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).

Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 11

New Life Ministries

How a Woman Thinks

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)

It’s Not About You

Another translation says to ‘live with your wives in an understanding way.’ One of ways to be ‘understanding’ is to remember that when your wife is upset, it’s not about you. It’s so easy for us as men to react to our wife’s emotions as if they are an indictment on us.

Somewhere deep inside we feel like it is our job to make our wife happy, and when they aren’t we feel powerless. We feel like a failure. It makes us uncomfortable ‘ we hate not knowing what to do.

So what do we do? Instead of focusing on the hurt our wife is experiencing, we often try to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings by stopping our wife’s emotions. One way we try to bring emotions to an end is by ‘fixing the problem.’ Of course, your wife does not want to be treated like a problem that needs to be fixed.

A second way we try to make these tense situations end is to shame our wife into feeling bad about feeling bad. ‘If you wouldn’t get so emotional maybe we could work on our marriage.’

Using the analogy of a tennis match, when we try to cut off our wife’s emotions by ‘fixing it’ or shaming her, we have just ended a point with an overhead smash. An overhead smash is a great way to end a rally in tennis, but not a very good way to honor your wife.

Empathize with Her

When your wife is upset, she doesn’t want you to fix it’she wants to be heard. She wants you to empathize.

One of a woman’s greatest needs is for intimacy and emotional connection. At a time of great stress, if you turn her away, she gets the message that you are not really there for her. She begins to feel like she is not safe with you.

Consider this diagnostic question: the last time your wife went through an emotional time, who did she turn to? Who did she call on the phone? Who did she go see? Often a woman will share her hurt with a female friend who will listen and empathize with her.

With her friends, she is not afraid to cry and show real emotions. She knows she will still be heard. While it makes sense that a woman would turn to friends in a time of need, it does raise the question, ‘Why is it so hard for many men to provide this emotional connection for their wives?’

Besides feeling uncomfortable and wanting the emotions to end, many men often desire to ‘win’ in the discussion. We often want our wife to know we were right.

Men typically believe that empathizing with their wife is the same thing as saying she is justified in what she believes or the way she feels. So if I don’t agree with my wife’s conclusions, I find it difficult to validate her emotions. I feel two-faced, like I am saying I agree with her when I don’t.

Let’s say she is upset about a joke someone made about her clothes. You believe it was an innocent comment made in jest; she believes it was an intentional insult. Most men would be hesitant to validate her feelings for fear that she would believe they agreed with her conclusion about the comment.

As men, we need to separate these two ideas. We can disagree with our wife’s conclusion or feelings but still understand that those feelings are real and hurtful. In the moment, it’s enough to say, ‘I know it hurts when you feel like you have been attacked.’ There’ll be time later to talk about the reality behind the pain.

If we really want to bring about transformation, the best way to do that is to support our wives emotionally until they come to a place where we can prayerfully work together and see things the way God would want us to.

She needs us to empathize with her and let her know that we understand ‘ and also to tell her what we are thinking and feeling, even if it includes that we are uncomfortable with her feelings.

Selflessly Loving Her Will Make You Happy

The paradox of marriage is the paradox of the gospel’when we lose our life for others we find it again. If you put your wife first in every situation, including honoring her emotions, then God promises you will find a deeper joy than you could otherwise ever know.


Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28, NIV)

He who loves his wife loves himself. Why? Because you were made to love God and others, and when you do this you are doing exactly what God made you to do. The most ‘selfish’ thing you can do as a husband is to sacrificially lay down your life for your wife. This will bring you the greatest joy.

The beauty of God’s plan is that your sacrificial love will also help to make her holy.

Your wife is not always right and you are not always wrong’it will usually be a combination of both. Emotions can be a righteous reaction to circumstances or a manipulative attempt at control’and everything in between.

What God wants is for us as men to be less worried about who is right or wrong and how we can win, and more worried about how we can help our wife become everything He wants her to be.

The Big Idea is this: Your wife’s heart is a treasure, and God has entrusted it to you. When a woman is not OK, she wants her husband to recognize it, then pursue her and listen to her heart. She wants us to honor her emotions.

Treat your wife with dignity and respect. Listen to her heart. Serve her and lead her to a greater love for Christ and for you. This is what marriage is all about.

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.


Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 9

The Wife of an EMB Attendee

I just spoke to you (you are currently at the Every Man’s Battle workshop) and you requested that I share some of the effect your sexual addition has had on me. This may be hard for you to hear, I will try to be honest and I will try to not exaggerate. I want you to realize I am not trying to hurt you, although I am sure it will hurt; to hear what I feel, think and what your behavior has done to me and our children.

1. First and most painful is my loss of PHYSICAL/SEXUAL SELF ESTEEM. I feel in some ways you deceived me before we married. I thought your lack of sexual desire for me before we were married was because you didn’t want to sin by having sex with me. The truth was that this was an established sexual sin in your life that you did not plan on giving up. Yet, sexual intercourse is one of the things that married couples look the most forward to. I was not prepared for this and I was blown away by your rejection that started even during our honeymoon.

Physically I feel repulsive. I am ashamed to have you look at me naked. I feel ugly and fat. I feel I can NEVER NEVER become an object of desire for you. The truth is I have felt this way for many years of our marriage. Long before I gained my weight. My weight was my excuse I created so I would have a reason for you to reject me. To reject me because I am fat was less painful than being attractive and still not being desired. Your lack of willingness to make love in the daytime or with the lights on only feeds this rejection. I have stopped dressing in sexy nightgowns because I feel it wouldn’t make a difference. It isn’t that I think that fat women can not be attractive or even sexy. I know I can be sexy even as I am – but I feel I will NEVER be sexy to you! I feel like I am asking you to do a chore like scrubbing a toilet (totally disgusting) any time I ask you to make love to me or touch me sexually. I feel guilty, like my need for sex is a burden that you hate to bear. Often when we are done, giving ME sex, I feel more hurt emotionally than I did before. Why? because it is so mechanical and one sided. Usually and in the past you tended to do the bare minimum. No kissing, definitely no talking, or moaning or even smiling. You keep you eyes shut the whole time; like your thinking of someone else or anything else as long as it isn’t me. I have asked for french kissing our whole marriage but to this day you avoid it. Our kissing is mostly picking, rarely does it involve putting your arms around me or caressing my body. I love to be kissed on the neck! Just thought I’d remind you! How about kissing my body. Looking at my sexual areas instead of avoiding them. You have looked at me 3 times in 24 years of marriage, and only because I requested it! I have counted, maybe that was stupid, but it hurts me so much, to be that unattractive to you. It was an everyday event in my first
marriage and I have such a hard time understanding why I am so repulsive to you, yet you can look a pictures of other women and that turns you on.

Sorry if this is getting intense, I guess the pain is just pouring out of me. You see I really was a good lover before you; I felt like a woman, like I was beautiful and sexy. You have taken all that away from me. Words will be helpful but the only things that can even begin to help the healing is going to be PHYSICAL CONTACT/SEXUAL CONTACT. Consistent and often. You need to take the risk to give me the type of love and physical affection I desire and need. It would be really nice if I could feel that someday it was genuine desire on your part, but that will take some time. I need for you to communicate about YOUR sexual needs. I feel totally useless trying to touch you. I don’t know what to do, how fast, harder, slower… you need to teach me and interact with me. You prefer masturbation by yourself, you don’t even care if I touch or see you when we are in bed together. Only my physical needs get met and that makes me feel guilty, unloved, useless, ugly and angry.

2. Second and just as important is what your sin has done to me SPIRITUALLY. I know that my depression and obsession with wanting to heal you and the pain your sin caused, has stunted me spiritually. When I chose you for my husband I was very careful to choose a man who knew and love God. A man who I could lead me and walk beside me as I tried to become more Christ-like. Whether it was as a couple or as a parent, I always felt that I was pulling you along, many times unwillingly, to do Bible Study, ministry, attend helpful seminars, read a book, do family devotions… I don’t want to be the spiritual leader in our home! I want you to be. But because of the constant guilt and sin in your life you had a hard time staying close to God. I suffered and the kids suffered because of it! Yes I am responsible for my own faith and in many ways I have gone on without you. Even the pain of your sin has made me grow in my faith, but how much more would we had grown individual, as a couple and as a family had you not had this addiction! I have 40 years more (if I am lucky) to reach people for Christ, to show God how much I love him and to grow in my knowledge of Him. I would like to do this together. I have great respect for your knowledge and you have good insight and you must agree that I sometimes have some Biblical wisdom – how much easier would it be if we could walk down this road together, hand in hand. We have wasted so much time and I feel I have so much I want to learn and do for Christ. Lets stop wasting our time do the trivial things, constant TV (mostly my fault), lack of self-discipline and everything else in this busy world that causes us to focus on the instant gratification or the urgent but not the most important.

3. The third things that your addiction has done to me is change my personality and my behavior. I was not always this ANGRY. I think I was a pretty happy person before all of this. Habitual sin and a lack of repentance has made me angry. I still am angry. I will be for some time. I have forgiven you and I am dealing with the anger when it comes up, but until some of the hole in my heart is filled with real love from you I am afraid that anger is going to still flair up. I have always had some DEPRESSION in my life because of my father, mother and divorce from my X. But no one, no one, has depressed me more than you have. Living with you this past 24 years had made me feel useless, meaningless and unlovable. In the height of your addiction you would avoid me like I was a disease. I became so AFRAID of your presence that the mere touch of your hand on mine brought me great fear; I became sensitized to you hurting me.

This has got to be very hard on you and if you need to stop and take a break please do so. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed with pain and despair. But it is important you know the truth, so I am going to go on.

4. Your sin caused ME TO SIN. You became a stumbling block. I am not trying to make excuses and I definitely made the choice to sin, but often that choice was made because I was either sexually and emotionally unfulfilled or was angry at you. Whether it was my SEXUAL FANTASIES or my DISRESPECTFUL BEHAVIOR TOWARD YOU; almost always these were the backlash caused by your addiction. I came into this marriage with a strong sexual desire toward you and I still want sex with you even after all these years of pain. However it became too painful to think of you during sex because I knew you really didn’t want to be there; it was less painful to think of someone else. Likewise, I did not come into this marriage not respecting you. I was very proud of you, your character and your abilities. You are a very intelligent person and have some great qualities. Your sexual sin and lack of control and LACK OF DESIRE TO CHANGE that behavior, made me lose respect for you… so I began to treat you like a child or treat you with disrespect. I am not saying that my behavior was justified but only that your sexual sin was the main reason I lost respect for you. I hope you also realize that this respect can be regained. And you have been doing a great job trying to pull everything back to where it should be. My respect and wiliness to be submissive to you grows with each new day.

5. Your sexual sin and the impact it has had on our children. This is the most painful of them all. I am willing to bear the pain of my marriage but it is really hard when I see your sin and how it has impacted our children. This one is going to be hard for you to hear.

Our Son – I feel in several ways you failed to show your son what a real man is suppose to be. He was searching for a role model. How do I love a woman? How do I handle sexual temptations? What should I look for in a woman? How should I communicate with a woman? Am I a man, what does that mean? All these questions were left with fussy answers. He and our daughter knew you were into porn. They knew we had marriage problems, they saw me crying often enough. Why didn’t Dad grab mom once in a while and act like he wanted her? Why doesn’t Dad stand up and express his opinions? Why does Dad stay away and hide in the basement so much? Are my parents going to get a divorce? All these questions must have gone through his mind. Now I know that our son made his own choices when he chose to sin sexually with his girlfriends, even to the point of living with his current fianc’, but might he have chosen differently if he had had a father who handled his sexual needs biblically? All I can say is we can make a difference from this point on in his life. You have the chance to answer those questions even now. You can still be a role model of what Biblical sexuality is and a Biblical marriage. I think you need to take an active part in answering these questions and discussing this with him.

Our Daughter – This one is hard. Hard because the effect is more subtle but not any less severe. I think she has a hard time being intimate, especially physically even though they are newly weds. She has seen a lot of my pain and I am sure she had been thinking: I will never let myself be that vulnerable. I love him, but… I am going to protect myself. I pray our daughter will know what it is to love unconditionally. To love and be self-less, thinking of her husbands needs and not her own. The example we set as a couple, in our lack of communication, our dysfunctional sex life, weak faith and so on, will definitely have an effect on our children’s interactions with their mates. If only we had learn what we know now 20 years ago! I also think it is going to take time to earn back your children’s respect. I feel the more you share about your problem and it’s successes the more respect you will earn.

Another area was your unwillingness to disciple the kids. You even spoke of it tonight in our conversation, and felt your sexual sin had changed your personality and you had retreated and were not the father you could have been. Whether it was discipline or having fun, sometimes you just avoided the kids. I think you were too caught up in yourself; whether selfishly fulfilling your needs, or feeling so much guilt that you just tuned out of their lives. Well we have lost those years, we can’t go back and discipline the kids but we can give advise and we can have fun and be encouragers to them. I can tell that you and your son’s relationship has really grown over the last month, I think in time both of the kids will get to know the REAL YOU and really have a richer life because of it. Sexual sin can be devastating; you have a chance to show them that the power of God can overcome anything. That is one of the most important lessons in life that you could teach them.

That’s all I am going to write. I have shot from the heart and exposed some pretty raw stuff. But I felt it was important for you to know the truth. It is hard to take correction, to look at the pain you have inflicted on others. I am so proud of you, that you are willing to listen and then try to change. Going to this conference has really proven to me you are sincerely desiring to change. That takes a very strong man, a very Godly man to take that step. I love you very much, I love the man you are right now (not just the man I hope you will become). I look so forward to us growing closer together.

Your loving wife.

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.