The Ashely Madison scandal shed a disturbing light into a dark, and yet widespread brokenness in our culture. The revelation of millions of names of those seeking an extra-marital affair – including prominent leaders in church, government, and community – has proven that sexual temptation and sin is incredibly prevalent among men and women today. Moreover, because of the Internet, the opportunity to act on temptation is far easier than ever before. Sadly, in the wake of the scandal, it has been reported that numerous individuals on the Ashley Madison list have committed suicide because of the guilt and shame of their sin.
Perhaps you know the pain of sexual sin and failure in your marriage. One of the more common sexual struggles faced by both men and women, married and unmarried, concerns the use of pornography. Research suggests that about two-thirds of Christian men view pornography at least once a month; this is about the same frequency as non-Christian men. And though it was once assumed that pornography was largely a male problem, research again indicates otherwise. While statistics suggest that women do not use porn as frequently as men, the numbers do show that porn use among women is rising. One report suggests that over a quarter of Christian women view porn at least once a month.
Perhaps you are the husband who watches porn in the early hours of the evening, and then know the crushing shame and alienation you feel the next morning. You alienate yourself from your wife, you blame her, you blame others – but you can’t break free. Or maybe your husband just disclosed his addiction to you, and you are wounded, angry, and unsure of what to do next. Or maybe you are a single person, worried that your pornography and masturbation addiction will damage your future marriage. The following are steps that can help you and your spouse address the problem and overcome the grip of pornography in the family.
One of the biggest mistakes we could make would be to minimize the power that pornography has in a relationship. The temptation is to dismiss the habit as something that everyone does, or as something that doesn’t really hurt anyone. If your spouse doesn’t know about your habit, it is important to confess this to them sooner rather than later. She is being hurt as you withdraw from her, or compare her to the airbrushed models that you are seeing in porn. More than confessing your sin to your spouse, healing begins when you confess your struggle before God and seek His forgiveness.
I have written elsewhere on learning to view sin as idolatry, and how this can help us overcome our sins. At the root of a pornography addiction lies a deeper desire. You may want the thrill of sex without the vulnerability of an intimate relationship. Pornography can be like Red Bull for the soul – it gives you an inner rush. It might make you feel macho or sexy. Lying at the root of sexual sin is a desire to satisfy a deeper longing. It is vital to identify what that might be.
Dealing with the problem requires a two-pronged approach. First, you need to deal with some of the outward behaviors. Having a friend you can confide in and who can hold you accountable for your behavior is important. Websites like www.xxxchurch.com offer a wealth of resources for both men and women, for both the one struggling with pornography and the one married to the person struggling with pornography. Moving your computer to a public area of the house, avoiding late-night browsing, sharing your browsing history with your spouse, and other such steps can help to curb the temptations.
It is not enough, however, to simply curb bad behaviors. To address this temptation most fully, we must learn to seek in Christ what we otherwise seek in porn. Our joy in him must supersede the joy we find in pornography. Our identity as his beloved brothers and sisters must be more meaningful to us than the identity we seek to create from our sexual prowess.
The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11, “as aliens and strangers in this world…abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul.” He goes on in the letter to warn against all manner of sins, including sexual immorality. You may know all too well the war that goes on against your soul. But take heart! In Jesus, God has delivered us not only from the condemnation of our sin; He also gives us the power to overcome the power of sin in our daily life, including the power of pornography.
Dr. Robert Ritzema
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra