God’s Protection

God is protecting you from yourself.

Have you ever considered what temptations, trials or tribulations God has already protected you from? Ones you never even felt or experienced. Have you reflected on the ones where He delivered you from the very midst? How many times has He saved you from yourself? These unseen instances are probably too great to count. The visible instances are often easy to forget. Yet we cannot underestimate His sovereignty. We cannot overestimate His love. We have His word that we’re protected. By His outstretched arm and mighty hand He protects His people. It may not seem like it today, but He is busy at the work of protecting you. That is not to say he won’t keep us from harm or even death, but it is to say his sovereignty is implicit in it.

Instead of spending time asking questions about why He won’t deliver you from your sin or circumstance, reframe your perspective and attempt to see where He is already saving you from the magnitude of it.
When I reflect on my sexual addiction and all the damage I did, I can also see how much worse it could have been. There were so many opportunities for me to blow up my life with more magnitude and collateral damage and God was faithful to protect me. From myself. In a sense, he let me enter into painful circumstances to avoid even more painful circumstances.

Perhaps even today God is protecting us from ourselves. Let us be thankful.

Here are a few verses to investigate around this subject:

2 Sam 22:31, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 62:7, Exodus 33:19-23, Psalm 136:12

Rewiring your Brain

I am often asked about the brain chemistry behind sexual addiction. While it would take a book to cover the topic adequately (and there is a great one I’ll mention at the end of the post), we can bring it down to lay terms. Simply said, when we engage sexually we activate the areas of the brain that chemically make us feel love, warmth, acceptance, euphoria and peace. Adrenaline, oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, etc for all you detail oriented folks. Most men who struggle with sexual integrity issues have connected the guilt and shame of life with the “love and euphoria” chemicals of sexual engagement. Neuropathways in the brain have formed which, when activated, follow this course:

negative emotions——–> sexual engagement (fantasy, masturbation, porn, emotional/physical affairs, sex with spouse)———->chemicals of love and euphoria released

In other words, we’ve learned how to use sex as the needle to deliver a chemical cocktail anesthetic that medicates negative emotions and shameful self concepts.

What begins as a narrow, shallow walking path eventually becomes so engrained and solidified that it is becomes a deep and wide trench. Those neuropathways, or trenches, are easy to access and fall into. Likewise, they are incredibly difficult to get out of.

Thankfully God created our brains with the ability to rewire. This is known as neuroplasticity. One of the simplest ways to begin rewiring the brain is to follow biblical guidance in two ways. First, when sexual temptation hits, we must take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Then we must replace those thoughts with what the bible says is pure, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, right, admirable and noble (Phil 4:8). Those thoughts would ideally be vivid memories of times and situations where you felt love and peace. It could be a family vacation photo, an anniversary, grandkids, Jesus, particular verses, etc.

In terms of brain chemistry, what we are doing is interrupting the old neuropathway and replacing the sexual thoughts with memories that tap into the nerve centers of love and euphoria. We’re accomplishing the same goal [releasing the chemical cocktail] only now we are doing so in a way that honors God. We stop using our sexuality as the needle to administer the anesthetic.

I hope you’ll begin practicing this technique. If you’re like I was in the beginning of my recovery journey, you probably have multiple opportunities each day to practice this! If you do, you are faithfully practicing what Paul exhorts us to do; be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2).

A helpful read regarding pornography and the brain is Wired for Intimacy: Dr. William Struthers.

Heads up for the Holiday

I want to write a quick post to give a heads-up to the many men who are striving for freedom from sexual integrity issues. The holidays typically impact us in ways we don’t realize and the result is often to crash and burn. So I want alert you to a few key things that hopefully will help you.

First, holiday stress is normal. Not that it is right or should be there, but it typically is. So realize your stress is impacting you. It may be about the money and how you’ll pay off Christmas. It could be about hosting people, or about having to be “on” when folks are around. Perhaps it is stress from traveling. It could even be relational stress because you and your spouse disagree on things this time of year. Realize stress is impacting you and talk with your accountability partners & God about it.

Second, realize that family factors matter. If you are going to be around parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws or outlaws you have to acknowledge that they impact you. If there is trauma or wounding from your family of origin, be on guard for triggers. Protect your heart from them and stay connected relationally with safe people. If you know your crazy Uncle Albert only wants to talk politics with you so he can get under your skin, avoid the conversation! Maintain emotional sobriety this holiday.

Also, with family, be aware of the roles you take on. It is not uncommon for grown men who are husbands and fathers to take on a child role when they get around their parents. There is typically a well oiled family machine, and every cog has its position and role to play. At the least that role is often inauthentic and at worst it can be extremely dysfunctional. Stay true to who God is calling you to be.

Next, no “last-hurrah”. Many men do this. They plan to quit their addiction come the new year, but the addict inside urges them to get in one last binge. Don’t do it! You’ll just hate yourself that much more. If you’re planning on quitting in January, then start NOW. Fight the urge to get one last look.Tell your accountability partners and alert them if you feel the pull.

Finally, do something different. Be someone different than normal. Get out of your comfort zone this year. If you typically pig out and then watch the games, change it up. Be the first one in the kitchen to do dishes this year. If you typically avoid the kids that day then get down on the floor and play with them. If your tendency is to have shallow, empty conversations with family maybe its time to take it deeper. Volunteer to pray for the meal. Recycle instead of throwing all the wrapping paper away. Shovel snow from your neighbors sidewalk that morning. Somehow, get outside yourself and your normal mode of operating.

I hope this holiday brings you excitement and thankfulness. And I hope you enter the new year confident that you were authentically you, standing for integrity and character.