Love Of The Familiar; Fear Of The Unknown

Never underestimate the power of the familiar. It has kept countless people from change, even when change would save their very lives. The familiar, after all, may be unhealthy, but at least we know it. We relate to it. And we’re all too prone to cling to familiar territory.

When that ‘familiar territory’ is sexual activity, it becomes perversely dear to us. Even though we admit it’s wrong, we also come to see it as an old friend. It’s reliable and available, and it works. It eases our pain and temporarily satisfies us. To repent of habitual sexual behavior is like abandoning a trustworthy buddy.

Compare this to drug addiction. A person doesn’t just fall into it. Somewhere along the line he discovers satisfaction through a chemical. It temporarily eases pain, helps him forget troubles, comforts him. It is his anesthetic, deadening his anxieties like a nurturing parent. Of course there are other ways he could deal with his problems, but the drug is familiar and has a good track record. Why give up something that works? What began as a comfort, is now a necessity!

Meanwhile he is becoming addicted. What began as a comfort is now a necessity, emotionally and physically. To give it up means to go through physical withdrawal, which is hard enough. But it would also mean finding another way to cope with the inner conflicts which remain long after withdrawal. In fact, without the familiar coping mechanism, those conflicts will be stronger and more painful than ever. The truth is, he must find other coping mechanisms, because the one he uses now will eventually destroy him.

Look at the Jewish people’s journey out of Egypt. They lived in bondage and prayed for deliverance, and God intervened. He brought them out of Egypt miraculously. But when faced with difficult situations in the wilderness, they were prone to long for the familiarity of Egypt and to dread the unknown Promised Land. Think about the power the familiar held for them! They had been treated worse than animals in Egypt, yet at times they would remember it fondly, saying, “At least we were fed regularly and had our basic needs taken care of!” The unknown frightened them, making them turn toward the bondage that they could at least relate to. And when they finally approached the Promised Land, the terror of its giant inhabitants overshadowed all the benefits that would go along with their new location. In Egypt at least they had survived. How could they be sure they would fare as well in new territory?

If you’ve been engaging in sexual immorality, you may also wonder how you’ll fare in new territory. It’s tough at times, to be sure, but it also opens up a way of freedom, new relationships, and peace of mind. What will it be? Cling to the old, destructive and familiar or move into freedom and the unknown?

The question, then, is this: Are you going to cling to familiar, destructive ways simply because you can relate to them, or are you willing to abandon them in favor of a new way of living which is better, even though at this point you can’t relate to it?

I trust that you’re ready and willing to try something better, which means that you’re ready and willing to repent.

See Every Man’s Battle for help in breaking out of the familiar.

Blessings for the Pure in Heart

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Recently, my family and I returned from a vacation trip. After we boarded the plane to return home, we were delayed on the runway for three hours due to a line of thunderstorms moving through the Chicago area. As we waited for the plane to get clearance to take-off, the movie ‘Chicago‘ came on.

Our two oldest children Abigail, 7 and Micah, 5 had brought plenty to do on the plane and my wife and I explained to them that the movie was not appropriate for them to watch. They understood and we proceeded to read and play with them to occupy their attention away from the inappropriate movie.

On occasion, Rebecca or I would catch one of them watching the movie and we would gently remind them to refocus on their activities. Due to the long delay and the temptation right in front of them, the reminders were many. On about the third time of encouraging my daughter Abigail to refocus, she looked at me with the most troubling, anguished face and said, “But, Daddy it’s so hard.” After briefly empathizing with her and helping her to refocus, my heart broke for her. She was right – it is very hard. Hard not to look. Hard not to be enticed. Hard not to want to see more than allowed.

As I thought about my daughter’s true expression of her heart, I was reminded about the difficulty we men on the healing path of recovery face at times when temptation presents itself to us. We definitely know that God will give us a way out when tempted (I Corinthians 10:13) and we are growing daily at practicing an implementing our maintenance tools and God’s truth about us in recovery. But I want to encourage you that He knows that it is hard to choose purity in spite of our daily obedience to Him in our recovery.

Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8, NIV

Maintaining purity in light of the difficulty to resist temptation will be rewarded. Rewarded in a way that says we will see Him. I interpret this in two ways. First, we will see God in Heaven someday when we die. Secondly, we will know His comfort now in the midst of our trial. You might be wondering how? How do we know His comfort? He experienced the same temptation and pain that we face. In Hebrews 2:17-18, Paul writes: “For this reason, He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

He’s been there. Jesus is the ultimate in empathy and understanding. As the Message puts it, “He would have already experienced it all Himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.” (Hebrews 2:18, MSG).

Gentlemen, we have a Savior and High Priest who knows where we’ve been. He knows how hard it is too be tempted and to remain pure. It was His own purity in response to being tempted that allows us to trust and take refuge in Him without doubting His love, mercy, and faithfulness to us.

Let God know how difficult it is; then take REFUGE in His LOVE for you!

This battle with being tempted by sexual sin is hard and difficult. But remember to let Him know how difficult it is for you on days when it seems so hard to resist and then take refuge in His love for you knowing that he will give you understanding because he’s been there, too. And because He’s been there too, He is able to help when and where help is needed. This help may come through taking shelter in His word or the help may come through leaning on the understanding of another brother who can empathize with you and encourage you to keep pure in the face of temptation. Just as my daughter Abigail reached out to her Daddy, you can reach out to your heavenly Father when things get tough. He will understand. He will be faithful to hear your heart and help you refocus on the things that are pure, lovely, and right.

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle or call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

Your True Nature

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can not then be false to any man.”
– Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

“I can’t help being who I am!”, my client screamed. We were in the middle of our third counseling session together, and he was contemplating his decision to stop using pornography and prostitutes. His sexual behavior had become such a primary part of his life, though, that leaving it behind felt impossibly unnatural. “It’s my nature as a guy to want this,” he argued. “If I stop, aren’t I just trying to be somebody I’m not?”

As a Christian man struggling with sexual temptations, you may be asking the same question. You may, in fact, be considering a complete abandonment of the faith instead of abandoning your behavior.

The immediate payoff for such a decision is gratification. You will no longer be denying yourself the “right” to do what seems natural to you. And that may really seem more important to you than Christianity itself.

But then, what is your concept of Christianity? Did God promise you that, having been converted, you would be finished with personal struggles? Was there anything in Christ’s teaching implying total fulfillment in this life? Is Christianity a religious form of therapy designed to ensure the happiness of its followers?

Does it make you angry to even ask these questions? If so, you may have forgotten that the core of our faith is the Person Jesus Christ, and the expression of our faith is a life of service to Him, not ourselves. Jesus made this clear: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24).

The core of our faith is Jesus Christ. The expression of our faith is a life of service to Him. Regarding our attitude toward this primary but overlooked aspect of Christianity, Francis Schaeffer, in his book True Spirituality, comments: “It is not a matter of waiting until we no longer have strong sexual desires, but rather, when we are surrounded by a world that grabs everything, we are to understand what Jesus means when He talks about denying ourselves that which is not rightfully ours.”

Ironically, then, abandoning the faith in a quest for personal happiness may well be the way to sabotage that very quest. Remember, if you are a believer, you have experienced the rebirth described in John 3:16, which is not easily shrugged off. You were given the seed of God Himself: ‘Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God.’  (1 Peter 1:23).

That being the case, it is questionable whether you will ever be happy in a back-slidden state. The dissatisfaction you will feel apart from fellowship with Christ may well outweigh whatever dissatisfaction you’re experiencing now as a struggling Christian. I am who I am, I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.

You might argue, ‘But I am who I am. That’s my nature, and I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.’ I would argue the same point, changing the noun. You are indeed who you are, a Christian. That’s your nature, and you can’t be at peace unless you’re true to yourself.