The story line for myself and many Christian men wanting to achieve sexual integrity often feels like an endless pattern of short-term successes and long-term failure. Exasperated, I turned to God crying out, ‘remove this thorn!’ But He didn’t. Hey God, why not? If God is good, and He is; if God is love, and He is; then what’s up with that? There must be another message that God is giving me and it’s not sinking in. Why have I not been delivered from this? The thorn remains.
Paul reports his experience of praying for God to remove a sin pattern that he was unable to master, his personal thorn in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. There is much speculation of what Paul’s thorn actually was but nobody knows for certain. However, I definitely know what mine has been. Perhaps you do as well.
Paul prayed three times to have this ‘thorn’ removed. The Lord’s answer: Uh-uh, nada, zilch, negatory, no deal. God did not deliver Paul from his personal thorn either. Sometimes God is like that; He doesn’t always do the straightforward thing. Paul prayed and did not get the obvious and expected solution. God was up to something else. God was teaching Paul a deeper spiritual truth. For some things, God wants us to rely on Him much more than we normally would.
The answer was elucidated for Paul when he writes, ‘When we are weak, then we are strong’. (2 Cor. 12:10)’.
So, I am spiritually strong when I can confess that my puny human strength fails me. I can identify with that. I cannot maintain my sexual integrity in my own strength, in my own power, through my efforts. God has to supply the strength. The flesh nature is not strong enough and it never will be. But, rather, it is a confession that sets me free from continuing in my futile attempts. It also disrupts the powerlessness and shame of failure that lead to despair. The despair sets in motion a cycle that leads to more acting out.
By confessing that I don’t have what it takes I find healing. I can now agree with Paul that the secret of my strength will be in a willing confession that I don’t have what it takes. Nor will I ever. This has been very restorative. Additionally, knowing that each time I cry out for His strength and relying on Him will make me spiritually stronger. Hallelujah! Now I get it’ duh!
Still, asking for help (cf., my article in the archives on the H-bomb) takes a lot of courage and strength, and/or desperation. Not only the first time, but every time. Eveeerrrry time! Even now, I have to rely on His strength and I have to ask for it. It has taken such a long, long time to follow through and maintain this strategy. After millions of failures (it seemed like that many) I felt like turning away from God and giving up hope because of the depth of my despair. I was humiliated and hated myself for not being able to overcome my acting out.
As a Christian I thought that I should be able to overcome this sin sooner. But the spiritual truth that God taught Paul is that I do not have it within me’ at all. Ever. It is a theological fact. Period.
Initially, I was taught that I needed a Savior to overcome my sinful nature. But, somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that now that I have been a Christian for a while I should somehow be able to achieve moral victories through my own efforts. The misconception was that by this stage of my Christian walk I should have accumulated enough of ‘whatever’ to achieve moral victory. Failure translated into the belief that there was something lacking in me. There was, what has always been there, my human nature. I cannot save me from myself. Knowledge is one thing. Understanding is another. Until the knowledge in my head drops into the heart of my understanding it is like a banging gong and a clanking cymbal.
I am strong only when I confess I am weak. To take it a step further in this weak-strong principle, we must rely on others. It is another aspect of accepting my weakness. But’ that is an article for another day. Blessings.
For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.