Last week we began a 12 week series of articles on how to overcome ongoing pornography use written primarily for Christian men and women who are struggling, but want to stop. Last week we discussed the beginnings of developing motivation to change - that change is desirable. This week we increase motivation by building hope - that change is possible and even likely. Take some time to carefully review the following scriptures:
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God." (NIV)
Philippians 2:12-13 "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (NIV)
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)
Romans 8:28-30 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (NIV)
With just this short selection of scriptures I am trying to paint a picture, a picture of hope and belief that purity and freedom from compulsive pornography use is possible for the Christian! This is God's will for you, that you be sanctified (be made holy in character). This is a process. A process that takes time. A process that requires our own concerted and ongoing effort. It is however, a process in which God is with us each step of the way if we submit ourselves to Him. God desires for you to be free of your pornography problem even more than you do. He knows how destructive it is and how much suffering it is causing you and others. He longs for you to be free. And here's the good news, He will work in you and walk with you in order to bring you into freedom.
Let's focus for a moment on some of the language we see in Romans 8:28-30 - foreknew, predestined. Instead of getting drawn down the the rabbit hole of questioning man's free will, let's just read these verses as an encouragement. God has an incredible plan for you and Paul uses very strong language to describe the surety of it - "predestined." Read the whole chapter of Romans 8 - God has an incredible plan for you. His plan is to make you more like His son in character and holiness (predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son).
This is a powerful truth that should give us great hope. If we are in a salvific relationship with God, if we have placed our faith in Christ, if we have repented and submitted to God, then this is the direction God is taking us in - to be more like Jesus and to share in his glory. God is using everything in our lives to work this particular good for us. Being made more like Jesus necessarily includes freedom from our enlsavement to pornography, sexual sins, and any other impurity. It may take a long time, it make be very painful and heart wrenching int he process, but Paul says with quite certainty that God has predestined us to this final outcome. Work hard, but trust God for freedom.
Do you believe you can change? Do you have hope that you can be free from pornography? More so, do you believe that God will work in you and never abandon or forsake you as He moves you towards freedom? I remember several years ago, when I spoke with a man who participated in a 12 Step support group for compulsive sexual behaviors. He had just picked up his 20 year chip. For anyone unfamiliar with 12 Step groups, this means that he had just celebrated 20 years of sobriety, in his case 20 years without pornography use or other compulsive sexual behaviors. And get this, he was single that entire time! Submitting himself to God and the influence of other people, he went from a life dominated by sexual behaviors, to 20 years of freedom! In my work as a professional counselor, I have seen many people find freedom as well. It's definitely possible for you too!
1. Begin praying daily for God to give you faith and hope that change is possible. Also, begin looking for additional scriptures that build your hope.
2. 1 Year Future Exercises - Take some time to sit quietly and relax. Then in a journal or other safe space for writing, begin to write. Write as yourself one year in the future - a future in which you have worked really hard and have experienced freedom from the domination of pornography for some time. Really try to visualize it. Write about the things you did and the steps you took to find freedom. Write about how your life is different now that you have changed in this area. Write about what your relationship with God is like in this future. Write about how it feels to be free in this way and how it feels to look back with gratitude and satisfaction for the work you have done.
3. 10 Year Future Exercise - As above, but this time visualize yourself 10 years in the future. Write about your best possible self. Visualize your life having gone really well. Visualize having grown into the type of person you truly desire to be, one who embodies what you to believe are the most important virtues, characteristics, and attributes. What are you doing at this point in life? What have you accomplished? What goals have you reached? How does it feel to see this best self and realize that it is possible? Don't beat yourself up for not being this person now or compare now to this future, just savor the possibility of moving in that direction.
4. Maintaining Motivation Exercise. In your journal or other writing space, create a large grid that matches the picture below. Make it big enough to write plenty in each box. Over several days fill it in, giving yourself enough time to be thoughtful, engaged, and contemplative. In the top row write all the pros/cons of giving up pornography use. IN the bottom row, write all the pros/cons of continuing to view pornography. Consider both external (extra time, better relationships, etc) and internal (the effects on your emotions, character, personality, faith, love, hope, relationship with God, etc). Then take a notecard and on one side write all the benefits/pros of changing. On the back side of the care write all the costs/cons of staying the same. Carry this card around with you and review it regularly.
Next week we start to look at practical steps we can take to make it easier to remain committed to abstaining from pornography use whenever we feel an urge to do so.