finds himself asking the same questions over and over again: “What is wrong with me? I feel horrible about what I am doing. This is not who I want to be. I just can’t stop. Who can tell me what is wrong with me?”
Having read a wide range of comments on the blog, I recognize that not everyone does feel horrible about what he’s doing. I suppose if that’s where you are, this blog isn’t going to be that helpful or even that interesting to you.
But what about the guys who do feel horrible about what they’re doing? For starters, you can take some encouragement that you’re not alone. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul described his own situation like this: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:18-19 NLT).
Paul goes on to identify the root cause for his contradictory behavior—it’s sin acting out. He doesn’t say this to avoid responsibility for his actions, but he recognizes that being trapped by sin is something he literally can’t get out of on his own strength, no matter how determined he might be.
This realization leads him to Jesus, and more specifically to the work Jesus did on the cross on his—and our—behalf. Now this is a lot to unpack and probably requires a blog post all of its own, but I would challenge you here to ask yourself if you’ve ever surrendered your will (the determination to manage your own life on your terms) to Jesus and trusted him to run your life for you? A quotation from the writer Rebecca Pippert has stuck with me thirty years after I first read it: “Jesus is the only one who can control our life without destroying it.”
You want to get really clear on this because we live in a church culture where people “ask Jesus into their heart” all the time and then experience no real change. This is in sharp contrast with the kinds of interaction people had with Jesus in the gospel accounts of his life. Nobody who had an authentic encounter with Him stayed the same; they were transformed from the inside out. They didn’t automatically become perfect overnight, but they began to live in the freedom only Jesus can make possible.
A lot of us understand grace intellectually but have never “tried it out” in practice. For thirty years I attempted to live a Christian life without Christ—meaning I thought He expected me to do my best, try harder, and not bother Him (He was too busy saving other folks to help someone who could help himself—sound familiar?). So thirty years later, I was living with the results of self-management: wrecked relationships, lost time and opportunities, ruined self-esteem, and a calloused heart. I can’t say that porn single-handedly did all of that, but I saw it as a barometer for how I was doing spiritually, which meant that I never thought I was doing well for long.
It wasn’t until circumstances challenged me to take a hard look at the evidence of my life and re-evaluate where I stood with Jesus that I was able to throw spiritual pride out the window and actually surrender my life to Him. At the time, I didn’t even know how to “label” what I was doing, since it didn’t seem to fit into the categories I was familiar with. I just knew He was making me an offer, and I could either say no because I couldn’t explain it or I could say yes.
When I said yes, the change was profound. Old habits didn’t die overnight, but I was done trying to manage my own life, including conquering porn. In exchange, I began learning to trust Jesus with doing the healing work in me. I should add that this all happened in the context of community, which was very different from years of trying to do things in my own power, on my own.
All this takes us back to those questions I listed at the beginning of this post, and the answer to all of them is the same: the only one who can reliably tell you who you are is Jesus. The only one who can tell you what is wrong with you is Jesus. And the only one who can lead you into freedom and recovery is Jesus. Which leaves us with a new question:
Where are you with Jesus?