It had been an exhausting day. I can’t even describe to you how much I would just love to close out the rest of the world and drop into the fantasy world of the novel resting on my night stand. Its pages beckon temptingly. I breathe deeply, knowing that if I give into this temptation that I may not surface for hours. But that isn’t the worst part. Despite the innocuous looking cover of this book, I know that if it had been a DVD there would be a Rated R label on the back side. Of course there isn’t such a thing on the cover of this book to give it away. No one in my family would ever suspect just how bad it was…and I was grateful. I didn’t want them to see the sick sin creeping into my life.
In 6th grade I read my first “romance” novel. I’m sure a lot of people reading this article think that I didn’t understand most of the book, but let me assure you, I did. True, I’d never personally experienced any of those things (and as a 12 year old, you’d hope that to be the case, certainly), but nevertheless, I did understand the meaning behind each seductive description. This is where it began. My friends all thought I was crazy for reading something so (as Mom called it) “smutty”. They didn’t understand the sickening draw that this type of fiction held for me. Once I began reading it, however, I was hooked.
It wasn’t long before I began devouring these books like they were candy. I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading. I allowed my other passions in life to begin falling by the wayside in order to spend more time reading. Eventually, my mother started doing “night checks” to make sure I was asleep so that I couldn’t just stay awake and read all night. And while this was a deterrent, it certainly didn’t prevent me from continuing in my addiction.
I continued in this addiction until half-way through high school. I’d recently become a Christian, and found that the Holy Spirit was trying to root this sin from my life. I went from reading X-Rated books to PG-Rated books—“historical romance” by secular authors, to “Christian romance”. I’ll admit, it was quite an adjustment, but because I wanted to please God, I did it willingly. I promised God that I would never pick up another dirty romance novel again, and I was determined to hold onto that promise.
I’d put such things behind me once I gave my life to Christ, convinced I’d never ever go back to that. Those books were mind-porn. Straight up sexual trash. I knew it, and I knew that God was not pleased that I’d read them. I wanted to keep my mind pure. And I had…until a few years later when I slipped up.
One day I found myself reading an explicit book on my phone’s Kindle app. And like a drug-addict returning to his/her favorite narcotic, I found myself falling off the “band-wagon” in a heartbeat. At first it was just little things, like more kissing and other such scenes. Then I stopped looking in the “Christian” genre altogether. I wanted—craved—the other things. I wanted to read the more sexually-explicit scenes. The more I read them, the more I wanted to read them. I tried a few times to remind myself of my promise to God years ago. I tried to revert back to the non-sexual books because I knew in my heart that what I was doing to my own mind was wrong. I knew it would hurt more than just my brain, but time and time again I found myself drawn back to these books. And because I’d almost completely stopped praying and reading my Bible, I was nearly powerless to the heavy pull.
I confided in my Bible-study partner that I was struggling with this mind-porn addition, and she agreed to pray for me. I knew that my behavior was wrong, and that the secret sin I was holding in my heart was killing my walk with God. It made me sad. It made me want to change, but the sin that already gripped my heart wasn’t ready to let go…not yet. I began trying to read the rating labels on my Kindle books before buying them. My thought process was that if I was aware of what I was getting myself into, I would be less likely to step into temptation. And I was right…at least part of the time. I prayed sometimes, asking God for strength to do the right thing. But I held onto my sin tightly, trying to rationalize my reading addiction as a “stress relief”. It was. That part was true. But it was never a healthy one.
I had times when I returned to the band-wagon, and times when the sin snuck back in. The harder I tried to resist on my own, the harder resistance became. One day, however, I got hit in the face with a wake-up call. My husband announced that the next edition of Theology for Life Magazine would be on purity. As the magazine’s copy editor and design coordinator, this announcement felt like a sucker-punch to the gut. And he followed up this announcement with a request for me. He wanted to know if I would like to write an article on purity from a woman’s prospective. Ouch. How could I write such an article, knowing how much I struggled with this secret sin? What kind of hypocrite would that make me? That thought made me sick. I’d never in my life felt like such a charlatan. I didn’t give him an answer right away. I needed time to figure out if it was even possible.
Eventually I told him that I would write this article. I knew I had to. It wasn’t so much of a choice as it was a compulsion. Conviction in my spirit had begun to eat away at me. I didn’t want to ask God for help, but eventually, however, I began to crack. It was little things at first—prayers for comfort, prayers for strength. Jesus answered each one. One day at a time, the shell around my heart began to crack and chip. Something was wearing me down. In my subconscious, I knew who it was.
One day at a time I began to pray for more. Peace. Hope. Joy. God answered, but slowly. As you probably already know, God works in His own time. Nothing is done in a rush, unless He desires it that way. Bit by bit, He began helping me with my sin, my addiction. But let me tell you, when you finally “wake up”, it’s an ugly picture you’ll find yourself painted into. This is where I found myself. A world of darkness and shadow. A world of pain, wrapped in a false glamor of contentment. My sin had allowed me to fantasize about people and places that my reality couldn’t touch. The fact that I pictured the sexual acts in my mind gave me a false sense of secret security. Obviously, people couldn’t see the sick thoughts running through my mind, but God knew. I was worse than the average porn-addict. I thought about these stories all the time. Why? Because I never stopped reading these things—they were constantly at my fingertips.
How could I have let myself become so wrapped up in this secret sin again? How had I allowed such a foothold for sin to grip my life? Satan knew my weaknesses. Denial. Pride. Idolatry. And when he exploited them in the face of my pain and loss, I was as good as gone. He led me to an “old friend”—the escape of fantasy. The comfort of “love” wrapped in sexual encounters. He gave me an out when it was the one thing I longed for desperately. And I fell for it. Fell hard. Our old sins are never far behind us. Our secret evil desires are never far out of reach. Once we allow our mind to be twisted by our fleshly desires, it’s only a matter of time before we allow righteousness to fall to the wayside.
When I was a teenager, I’d allowed myself to first become wrapped up in things outside of God, to the point that they became who I was, my existence. And when this carefully constructed environment was taken away from me (with the death of my father and my aunt), I found a gaping hole in my life. This gaping hole was a vortex of darkness—one that I tried to fill with books. In recent years, similar things had creeped into my life, becoming a greater source of joy and contentment in my life over God, but my spirit knew that this would never appease the vacuum. As a Christian, I knew in the core of my being that only God could truly fill this great void. Only He could make me whole. But, instead of turning to Him, I’d allowed sin in…again.
So, how did I get out of this pit I’d dug for myself? Well, I didn’t do it by myself. In fact, very little of what I did helped. It was Jesus that pulled me out. He alone knew how. He alone could. It may sound cliché, but the one verse that I clung to as I let God draw me back to Himself was Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I turned my heart and life back to Him. It hasn’t been easy. I still struggle with this fight. Sometimes I slip up and other times I am victorious. In those times of victory, however, I know that it’s His strength, His victory, and not my own that got me through. As you can probably understand, this fight is not something I can win. He alone has the ability to break the chains holding my mind captive. He alone has the ability to give me the strength to turn away from the evil desires still lodging in my heart. Without Him, I am nothing. Without His strength, I can do nothing. It is His will (with the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in my life and my continual repentance) that allows me to walk away from temptation. It is not my own strength, not my own will.
Maybe you can understand my struggle. Maybe you can even sympathize with me in this. Maybe you’ve been here. Maybe your circumstances are worse than mine. Maybe your pain is worse. Maybe your struggle is still on-going. If that is the case, friend, I encourage you to reach out to Jesus. I wish I could be the one to help you through this, but as you can clearly see, I am just as bad as everyone else. My struggle continues to hound me every single day, but God is providing help. The Holy Spirit sends me comfort when I ask, and even in the times when I don’t, but need it regardless.
Romans 8 says that Jesus pleads for us on our behalf, with groanings in the Spirit that we cannot understand. He is our intercessor. He is our High Priest before God the Father. And when we are in desperate need of help, He intercedes on our behalf. You see, even when we don’t even know what to say, how to pray, or what to ask for, Jesus knows—and He does it on our behalf. We will never know the full extent of the way He pleads on our behalf. We will never fully understand the depth of His love for us. Even when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us—the just for the unjust. Who can fathom love that great? Who can understand or comprehend the magnitude of grace and mercy poured out on us? He has lavished us in His love. So much so that nothing can separate us from it.
In Romans 8:38-39, it says: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Friend, this is the love that God has given us. When one considers the sheer magnitude of this love, one can only stand in awe. Surely we are not worthy of such a gift. But Jesus paid the price for us and gave it to us anyway. Knowing that nothing you can do, whether a sin of the mind or body, can separate you from God’s love, will allow you to open yourself up to the healing of your spirit and mind that He is offering to you. Only through this work of the Holy Spirit in your life will you be able to be free of your sin. Only through repentance will you become pure again. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit will you have the ability to live a righteous life. Jesus has justified you. He gave you His blood as payment for the sins you’ve committed (past, present, and future). He’s covered over them and has given you a new identity in Him.
It may be a long road to purity for you, but God will give you the strength and support you need to move past this struggle. Eventually, you can be free. One day, Lord willing, you will be completely past this stronghold of sin. Friend, I am going to pray for you. Whoever you are, reading this article, know that you have someone in your corner, praying for you. And I hope that you’ll pray for me too. We cannot do this on our own. God gives us brothers and sisters in the Faith so that we’ll have support in the real world. You may not feel comfortable confessing your sin to others, but rest assured, even an “unspoken prayer request” can still be answered. God knows what that prayer request was for, even if the people at Bible Study or church don’t.
I encourage you to get back to reading the Bible again and praying on a regular basis, if you’ve stopped. It won’t be easy. These are spiritual disciplines that are very difficult to conform to when one is struggling with sin—especially sin of the mind. It’s hard to force your mind to think on the things of God when you are allowing your thoughts to be turned elsewhere. The Bible says to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). You can do it. Do you know how I know this? Well, it’s because I know that God will give you the ability if you but ask Him for it. So ask. Our Father wants to give His children good gifts. He wants us to ask Him for them, however. So ask, don’t be shy. He loves you so much more than you could ever know! Don’t be afraid to ask Him for help. Allow Him to wrap His loving arms around you. Allow Him to give you peace and comfort. Allow your mind to be transformed by the renewing of your mind by daily reading the Word of God.
Maybe one day, I’ll be reading your testimony. Maybe one day you’ll be able to share the story of how God brought victory over sin into your life. I hope that if I don’t get a chance to hear or read about it here on Earth, that I’ll get a chance to hear about it in Heaven. Precious One, you are loved. I can’t wait to see the work of God’s grace and mercy in your life—whoever you are. When the stress of life threatens to pull you under, just remember Jesus who has victory over every sin. Take a moment to remember that He is near and His arms are open wide.
No matter what is going on in your life—whether pain and suffering, or simply over-taxation and stress—Jesus is there. One day, we’ll all have glorified bodies. Our sanctification will be complete. We will live without sin. We will be in the presence of Jesus every second, and the trials of this life will be past. But until then, Beloved, remember to (as Paul said) run the good race of endurance. In every trial, God is with you. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Your secret sin cannot stand up to the overwhelming, victorious love of God.
This article first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Theology for Life. To download this issue please click here.