Discouragement in Recovery: A Silent Ambush on the Heart

Invia Betjoseph

“Why don’t you just give up on me Lord? I’m hopeless!” Sound familiar? Thousands of Christian men have uttered those words out of sheer frustration. At some point they promise God that they will stop acting out their sexual fantasies’that THIS time they are ready’ that THIS time it is different’ that they are, to quote a famous Alcoholic Anonymous saying, ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

Maybe you’re one of these men who decides to ‘starve’ himself of anything remotely sexual. You get rid of cable television, cancel the internet access, throw away all pornographic material, and even avoid having sex with your wife for a while! Several weeks pass and you notice that you don’t have the desire to view internet porn, visit massage parlors, or even masturbate! You begin to think that this is pretty easy and tell yourself, ‘maybe I can conquer this after all’ or, ‘I think I’m on my way to getting healed.’

But before you know it, lustful thoughts invade your mind like ‘pop-ups’ from Yahoo! You try not to panic but find yourself completely preoccupied with sexual thoughts for the next few hours or even days. At work you try to concentrate and endeavor to meet deadlines but your attention span is that of a woodpecker. You attempt to pay attention at staff meetings but each minute that goes by makes the struggle more intense. And then it happens’you end up in front of a computer screen or an x-rated video and for the next three to five hours you gratify your fleshly desires by viewing every known porn site under the sun, compulsively masturbate or ‘binge’ the whole weekend from massage parlors to escort services.

You cry out, ‘What happened? Why can’t I just quit?’ You not only feel disillusioned and guilty but you also feel like you are perverted to the depths of your being. You want to ‘resign’ as a Christian because you continually feel helpless and hopeless and you believe that no one can relate to you.

Well, you are not alone! You don’t believe me? Read with me Peter’s letter; specifically chapter 5:9 ”because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.’

All of us are running in this race for sexual integrity and sometimes we trip and fall. And when we do, we can’t afford to just sit there and watch everyone run by. Can you imagine watching Olympic athletes trip and fall and just sit there in bewilderment as to why they fell? No, they immediately get up and run’ they don’t even wipe the dirt off of themselves. Their whole focus is the finish line. Proverbs 24:16 adequately captures the theme of what you’ve read thus far: ‘For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again!’ So before you decide to beat yourself up any further let me suggest that we pay a visit to some of our Heroes of the Faith and see just how human they really were.

In I Kings chapter 18 Elijah and the prophets of Baal engage in a contest to see who is truly God. In verse 27 when the prophets of Baal are struggling Elijah feels so confident that he begins to taunt them (how cocky we get sometimes). You know how the rest of the story goes. What amazes a lot of Christians is that after his amazing victory Jezebel puts a contract on his life and the man cowers into a cave and starts whining. God didn’t tell him to go there. The Lord even asks him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ (19:9). Do you see how human Elijah really is? Just like you and I, he distances himself from the Lord out of fear, shame, and other feelings that damage our confidence.

What about John the Baptist? Jesus says of him: ‘Among those born of women there is no one greater than John (Luke 7:28). This is a prophet who boldly spoke against Herod’s adultery, he put Pharisees ‘in their place’ and preached about the coming Messiah as if his life depended on it and he did not sugarcoat his words. Yet in Luke 7:18-19 we read that from his prison cell he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Excuse me John, wasn’t it you that said to Jesus, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’? It is amazing what despair does to the person. It slowly strips him of his confidence, blinds his eyes to past victories, and finally creates an environment in his soul in which doubt can thrive.

Let’s not forget good old Peter. When Jesus predicts his death and tells his disciples that they will all fall away on account of him our beloved brother protests, ‘even if all fall away on account of you, I NEVER will’ (Matt 26:33). Can you just picture him speaking in a baritone voice with his chest sticking out? Jesus then tells Peter that he will disown him three times. One can only imagine the level of agony Peter felt when the rooster crowed three times. The Bible says ‘he went outside and wept bitterly’ (Matt 26:75).

So, do you still feel alone? I hope not. There are many other accounts in the Bible where men and women ‘messed up’ but God used them anyway despite their shortcomings. Meanwhile, what does one do when he has messed up in the sexual integrity department? I thought you’d never ask!

First, it is very important not to mistake the absence of symptoms for cure. Just because you’ve thrown out your porn stash or haven’t masturbated for weeks does not mean that the condition of your heart has changed.

Secondly, if and when relapse occurs, there will be a tendency to abandon the whole process altogether. It is vital that you do not give up’to get up and run the race.

Thirdly, if you have someone in your life that holds you accountable pick up the 100 lb. phone and call him. Let him know what you did and do not hold back (Satan thrives on secrecy).

Fourthly, try to identify what exactly happened. Usually, there are 3-5 things happening at the same time. For example, you’re having car trouble, the boss is acting like Hitler and you have not been sleeping enough… all of the above can have a toll on your body and mind. Try to pin-point what the trigger was for you.

Finally, you need to strategize. In other words, you need to place preventative measures at each trigger point so that you do not repeat the cycle.

You know, theologians and preachers often speak about the work Christ did on the cross for our salvation. However, the work that Jesus continues to do on our behalf is often not talked about. Just as He prayed for Peter during some dark hours, so also he intercedes before the Father’s throne on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus’ ongoing ministry of prayer is there for you as long as you are in need of His guidance, comfort and blessing.

Robert Murray McCheyne, the beloved Scottish minister of the 19th century, wrote, ‘If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!’

If you are still sitting there asking the Father, ‘Why don’t you just give up on me? I’m hopeless!’ I would imagine he would say, ‘Because I who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6).

What Is the Father Wound?

Jeff Eckert

Jack is a 42-year-old who entered my office for counseling after his wife discovered his long history of Internet pornography, and trips to local massage parlors. As I began to explore his history in an attempt to understand the deeper issues involved, I was struck by one of Jack’s statements: ‘My father always provided for us and was home every night after work. But even though he was there, he was never really present.’ Thus begins an exploration of the question: What is the father wound?

Andrew Comiskey, in his book on sexual and relational healing entitled “Strength in Weakness” writes, ‘Though the Father intended for us to be roused and sharpened by our fathers, we find more often than not that our fathers were silent and distant, more shadow than substance in our lives.’ This kind of a ‘shadow’ presence is not what our heavenly Father intended for our relationships with our earthly fathers. Unfortunately, few fathers follow the injunction of Proverbs 27:17: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’

Like Jack, then, many men grew up with fathers who returned home after work, but were never really active as sharpening agents in the lives of their sons. These fathers provided for their sons’ material needs, but they were strangely absent when the time came to satisfy the needs of the heart, such as intimacy and connection. Fathers like this may have been available to coach their sons’ baseball teams or supervise yard work. However, they were less likely to model intimacy in relationships, or to be an active presence when their sons were dealing with the pain of rejection by peers.

In his soul, every man craves deep, intimate connections with other men, but men are often left without the tools for creating these loving, nurturing relationships. A big reason for this has to do with the primary role fathers typically play in families. Rather than nurturing their sons or developing intimacy with them, fathers often spend the majority of their time enforcing the rules. Patrick Morley, in his classic book “Man in the Mirror” states, ‘Mothers love and stroke their children. Angry fathers handle the discipline.’ While this statement may seem unfair to fathers, it is a fair assessment of the father’s role in many families. Not only do fathers interact with their boys in a primarily disciplinary role, but boys are taught to absorb that discipline with a stiff upper lip. Boys learn the lesson very early on that they are not to display any sense of vulnerability. When life gets tough, negative feelings are to be stuffed and internalized.

This stoic, unemotional approach to life is often accompanied by a seemingly unreachable set of expectations from fathers. Countless men enter my counseling office with stories of fathers they could not please: ‘All my life I have felt as if I just couldn’t cut it in my father’s eyes. It always seemed like the bar was raised just above my reach.’ Some of the deepest wounds lie in these feelings of inadequacy, which can then poison other relationships and make true intimacy difficult. Men that grew up with fathers they were unable to please often carry around a suffocating belief system: ‘I can never cut it. And if I’m not cutting it, then why would others want to be around me?’

Another reason men may feel inadequate is because their fathers did not support or affirm them as they moved into manhood. Jack Balswick, in his book “Men at the Crossroads” writes, ‘Tragically, many young men are growing up without a father who will affirm their leap into manhood’Often the voices they do hear are distortions of true manhood.’ Because so many boys do not have a father affirming their ‘leap into manhood,’ that transition is often filled with feelings of fear, anger and frustration, instead of confidence and security. Lonely and discouraged, boys become isolated and alienated men. In this isolated state, men continue to desire closeness and connection, but they often have no concept of how to achieve it.

It is because of this quandary that many men seek out sexual fantasy in an attempt to find some sense of intimacy. Many men feel a void in their lives, often created by the wounds of the past, and some men attempt to fill that void with illicit sexuality. Men’s desire for intimacy and connection is real, powerful, and appropriate. But when men try to satisfy that desire in the form of sexual fantasies and acts, they find merely approximations or shadows of true relationship and connection.

However, a healing balm for men’s wounds, including their father wound, can be found. By obtaining a biblical understanding of what a father truly is, and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, men can begin to experience healing. More healing can occur through accountability and community with other Christian brothers. As Jack began developing relationships with others who were truly present, and experiencing relationship with a heavenly Father who is always present, his need to escape into the world of sexual fantasy was diminished. Sharing our wounds with fellow sojourners in the journey can provide immeasurable healing. It is in coming out of our own woundedness and brokenness that we can most clearly see the essential nature of relationship with Christ and others.

For more help, please join us at our next Every Man’s Battle conference.