Three years into our marriage, my wife, Trisha, woke up in the middle of the night and realized I wasn’t in bed. She walked out into the living room and as soon as she looked at the TV, I quickly changed the channel.
She began to question me about what I was watching, why I wasn’t in bed, and why I would immediately change the channel. Then came the repeated question: Do you struggle with lust and pornography? The more she asked the more intense the conversation became.
So I denied everything. I told her I was just channel surfing. I argued with her about what she saw. I convinced her that I didn’t struggle with porn or lust. She had nothing to worry about. I was lying.
FOR THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH THIS, WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT NEAR ENOUGH.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that night was the first of many opportunities I had over the first 10 years of our marriage to be honest about my porn addiction. I was a pastor and pastors don’t struggle with lust or porn. At least, no other pastor I knew struggled with it, I felt all alone.
The truth was, I wasn’t alone. I had friends I could have talked to. I had accountability partners I lied to. I had other pastors I blew off when asked about sexual sins and struggles.
In my mind, my intentions were good—I was trying to protect my marriage. The reality is, porn was telling me lies and I was buying right into them.
For the amount of people who struggle with this, we don’t talk about it near enough. We don’t talk about it in our families. We don’t talk about it in our churches. We think avoiding it will make it go away. Statistically speaking,over 50 percent of the men reading this post have had exposure to pornography recently. And it’s not just a “man’s problem,” either. About 30 percent of porn users online are women. It isn’t going away.
Here are the three lies porn told me and will tell you as well.
1. That was the last time.
No matter how many times you’ve looked at pornography, that was your last time. Because you truly believe it is your last time buying the magazine, going to the web site, downloading that movie—you don’t need to confess it, because it was the last time. Until tomorrow or next week or next month. It is the last time—until the next time. If porn can convince you that “this time is the last time,” you’ll never tell anyone.
2. You can stop anytime you want.
You know what pornography has done to other marriages, to other friends, to other families, to other church leaders…but you aren’t really “addicted” to pornography. You can stop anytime you want. Besides it doesn’t have the same effect on you that it does on other people. It won’t hurt your life, your marriage, your kids, your church, your ministry like it has other people. You are in control of porn, it doesn’t control you.
FREEDOM COSTS SOMETHING UPFRONT, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS BONDAGE COSTS OVER TIME.
3. Confessing your struggle will cost you too much.
Porn wants you to live in secret. Porn causes us to weigh the cost of confessing against the cost of hiding and convinces us that hiding will be less painful. You think you are helping yourself and your marriage by hiding your porn addiction. Your wife—or husband—won’t understand. Your marriage won’t recover. Your credibility won’t be able to be rebuilt.
Something I’ve learned the hard way: Hiding sin never provides us with the power to overcome it. The freedom you long for is found in confession. Freedom costs something upfront, but not as much as bondage costs over time.
Believing these lies will never give you the power to overcome them. Trying to quit will not give you the power to quit. But freedom is possible.
Here is what I believe with all of my heart: If you struggle with pornography, God isn’t disappointed in you; He is fighting for you. He died and conquered sin and death so you can have victory in this area of your life.
Where do we begin? How can we overcome something that grips our heart and keeps us living in shame and guilt? The first place I suggest everyone that struggles with pornography start is with a Christian counselor. Both my wife and I needed someone with greater perspective and wisdom than we had to help us overcome this struggle in my life.
Beyond that, I want to share one principle with you that I believe has power to bring freedom, hope and healing to your heart. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Healing comes through confession and prayer. I know that sounds very churchy, but take a look at this Scripture: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
The type of confession that James is talking about isn’t a confession for forgiveness; it is confession for healing. There is a healing that comes to our heart as we confess our sins with one another.
Most of us have the “forgiveness” part of confession down. We know that in order to get forgiveness from God, we have to confess our sins. Maybe you grew up confessing to a priest, maybe it is something that you do in your quiet time with God, maybe it is something that you do after you’ve made a huge mistake. Most of us know that forgiveness from God comes through confession.
We don’t talk about the “healing” type of confession in the Church very often. In fact, we have built a religious system that tries to find healing through hiding our sins, not confessing them. The sins we do confess are “safe” sins: bitterness, jealousy, materialism, anger and selfishness.
I was the master at this. I appeared “authentic” for confessing socially acceptable sins while I lived as a prisoner to sins I wasn’t willing to confess. For years, I forfeited the healing that God longed to bring to my heart not because I didn’t confess my sins to Him; but because I refused to confess them to anyone else.
But here’s 3 truths porn will never tell you:
- Temptation loses its power when we confess.
- Sin loses its ability to keep us fractured when we confess.
- Addictions lose the control they have in our lives when we confess.
The secret sin you keep only has power as it remains a secret. The Light will always overcome darkness. The difficult decision we face is allow that Light into the darkest, most embarrassing parts of our heart. God can’t heal the parts of our heart we refuse to bring into the Light. But when we do, we can be healed.