Imagine a man who goes into the doctor’s office complaining about radiating pain in his back. The pain is being caused by a herniated disc, but the doctor simply prescribes a painkiller to treat the symptom. He sends this man away without addressing the deeper issue that the pain is stemming from.
Over time, this man needs more and more pain medication in higher doses as the condition worsens—all because the root issue isn’t being dealt with. Eventually, this man recognizes that he has come to depend on his pain medication, realizing that he cannot function without it. He may try to get off of it, knowing that the amounts he’s taking are dangerous for his liver and may have a very detrimental impact to his long term health—but when he tries to get off, the pain is simply too great, and he finds himself unable to stop taking the meds.
There isn’t much of a difference between being addicted to painkillers and being addicted to sexual sin. While on the surface these may seem miles apart, both are ultimately an attempt to medicate pain.
Now, it would be easy to say that a man addicted to pain killers just needs to stop—just like it’s easy to tell someone they need to stop looking at porn. It’s true—but it completely ignores the issue that drives the addiction in the first place. It is only when the root cause of the pain is dealt with that one is set up to leave their pain medication behind.
This is why most attempts to change behavior fail. We must begin to experience a deeper transformation than just changing our unwanted fruit. When we deal with the underlying pain that drives our behavior and begin to experience true healing in our hearts, we will find our unhealthy dependencies on our “pain medication” will begin to lose their power over us.
What is the pain that drives most compulsive sexual sin like looking at porn? It comes as a surprise to most that it has very little to do with sex, but rather love. Most who struggle with looking at porn are desperately longing to be loved. Unsure how to get their need to be loved met, they latch onto whatever they can find that feels even remotely like love, no matter how much of a fantasy it might be.
The reason things like porn are so addictive is because we use them to try to meet our legitimate need for love. We become terrified of letting go of it because in many ways it can feel like letting go of the one thing that has caused us to feel love. Even if that love is ultimately a figment of our imagination, it can feel very real in the moment. To some extent, porn gives us the ability to feel loved on demand. When we feel rejected, lonely, unnoticed, and any number of negative things, it allows us to feel a false intimacy. Though this intimacy is false, it still feels better than no intimacy at all. That is why we must not only let go of it, but find something better to replace it with.
Consider a man lost at sea in a shipwreck. In his desperation to survive, he will always cling to whatever will keep him afloat. The only way he would let go of a piece of the wreckage that is helping keep him alive is if he finds something better to grab onto like a lifeboat.
It’s the same thing with letting go of porn. Porn is the thing that so often has kept us afloat while we feel we are drowning in life. To find the strength and courage to let go of it, we must find something better and more sure to hold onto.
The love of God is our lifeboat. When we let go of the pieces of wreckage that have been helping us survive and choose to get into the lifeboat, it can carry us safely back to shore.
This is why getting a revelation of God’s love for you is such a key aspect to breaking free. Until you get a revelation of God’s love for you, walking away from porn will feel like leaving behind your only means of survival. But when you reach out your hand and allow Jesus to pull you into the boat and take you to shore, you will find yourself not just surviving, but coming back to life.
Day 19 Freedom Work
Scripture Reading — Read Ephesians 1-3, taking careful notes of what it says about how much God loves you.
Journaling Exercises — Answer the following questions at length in your journal. Aim to write for about 5 minutes per question:
- Where do you feel the most unloved in your life? How have you been wounded in the area of love? Be specific here where possible.
- What would it look like for you if you learned how to get your need for love met in God rather than trying to get it met through people and/or things?
- Take a minute and ask the Holy Spirit to tell you how He feels about you. Remember, God is love, so the voice of God is the very voice of love. Spend some time on this, and write down whatever words come to mind. (This is an important practice to do regularly in your life—so don’t just do it in today’s freedom work, but make a habit of God to reveal His love to you—even in moments when you may not feel lovable.)
Prayer — Father, thank your love for me is unfailing. I often feel covered in darkness and shame, but I thank you that you have never stopped loving me—even when I have turned from you. Help me to learn to run into your loving arms when I fall. I long so deeply to be loved and have often looked for love in the wrong places—leaving my longing unfulfilled. Help me to bring my heart to you instead and learn to rest in your love. Help me to trust that the reason you desire me to leave my sin behind is because you love me and you know how sin destroys me. Thank you that you are the Good Shepherd who pursues me until you find me and bring me home. I can trust a love like that—for you wholeheartedly desire my good. Help me to stop looking for love in the wrong places, and by following your voice, to find my way back home. Amen.