Pornography-You-Can-Break-Free

Pornography: You Can Break Free

Written By Stacy Joy, USA

October 3, 2012, is a day my husband Andrew and I will never forget. On the same day every year, we dress up, go out to a fancy restaurant, and celebrate a unique anniversary: Andrew’s freedom from the chains of almost two decades of addiction to pornography.

You heard that right—freedom is possible, friends. But breaking free from the enticement of pornography truly is a war. I’ve heard counselors say that it is harder to break free from pornography than cocaine.

Andrew’s complete break came after four years of struggle. He had turned to mentors for support, installed programs on his computer to block websites, and tried everything he could to end his addiction.

One of his biggest motivating factors to end his addiction was our relationship. We were dating at the time and it dawned on him how much pornography already had and would continue to damage me as well as the marriage we were planning to pursue together. I know he truly hated all the pain it caused me: I was deeply concerned that my future spouse would compare me physically and sexually to the images he had ingrained in his mind for years, and his addiction had also planted seeds of distrust within me—I wasn’t sure if he would be able to keep his eyes from wandering when I was absent, or even when I was around. I sought much counsel on whether we should continue to pursue marriage or put the brakes on our relationship.

I praise God that Andrew was eventually able to stop—and it was only truly because the Lord enabled him to do so. There’s no other way to explain how he managed the seemingly impossible. He is now a pastor and has been able to speak into the lives of many surrounding us regarding his previous struggles, encouraging them that they, too, can have victory.

I know that Andrew’s story of struggle is not rare. The use of pornography is prolific. We may think that it affects adult men only, but it is in fact a struggle for both men and women—one-third of visitors to pornographic sites are women—and an even higher number are younger people. Studies show that the largest consumer base of online pornography is made up of 12 to 17-year olds.

Another heart-breaking reality is that Christians are no less susceptible: Nearly half of all Christian households face a severe problem with pornography.

As a pastor’s wife and counselor-in-training, I have counseled many people regarding their struggle with pornography; all of them, without exception, were exposed to it before the age of 10.

But am I being a bit too rigid? What’s so bad about pornography? you may be thinking. After all, sexuality is a beautiful gift that was fashioned by God himself. Isn’t it a part of His perfect creation that the Bible describes as a gift to be cherished? Yes, absolutely! But there are also many warnings in Scripture regarding the abuse of sexuality. Ephesians 5:3 warns us to not even have “a hint” of sexual immorality in our lives, while 1 Thessalonians 4:3 warns that sexual immorality will affect a believer’s sanctification, as it will hinder our ability to grow into the likeness of Jesus. Since we are to glorify God with our lives, we need to take the sin of pornography seriously.

As my husband and I counsel and meet with many couples and young adults, we’ve observed (and research confirms) that the use of pornography lies at the root of well over half of failed marriages. Some studies have also said that it increases the chances of infidelity by three times, and I would venture to guess that this is because of the insatiable desire that pornography creates. Users always want more—more options, more danger, more of the forbidden, more body types, etc. Having a lifelong partner in marriage is a gift from God, but pornography affects the ability of a person to see that gift as precious and “enough”.

How does one begin breaking the hold of pornography on his or her life? Any attempt to break this bondage has to begin with a heart fully surrendered to Christ, ready to obey no matter what the cost.

In an article about fighting the temptation of pornography, Christian counselor Ed Welch notes, “Power doesn’t come from mere knowledge; it comes as we grow in the knowledge of God and respond to him with obedient trust. It comes only as we discover that in God’s presence—not from what the world or fleshly pleasure can offer—do we find fullness of joy and pleasures that never lose their capacity to satisfy (Ps. 16:11).” We must trust God that what He has to offer is more glorious and fulfilling than anything the world has to offer—including pornography.

Another step we must take is to share our deepest struggles with someone we trust, for both accountability and support. Welch explains the importance of community in this battle: “We could easily argue our sin is private, it’s against God, and it should be handled privately. But if we easily confess to God yet refuse to confess to others, the authenticity of our confession is suspect. Openness is a way we can avoid being tricked by new justifications.”

If you’re struggling with some type of sexual addiction, find someone who will hold you accountable—not the type of person who pats you on the back because you “only looked twice this week instead of five times”, but someone who cares enough about you to ask you the hard questions.

I have talked to people I dearly love who speak of going to bed for years crying out to God to help, but hearing no answer. Their despair leads them deeper and deeper into depression, and they believe that they will never be able to have a fulfilling, God-glorifying marriage or life. By God’s grace, they have since broken free from the addiction and are now thriving in godly marriages and are intentionally helping others who struggle. Satan wants you to believe that deliverance is never going to be within your reach. Do not let the lies of the enemy win the battle of pornography in your life. Do not give up hope—for we serve the Almighty God, who created the Heavens and Earth, for whom nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

The beauty that could await you someday within your current marriage, in a future marriage if you are single, or in joy and peace within obedience as a single, is tangible and available. Having been married for almost four years now, I can honestly and happily say that we have never had a more content, fun and satisfying sex life. Praise to our God of redemption!

I pray that you too will soon have a day to look back on and celebrate, just as Andrew and I do. Be vigilant in this war and always remember that you can boldly come to Jesus’ throne of grace, knowing you will receive mercy and find grace in times of need (Heb 4:16).

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7 Ways to Navigate the World of Casual Dating

Written By Elizabeth Hogsten, USA 

I used to be averse to the idea of casual dating.

First of all, it just sounded so messy and uncomfortable. (Make small talk for an hour with someone I barely know? No thanks.) Second, it seemed worldly. I grew up in the I Kissed Dating Goodbye* era, and I thrived on all the courtship advice. Why bother dating a bunch of people, possibly getting hurt in the process, when I could skip straight to meeting my future husband?

I wasn’t going to kiss until the altar. I wasn’t going to date until it could possibly end in marriage—so high school romances were out. And I certainly wasn’t going to share any private meals with complete strangers. I would wait until a friendship organically developed into romance. But that never happened.

Instead, I experienced a lot of disappointment and heartbreak, all without going on a single date.

Having said that, I don’t regret any of the years I avoided casual dating. There have been many more years of singleness than I expected, but they have been rich years full of adventure, discovery, and intimacy with the greatest love of all. There were seasons in which dating would have been a distraction for me. I’m thankful for the time I have had to get to know myself and grow in confidence as a woman of God.

However, looking back, I can see that a big reason I stayed away from dating was fear. I didn’t want to get hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. But intimacy in any relationship requires vulnerability, and vulnerability means opening yourself up to the possibility of pain. Although I succeeded in avoiding dating for most of my life, I did not succeed in avoiding pain.

Waiting on God to bring your spouse into your life can be an act of faith, but it can also be motivated by fear or passivity. Similarly, taking the initiative in dating can be motivated by rebellion or desperation, but it can also be an act of faith. The essential question is whether you are either waiting or dating with God or apart from Him.

This season, I’ve sensed God leading me into the adventure of casual dating. Not just accepting it as an avenue for other less sensitive people to take, but actually doing it.

If you fall, I will catch you, He says. So in faith, I am taking Him at His word.

Casual dating has definitely been an adventure so far. I have often felt like I was in over my head––unsure how to make small talk with complete strangers, unsure how open to be––but I have learned a lot, especially about myself.

For anyone out there who is trying to navigate (or considering navigating) the casual dating world, here are some tips I can give you, based on my experiences so far.

 

  1. Don’t overthink it.

I basically break this rule every day of my life in regard to everything, and especially my love life. But if you can, it’s good advice to follow.

In the beginning, even clicking “like” on a guy’s dating app profile seemed like a big deal, but I have come to think of dating apps and the connections I make through them as doors. Opportunities. Instead of desperately searching for connections, growing frustrated when they don’t happen, or freaking out when they do, I remind myself that I am simply opening doors through which a relationship could come.

 

  1. Do involve God.

However, even the act of opening doors would be frightening if I were doing it apart from God. The unknown is scary, which is why this process has led me to rely even more on God, which could never be a bad thing.

At every step, allow God to test your motives and to speak into the process. Don’t assume that you know what He will say: instead, seek His counsel. Often, His answers surprise me. He doesn’t lead me based on a formula, but as part of a process.

Sometimes, it’s not the right time. Sometimes, it’s not the right guy for you to be giving your time to. Other times, it may feel uncomfortable to you, but God wants to stretch you through the interaction.

So pay attention to what He says. He always knows best. And know He is there with you at all times, protecting you, comforting you, and even smiling and laughing with you.

 

  1. Stay open, but know your boundaries.

The best surprises of my casual dating adventures have come from being generous in my “likes” on dating apps. Some people may not seem like “your type” at first glance. But some people just aren’t photogenic or good at conveying their sense of humor via an app profile. The whole fun of casual dating is that you get to meet people whom you wouldn’t otherwise. Let yourself be surprised.

However, if the person crosses moral boundaries or reveals that God doesn’t play a large role in their life, don’t compromise. You deserve better than that.

Don’t let yourself get sucked into an infatuation with someone who pulls you away from God. And don’t compromise your boundaries for the sake of saving or bettering the other person either. Leave that to God and move on. God is more than capable of helping that person without sacrificing your heart in the process.

 

  1. Don’t date in a bubble.

Involving other people in the dating process is invaluable. Not just good friends with whom you can laugh about the awkward moments, but mature, honest people who can hold you accountable.

The nature of casual dating is that you get to know someone backwards. You start not with friendship or observation in a natural group setting, but intimate one-on-one interaction. Starting with dating as the stated goal makes things clearer in some ways, but slightly more dangerous in others.

“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (Song of Songs 8:4)

The dating atmosphere can easily awaken desires that may have little to do with the person who is in front of you and much more to do with the situation itself. Attention from the opposite sex can be addictive. That addiction can cloud your judgment.

So be sure to invite trusted friends or mentors into the process who aren’t afraid to call you out and ask the pointed questions. And if you’re a little naive like me, you might also want to consult people with more dating experience who can help you better read situations and make wise choices.

 

  1. Be authentic, but in stages.

It’s generally not a good idea to interrogate someone about their theological beliefs via text. Probably not on the first date either. Maybe not even on the second.

For me, this is one of the hardest parts of casual dating. You have to start off casual!

I’d prefer to get everything out in the open right away so we can evaluate whether we would make good life partners or not. But I also want a genuine friendship, and that’s not usually how healthy friendships develop. My most solid friendships have developed slowly, not in a rush.

So start with small talk. Build the rapport gradually. Throw in a teasing comment. Try to find common ground. Give the connection a chance to grow.

 

  1. Embrace rejection as part of the process.

If a guy clearly isn’t for you, don’t feel bad about closing that door. (For me, if he mentions partying or starts spewing vulgarities, I bow out as quickly as possible.)

You’re going to be rejected, and you are going to reject others. It’s just part of it. It’s one of the more scary, uncomfortable parts of dating, but it’s okay. Rejection builds character.

Don’t forget to affirm yourself for your courage throughout the casual dating process. And don’t waste too much time feeling bad for those you reject. Be considerate, but don’t feel a need to explain yourself in detail to every stranger you encounter. If you’re not feeling it, closing that door is really doing both of you a favor.

You will be disappointed during the process, but let that disappointment point you back to God. Let it set you even more firmly in your foundation in Him. Our hope should never be in another person, in circumstances, or even in ourselves. Those things will all fail us, but He never will.

For me, one of the hardest parts of casual dating is the near misses: the guys who are attractive and decent, but lack intimacy with God; the guys who have admirable character, but aren’t any fun. Going on dates or receiving playful texts can remind me of disappointments and heartbreak of the past. But though facing those feelings can be hard, processing them with God also brings healing.

At times I’m tempted to think this whole process is a waste of my time, but then God shows me that what I’m learning is invaluable.

As I meet different people, I learn more about what I’m attracted to in a guy, what I need in a relationship, and what I value in life. As I face my fears, I am set free from the limitations of the past. And, as I submit to the journey God has set me on, my trust in Him grows. Sometimes, it feels like He has me on a rollercoaster with sudden twists and stomach-dropping turns. But I am learning that I am safely strapped in. I don’t know what is coming, but He does. And I trust Him.

 

  1. Have fun.

Lastly, try your best to enjoy the ride. You may or may not meet your soul mate through casual dating, but you will definitely encounter opportunities to grow as a person. Not to mention collecting awkward stories to tell.

So press in through the difficulties, laugh at the awkwardness, and stay hopeful. Don’t forget how fiercely you are loved by the One who made you. God sees your boldness, kindness, and faith through the process as beautiful. He knows what is best, and dating, married, or single, He will not stop persisting in giving it to you.

 

 

*I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a book by Joshua Harris that came out in 1997. In it, Harris promotes courtship over traditional dating, arguing that traditional dating can be selfish and bring unnecessary heartache.

Is-Dressing-Modestly-Overrated

Is Dressing Modestly Overrated?

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

I’ve always felt uneasy about the topic of modesty.

Growing up in church, I heard many different rules and principles about modesty. However, I often had difficulty accepting some of them—something I know other Christian girls have dealt with as well.

In high school, I witnessed the shame and degradation my friends felt when they were punished for dress code offenses, such as wearing leggings or shorts that were too short. They were often sent to spend the day in the administrative office or forced to wear clothes from the lost and found box over their offensive attire.

I never saw any of my male classmates punished for dress code offences, and the females punished were often of a larger body type. To me, this made the dress code system seem incredibly unfair. Seeing my friends humiliated for wearing the “wrong” type of clothing led me to conclude that strict principles of modesty were unfair, and their application resulted only in unnecessary shame.

As I grew older, I continued to struggle with these ideas of modesty. How were we supposed to know where to draw the line? And why? Some principles about modesty made sense and were easy to understand. For example, dressing with the purpose of seduction is clearly wrong.

But other reasons for dressing conservatively didn’t make sense. For example, I was told that I needed to cover up so that people wouldn’t assume the wrong things about my reputation, because my body belonged to my future husband, or so that the men around me wouldn’t be tempted to sin.

But that’s where the problem begins—when a woman is held responsible for the thoughts and actions of the men around her. In many societies, when a woman is sexually assaulted, she is told it is her fault because of how she dressed. I cannot disagree more. In fact, studies have shown that most people are sexually assaulted by someone they know, and that clothing is almost never a factor. Teaching young women that they need to cover up so the men around them will not sin contributes to a culture that normalizes and diminishes the significance of sexual assault and blames the victims.

Some ideas about modesty also suggest that the way a woman dresses can indicate how promiscuous she might be. This kind of thinking is dangerous, because it can encourage judgment and condemnation over mercy and grace.

So, is modesty important then? Though I’ve struggled with some of the principles and ideas that I’ve heard about modesty, I believe that modesty is important—but not because of what I’ve been told. Rather, it’s important because God calls us to be good stewards of the things He has given us, including our bodies.

I act and dress in the knowledge that my body is a temple to the Lord and a gift from Him. I choose to honor God and myself by dressing in a way that is appropriate, but also in a way that makes me feel confident in the skin God has made for me. This means I wear clothing that I feel confident and beautiful in, and yet keep certain parts of my body covered up. As the steward of my body, I have chosen to save those parts of myself for my future husband. I do this not because my body belongs to him, but because I want to be a responsible and wise steward of my body.

Proverbs 31:30 states, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” While this verse is not saying that wearing cute clothes and looking good on the outside is wrong, our main concern must be with inner beauty. Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the “wife of noble character” as a woman who is compassionate to the poor, trustworthy, wise, kind, and provides for her family.

When it comes to being a Christian woman, the way I dress is important, but it is only one aspect of living the life of a Christian. Being a Christian—man or woman—is about so much more than clothing. It’s about living each day as passionate, creative, intelligent, merciful, and generous image-bearers of God that we are created to be.

Why-I-Went-on-a-Social-Media-Fast

Why I Went on a Social Media Fast

Written by Phyllis J.en, Singapore

About two years ago, I decided to delete or deactivate most of my social media accounts for a while. Things remained that way for the next six to nine months.

It took much thinking and hesitation before I was able to bring myself to do it. “Can I live without it?” “How do I contact people?” “How will people take it?” After all, social media had become a big part of my life.

But there were two main reasons that propelled me to do so. First, I wanted to go offline to reconnect with people face to face. Social media had affected the way I treated and viewed people. I wasn’t being loving or intentional in my relationships with people. During meal times, I would rather text or scroll through my social media newsfeeds than talk to people and get to know them personally. I found their timelines and posts more interesting than their actual persons.

Secondly, and more importantly, I realized that social media had become an idol in my life. Whenever I did my daily devotion, I would keep glancing at my phone, unable to concentrate on what I was reading or writing. And whenever my phone alerted me with notifications, I would put the Bible aside to check them. It was scary—I couldn’t seem to be able to restrain myself: I had to check my phone immediately. I felt like I had to reply immediately even when it wasn’t about something urgent.

In fact, it was an incident of this nature that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. One day, I got really angry when a friend I messaged did not reply me quickly enough. When I cooled down and reflected on my reaction, I realized that it was irrational and showed how emotionally dependent I had become on social media.

But I didn’t delete or deactivate my apps all at once. What I did was to delete apps that didn’t really matter to me first. Snapchat was the first to go. Next was Instagram, followed by Facebook. The last to be deleted was WhatsApp, which I was the most reliant on, as I used it the most often to contact my friends and disseminate information—I was a subject representative in school and had convey information from my teacher to the rest of the class.

Initially when I “lost” everything but WhatsApp, the loss didn’t feel so apparent. It was only when my WhatsApp was gone that I felt the impact fully. Deleting WhatsApp was the most painful and difficult thing to do, partly due to my dependence on it, and partly due to how people reacted when I told them about my plans.

“Are you crazy?” some said. “That’s so drastic!” “Why must you be so extreme? Don’t you know that’s going to cause a lot of inconvenience to people around you when they want to contact and connect with you?”

But a few affirmed my decision, calling it a “wise” one.

I was hurt by some of the comments. But being the stubborn person I was, I decided to carry on with it. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how lost and empty I felt. The sudden silence and disconnect was disconcerting. I didn’t know what to do. I found myself checking my phone often—even though I knew that there would be no messages. I even contemplated downloading the app again. I was more addicted to it than I thought.

Although being offline changed my lifestyle a lot, it did not automatically change my mindset. The vacuum created by the loss of social media was filled by other forms of entertainment. K-drama, anyone? I watched so much K-drama that I got tired of it. Then, slowly, I started to spend time reading the Bible and praying. And that’s when I came to the realization that only God can satisfy. None of the other things could fill the emptiness in me.

Deleting my apps also made me realize how much time and energy I had been wasting. With the amount of energy and time spent on social media, I could have been doing more important things such as evangelism, meeting, and praying for others. Going offline made me more intentional about the relationships around me, and improved my spiritual walk. It made me realize that I had not been fixing my eyes on God’s kingdom.

The other thing I learned was about my over-dependence on people. Prior to the “loss”, I would turn to my friends and family for help and advice every time I faced a crisis—and not the Bible. As for prayer, it was usually an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, turning to friends and family for advice is not a bad thing. They just shouldn’t be the first people we turn to.

So I am really thankful that through this social media fast, God helped me learn how to depend and listen more to Him.

Although I’ve since reactivated my Facebook account and reinstalled WhatsApp, these platforms don’t appeal to me as much as they used to. In fact, I send mostly text messages to my friends; WhatsApp is reserved for those friends who I know have limited number of text messages they can send out every month.

But even though the temptation is not as strong these days, addiction in any form will always be an ongoing struggle. What I find very helpful is to keep praying and asking God for wisdom and depending on Him daily. Also, having an accountability partner helps!