24 Aug 2023
Joan McConnell serves as Harvest USA’s Director of Parents and Family Ministry.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)
To be able to look back on one’s life and see at least some of the Lord’s ways and purposes is not just a privilege; it is astounding. In Take Heart: Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith, David Powlison says, “We are caught up into the purposes of a Savior and a King” (157). Through pain and joy, the Lord has prepared me to serve with Harvest USA.
Several years ago, when I was interviewed before joining Harvest USA’s Board of Directors, I remember saying, “it just makes sense.” I meant that, for decades, the Lord had been weaving strong threads into my personal resume—threads that were not necessarily welcome. However, in the light of his sovereignty, I had to trust that they had purpose. Those threads included growing up in a broken home, having a 38-year marriage damaged by my first husband’s pornography involvement, and, eventually, my dear son’s pursuit of a homosexual lifestyle. By God’s grace, I realized I needed to use the pain rather than ignore or resist it.
I met Harvest in 2004. The Lord’s timing was more than coincidental with my son’s situation. In a church that has supported Harvest for years and uses their resources widely, my background easily led to my facilitating a Harvest-organized parents’ support group since 2013. I also became involved in Harvest events my church hosted. Now, stepping from membership on the Harvest Board into service on its staff “makes sense” again since my personal passion has long been for those whose lives are touched. . . and, yes, changed. . . when family members struggle with sexual issues.
The vision of Harvest’s parents and family ministry has two facets. First, of course, is the need to understand what’s going on in the life of a sexual struggler and to learn what Christ-like ministry toward them should be. Second is the need to offer an undergirding ministry to that closest circle of parents and relatives. I especially look forward to opportunities to create insightful, biblical resources that meet the second need.
The threads of education and experience also weave into my work at Harvest USA. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I’ve lived in the picturesque “travel postcard” of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for 33 years. I have two grown children, one grandson, and eight step-grandchildren. After 29 years teaching Spanish and Latin, I joined my church staff in 2007 for women’s ministry and counseling, all of which has used my training at Houghton College, Dallas Theological Seminary (MA in Biblical Studies), and Liberty Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry). Though twice widowed, I continue to see my Father’s goodness and to rely upon another verse from Romans (11:36): “For from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever!”
This article was written by Harvest USA Parents and Family Ministry recipient Kim Taylor.
My story is typical of most parents who’ve faced the heartbreak of discovering their child struggles with same-sex attraction. We were happily oblivious to the darkness just under the surface that would change our lives forever. From the moment I found out in 2007—when our son had just turned 17—until I found help at Harvest USA in 2020, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t cry. I cried for my son, my broken heart, and all the loss—the loss of a future marriage for my son, grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, and simply being a “normal” family.
Suffering in Isolation
I would’ve told you I was trusting in the Lord, but the evidence showed otherwise. I would’ve said God was enough for me and our situation, but I wasn’t living like it. My faith was weak, but I was self-deceived in this area. I had a lot of learning and unlearning to do. Little did I know that this journey would not just be about my son but about God bringing me into a strong faith and conforming me into Jesus’s image. I desperately wanted help but was too ashamed to seek it. I told no one about our son because I feared the condemnation and judgment I would’ve once given to someone in my situation. So, I suffered in isolation, with no hope in my heart.
I bought the world’s lie—hook, line, and sinker—that this was just how things would always be. Hopelessness drove me deeper into my despair, and the cycle of unbelief continued. I knew God could help, but would he?
Little did I know that this journey would not just be about my son but about God bringing me into a strong faith and conforming me into Jesus’s image.
In 2018, when our son sent us a letter stating that he and his partner were married, I could no longer handle my devastation alone. I began to look for help online, and by the grace and direction of the Lord, I found Harvest. I could barely wait to start the first session and had to stop myself from completing the entire curriculum in one day. I can’t tell you what the possibility of hope dangling in front of my heart did for me.
Openness, Healing, and Waiting
By now, the hope wasn’t that my son would turn away from living in alignment with LGBTQ+ values so much as it was hope that I could be free from the feeling of total despair I’d adopted. In the first session, I got to share openly for the first time without fear of judgment! I cried my way through every session.
As the meetings progressed, I was encouraged to share with someone outside the group about our son. This took tremendous courage and strength from the Lord, but I did it! I shared my burden with my ladies’ Bible Fellowship class. They came around me and prayed with me, and I sobbed like I hadn’t in years. I got a surprise that day: I discovered that healing began when I quit hiding. And I got a group of ladies who now pray regularly for my son. I had robbed myself and him of this blessing for many years because of fear, shame, and pride.
I got a surprise that day: I discovered that healing began when I quit hiding. And I got a group of ladies who now pray regularly for my son.
I’d like to tell you that, after 15 years, my son is now a disciple of Christ, but he is not. The surprising thing is that I am! Although I was saved as a little girl, my faith had never been challenged to this degree. I’m now walking by faith, believing against hope that my son will repent before the Lord. I’m no longer in that pit of pride and despair that mired me down for so many years. Now I’m anxiously, even excitedly, waiting on what the Lord is doing and is going to do in my son’s life.
Hope in the God Who Works
Though I see no evidence that God is working in my son, he is working in me. In Romans 8, Paul considers that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v. 18). Don’t you long for “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v. 21)? This is the hope in which we were saved (vs. 24)! And this hope for believers is a solid guarantee, sealed by the blood of Jesus.
God says that hoping for things we can see is not hope. We are to wait patiently for the consummation of God’s plans. In this, we trust our children to him. His timing is different from ours. By God’s grace, running and finishing our race well involves placing 100% of our faith in the God of the universe to move as he will in our children’s lives, believing that he is constantly working (John 5:17).
To hurting and broken-hearted parents: Jesus came not only to save you, but to heal you and give you victory over despair. I’m living proof that you don’t need to live one more day in hopelessness. I want other hurting parents to find what I’ve discovered: Our faithful, almighty God will work in us and our children according to his will. We are called to pray and leave them in his capable hands, whatever the result. I remember the day I fully surrendered my son to the Lord. I went into the bathroom and lifted my hands, imagining my son being in them. I held him up and told the Lord to do whatever he needed to bring my son to repentance.
To hurting and broken-hearted parents: Jesus came not only to save you, but to heal you and give you victory over despair. I’m living proof that you don’t need to live one more day in hopelessness.
Am I still heartbroken? Yes. But now I thank God for the heavy burden he has placed on my heart. For, though it hurts so deeply and still moves me to weep, without it I would not remember to fall on his mercy continually.
Having spent many needless years in gut-wrenching hopelessness, let me encourage you with the life-changing hope that faith will give you. Hold to the promises, providence, presence, and power of the almighty Creator of the universe. Find some passages of hope from God’s Word; write them down and carry them with you to read and meditate on. Trust in the work your heavenly Father is doing. Allow my favorite hope-verse to encourage you: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13, my emphasis).
29 Jun 2023
“Of all the people we have met and all the organizations we have encountered in ministry to those who want sexual sanctification, John Freeman and Harvest USA are the ones we trust. The fruit of John’s experience in this book should be a help to many.” – Tim Keller
“We live in a hyper-sexualized culture, where porn is the norm and everyone is harmed by secret sexual sin. Thank God for the ministry of John Freeman, who for decades has been helping people in sexual darkness find the light of Jesus Christ. Freeman is savvy about sexual temptation, sensitive to men who feel hopeless, and sold on the power of the gospel to bring real spiritual transformation. Before you give up hope for sexual healing, give Hide or Seek a chance to help bring the change you need.” – Philip Ryken
“Here is what you will appreciate about John’s book: It’s the fruit of the work he has done in helping men for over thirty years. He was talking with men about sexual temptation while it was still taboo to make any sexual reference in most churches. You will find him to be an experienced, wise mentor who will guide you with both his words and his life.” – Ed Welch
“John Freeman’s Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God about Sex is an authentic look into the deepest struggles of masculine sexuality. It is a gift of hope to the Christian soul. Here you will find not just the sting of truth, but also the joy of grace, the light of wisdom, and the encouragement of a trusted counselor and friend. You need this book and so do the men in your life that you know and love.” – Peter A. Lillback
15 Jun 2023
This post is a contribution from guest author John Perritt, Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries.
I remember a specific day from my childhood all too well. I was in sixth grade. The school day had ended, and a friend invited me over to his house. We were in his brother’s bedroom and my friend got down on his knees to reach under the dresser. My eleven-year-old self had no clue what was about to happen to my heart and mind as I was exposed to a pornographic magazine.
At that point in my life, I really didn’t know what sex was. What my eyes saw that day wasn’t sex, but a perversion of it. I’m now approximately three decades removed from that incident, but I can recall the exact image to this day. It’s seared in my mind. Like a scar, it seems it’s going to be with me until I go home to be with the Lord.
By God’s grace, that image deeply upset me. It was enticing but repulsive. Amid my ignorance and naiveté, I knew something wasn’t right about what I was viewing. Part of what I remember about that moment was the feeling I had—not arousal, but something more akin to sickness. A feeling that made me want to go home immediately. That image hurt me.
The Weight of Pornography
There’s a weightiness to pornography that, I think, gets at a creational good from the Lord. God created man and woman as sexual beings (Gen. 1:26–28). As Christians, we know that sexual desires are to be expressed specifically between members of the opposite sex in the context of marriage. This gift from the Lord carries weight because he’s given us precise instructions for stewarding it. The specificity of the gift points to its weightiness.
There’s another aspect of this weightiness. I never told my parents about when I saw pornography. I don’t even know if I spoke about it with the friend who showed me the image. I took that image to bed with me that night. I carried it with me in the hallways of my school. I’m sure it poisoned the way I looked at the opposite sex. The initial sickness I felt became a weight I carried around, a weight I didn’t allow others to help me carry.
What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?
To be sure, the Lord was helping me carry that weight, but I wasn’t reaching out to the community the Lord had given me. I was too young to know what I should do with that weight. I’m confident I was a Christian at the time, but I didn’t talk to the Lord about this. I didn’t know what accountability was—so I carried that weight with me.
There’s weightiness from the good things of the Lord because they point us to his glory, his immensity and omnipotence. At the same time, there’s weightiness from the evils of a broken world, too, which become burdens we carry around.
As you read this article, you know what I’m talking about. Right now, you’re carrying some burden. It may be a specific sin you’re wrestling with or your marriage, divorce, or singleness. It may be the burden of parenting or barrenness, an illness or chronic pain. The fall birthed endless burdens that plague us.
Our Children’s Burdens
What about our children? Single or not, we’ve all been given children because of the body of Christ—we have spiritual sons and daughters. And those sons and daughters are carrying burdens right now. How many of their burdens are related to pornography?
Some are saying that most teens spend approximately nine hours a day on screens. Even though they’re in classes and have after-school activities, they manage to find hours upon hours to look at a screen. What do they see?
In those nine hours, they’re looking at thousands of images. No doubt, some of them are pornographic. Others may fall in the category of ‘soft porn’ or implicit sexual images: bodies may be fully clothed, but the images are sexual in nature. To state the obvious, this still stirs up lust, and God’s Word doesn’t take that lightly. These images leave deep impressions upon our children.
What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?
Christ, the Burden-Carrier
This entire article may be burdensome to you. While I want this to be a sobering look at the world our children are growing up in, I also want to give you some hope. Remember our Savior’s words:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30)
Jesus not only carried our burdens on the cross and triumphed over them in the resurrection, but he also bore them throughout his perfect life. He is the one human in history who endured temptation without sin (Heb. 4:15–16). He knows our weaknesses. He remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and he will not break a bruised reed nor quench a faintly burning wick (Isa. 42:3). We can come boldly to our Lord and point our children to him in hope.
Talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying.
So, first, take those burdens to the Lord. Voice them to him and know that he hears you and loves to talk to his children. Also know that he loves your children more than you do.
Second, talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying. Even if they don’t open up, let them know you’re in their life to help carry their burdens; they don’t have to carry them alone. Remind them that their heavenly Father is carrying them as well. Remind them he’s always listening, and he always understands.
We can approach our children with compassion, pointing them to Christ and praying for them to know the peace of laying their burdens at the foot of the cross.
John Perritt, DMin, serves as the Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries (www.rym.org) and has served in student ministry for over twenty years. He is the host of “The Local Youth Worker” podcast. John is the author of several books, including “Insecure” and “Social Media Pressure: Finding Peace Alongside Jesus.” He and his wife, Ashleigh, have five children and live in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
This post was written by Harvest USA Women’s Ministry intern YaPing Li.
The single life has brought challenges for me—maybe you too. Suffering and being misunderstood can take different forms for those of us who aren’t married, whether we’ve never been married or are single again due to death or divorce. I planned to be single, but long-term singleness is still a learning curve. I’m lucky because I don’t burn with desire, yet neither am I cold to the beauty of marital fellowship. I can’t explain why, but singleness is God’s plan; he has chosen it for me.
Sometimes, suffering comes through lost opportunities. I feel this sting when I think about something on my bucket list (if heaven doesn’t come first): standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and taking in the spectacular view of God’s designed colors and majesty. I don’t have a lifelong companion to share this joy with—to say, “Do you see it?! Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This is amazing!” I probably won’t have children to share stories like this with, either. At times, this causes my tears to fall.
I know my sorrow will transform into praise. No earthly wonder can compare to Christ’s own face, presence, and loving kindness. Still, life in this world—single or married—has its sorrows. This feeling of loss keeps me asking a question that can only be answered through the Scriptures: Where is my confidence?
God’s Word makes me want to know and pursue God’s goal for my singleness: that I would embrace Jesus and find my confidence in him.
I believe in the all-sufficiency of God’s Word, which enables me to walk through sorrow when it comes, looking to my hope in Jesus. God’s Word makes me want to know and pursue God’s goal for my singleness: that I would embrace Jesus and find my confidence in him.
Jesus really loves us—all of us. God’s ultimate goal for me isn’t that I paint a picture of a single woman living a perfectly holy and happy life, but that I would delight ever more in Christ. While I’m learning daily that his presence is sufficient, my life is not here to prove that living well single is better than a good marriage. Life is not a competition. It’s not about who can glorify and enjoy God most. In Christ, our fruitfulness comes from being faithful to God in the life he gives us, not personal triumph.
In God’s kingdom, the least is most satisfied. How we measure ourselves and others, including the least among us, says a lot about how we live as Christians.
God’s kingdom requires child-like admiration. We’ve all been children. When infants are separated from their parents, they cry, searching for the attentive gaze of their mother or father. They want to see their parents’ faces and be picked up in their loving arms. Their security and joy come from their parents. And when they’re with their parents, they want to stay in their embrace. That’s joy! Like infants desperate for their parents, all believers need the loving presence of God. As infants receive their parents, single men and women receive our Lord Jesus Christ in this world and the world to come. Our heavenly father is never far, and he will embrace us all the way home. Singles are not measured by their unmarried status, their gifts, or their ministry contributions. All are measured by the loving gaze of our Maker, Redeemer, and Advocate.
While I’m learning daily that his presence is sufficient, my life is not here to prove that living well single is better than a good marriage.
I may never travel to the Grand Canyon. But I can still be so overwhelmed by God’s abundant, loving kindness that a thousand Grand Canyons will not compare. And I can still be brought low. Single or married, we will be undone by Jesus Christ and be made into creatures who admire his goodness, kindness, beauty, gentleness, and compassion. All that he is and has will totally undo our worthless pursuits, competition, and ideas of worldly status.
I wonder if the more we embrace Christ, the more fulfilled our lives will be. Hence, the more content we can grow in our sexuality, relationships, and future hopes. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need” (Phil. 4:12).
I have been brought low. I’ve been unfairly denied jobs. I’ve become more comfortable with the “Joy of Missing Out,” learning that many people, though they have good intentions, are busy and forgetful of a single woman. I’ve had chronic migraine headaches, leading others to think I’m antisocial, and have been unable to think about the future while waiting for two biopsy results. I’ve been misunderstood when requesting a third person in the car if a brother gave me a ride and hurt when people I cared for only wanted me as their counselor, not their friend. When Christmas approaches, I dread being asked about my plans—deciding who needs me most, where I will be blessed, and which family to celebrate with to glorify God. Some of these circumstances feel awful, while some are just inconveniences and opportunities to grow in Christ-like wisdom. In all these lowly circumstances, Christ is sufficient to receive my honest lament.
Encouragement When You’re Brought Low in Your Singleness
Maybe your struggles are more secret and difficult to share. Maybe you’ve thought about seeking help in your suffering or have received counsel that didn’t build you up, leaving you wounded. Maybe your suffering is tangled with big or small enchantments with sin and the flesh. I don’t know all your struggles, but Jesus does. And he publicly proclaims you to be his friend; he calls you his own. Christ’s love defends your honor; who dares to despise you when nothing can separate you from his love (Rom. 8:38–39)?
The time is now. Don’t just gaze at Christ from afar—go to him. Draw close to the God who loves you inside and out. Whether single or married, Christ alone is our confidence. Embracing him is our joy.
04 May 2023
This post was written by Harvest USA Men’s Ministry intern Ben Pearce.
“Just one more drink,” the drunkard says.
“I’ll just look for a little while,” the porn-addict explains.
“It’s just a little sin,” Satan whispers in our ear.
The road to life-shattering sin is paved by little sins. Small, daily decisions shape our desires and habits. The apostle James notes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15). James is not arguing that wrongful desire is not sin—it is. But he is stating that the lusts of our hearts do not remain in our hearts. These desires give birth to sinful acts. Christians who dwell upon sexual fantasy in their minds cannot excuse themselves by saying it’s only in their heads. Our thoughts ultimately lead to action. Each moment we dwell upon our wrongful desires, we train ourselves to see them as acceptable.
The road to life-shattering sin is paved by little sins. Small, daily decisions shape our desires and habits.
The first “little” sexual sin many of us indulge in is fantasy. This is hard to battle. As we reject one pernicious thought, another is right around the corner ready to entice our heart. Suddenly, the lies of the enemy become too sweet to reject. He who said, “You will not surely die” was a liar from the beginning (Gen. 3:3, John 8:44) and is still a liar now. Yet, although we’ve been warned, Satan’s whispering influence stirs our hearts. With full moral culpability, we all too often feast upon the banquet set before us.
As with all sin, fantasies gradually cease to satisfy, giving birth to larger sins (James 1:15). A man frequently begins by letting his gaze linger on women in public or on images in magazines and social media. His heart hardens and desire increases. Those lingering glances last just a little bit longer than they did at first. Before he knows it, he’s not satisfied with what he sees in these brief moments and seeks something more explicit. Though he may be married, he engages other women in inappropriate conversation or begins viewing explicit pornography. Conversations become flirtatious; pornography ceases to satisfy. Suddenly, a man realizes he’s committed adultery. Broken, he may cry “I never thought I would do this!” as loudly as he’d like, but he himself paved the way for his great sins.
So, what should we consider when we’re struggling with “little” sins?
- Christ Died for Small and Large Sins
John teaches us that Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). When we’re told that Christ died for our sins, we’re not told that he died for our greater sins only. God’s wrath burns hot against all sin, even the most minor. Even for just a bite of forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17) or a mouthful of forbidden honey (1 Sam. 14:43), God has warned that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ez. 18:20). While God does differentiate between small and great sins, his Son died for all sin without differentiation. Thus, as Christians, we must remember the weighty truth that every sin we commit, however small, is a sin for which our Lord Jesus Christ died.
This weighty truth cuts both ways. For the repentant Christian, his great hope and security is the reality that his sinful thoughts and desires are covered by the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ.
This hard and glorious truth should be a deterrent for us. The marred body of our Lord was wounded for even our most seemingly minor thoughts, words, and actions. The fantasies we indulged for even a fleeting moment had to be paid for by the suffering of our Lord. No sin comes without suffering.
- Take a Long View
The ongoing, unrepentant pursuit of small sins will ultimately consume us. Neither Satan nor our own flesh are satisfied with little sins; “negligible” sins are just the top of an increasingly steep slope. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes characterizes the foolish sinner in this way: “The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness” (Eccles. 10:13). Unresisted sin gains a gradual foothold upon the soul. These advances are not easy to discern—we give in, just a little here and a little there. Before we realize it, we’ve habituated our soul to sin. Every advance weakens the will to fight until, finally, we eagerly fall to what was before unimaginable. Christian: Be alert! “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
For the repentant Christian, his great hope and security is the reality that his sinful thoughts and desires are covered by the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ.
Sin is never isolated. Our Lord says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). Every thought and action we do not surrender to Christ today trains us for disobedience tomorrow. Every small sin we commit takes us further down the slope to the cliff of larger sins. We must prepare ourselves to resist the temptations of Satan and our flesh—to recognize when our desires deceive us, making us compromise “just a little.” Are we willing to cut sin off at its root?
- You Are Secure in Christ
If you’re trusting Jesus, sin will not win. A repentant sinner is secure, despite all his struggles with sin, because his obedience is rooted in Jesus’s obedience. Paul, who cried, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” also declared “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 7:24, 8:1). Christian, let your eternal security in Christ compel your fight against sin. Resist the slippery slope of small sins by looking to Jesus—he is our solid ground.
13 Apr 2023
This post was written by Harvest USA Men’s Ministry intern Nate Fowler.
My blood pressure seriously drops at the sight of blood. My four-year-old son once tripped and split his forehead on the corner of the table. Thankfully, I remained clear-headed enough to pull him into the bathroom and evaluate the matter until my wife brought our first aid supplies and took over.
Then, feeling the shock set in, I went to the kitchen for a splash of cold water in the face and an electrolyte-heavy drink. Within a minute or two, I was able to return with my wits about me and assist my wife. My son was safe; the fall just broke his skin. But I’m certain that if I’d remained in that bathroom any longer, the shock would’ve sent me to the ground, doubling my wife’s tasks.
Sexual Temptation Is Like Shock
Sexual temptation can be just as surprising as a medical emergency. Whether it’s a pop-up ad, a phishing email, a graphic movie scene, a visit to the beach—one minute we feel impervious, and the next we’re in a spiritual ambulance grasping for anything useful. What can we do in the moment of temptation? How can we address the shock before falling to sin? Which Scriptures or tools can help us respond effectively?
This is why I formulated a “first aid kit” for sexual temptation. This practical tool is meant to give direct assistance in the hour of need. I pray you’ll find it useful.
What’s in the Kit?
My kit is an envelope filled with extracted pages of journaled prayers, 3×5 cards with Scripture verses, letters from loved ones, and photographs. I place this envelope in my work bag and, when tempted, pause all obligations to open the envelope and prayerfully survey its contents. After a sufficient period of time, I’m reoriented and ready to fight the day’s temptations with vigilance.
Here are some principles to help you develop your own first aid kit for sexual temptation.
A first aid kit must be prepared to address several possible scenarios. Preparation and variety are vital for effectively addressing temptation (see 1 Pet. 5:8–9; Eph. 6:10–15; Phil. 4:8).
Here are some items I recommend:
- Psalms and Scripture verses. I have a single notebook page labeled “When Tempted, Pray…” followed by Psalms and personal prayers. I also have a list of Scriptural truths like, “My body belongs to God (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Cor. 6:19–20)” or “My sanctification is more important to God than my ease (1 Thes. 4:3–8; Rom. 5:1–5; James 1:2–4).”
- A list of goals. For example: “To love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength,” “to love my wife as Christ loves his Bride,” and “to be a role model for my kids in this area.”
- A list of spiritual consequences for falling—things God’s Word tells us we can expect as a result of sin. For example, “quenching the Spirit and feeling God’s heavy hand (1 Thes. 5:19; Ps. 32)” or “unable to bear my brothers’ burdens (Gal. 6:2).”
- A list of spiritual rewards for fighting. For example, “joy and peace in the Lord,” “more time to focus on relationships, tasks, and hobbies,” or “feeling clean, pure, and free from shame.”
- Self-written prayers. Call on the Lord to fulfill his promises in Scripture (Acts 4:23–31). Feed your future self words you know you’ll need to hear.
- Letters written by loved ones. My wife has written verses and encouraging notes to remind me she’s in the trenches with me. I also keep general letters from family and friends.
- Photos of loved ones you’re fighting for.
- Poems or song lyrics that speak to the issue in a unique, compelling way.
- A list of people to contact in the moment of trial (ideally your accountability partners or one of the loved ones you’re fighting for).
- Voice or video recordings of loved ones if you can’t call.
You must be equipped with proper training. How do Navy SEALs learn to execute strategies effectively, or ice skaters learn to seamlessly perform daring stunts? How do EMTs know which tools and operations to use in a crisis? Muscle memory. They practice over and over until the motions are ingrained into their minds and bodies.
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 tells us that God’s commands become ingrained into our hearts as we teach them, talk about them (when sitting, walking, lying down, and rising), and as we bind them as signs on our hands, doors, gates, and even our eyelids.
These are some ways I practically apply this step:
- Place your kit with another frequently-used item. I keep my envelope in a folder in my backpack so, when I open that folder, I see it and have an opportunity to review the contents.
- Use your kit on days of minimal temptation. Even when my temptation level is around 15%, I try to pull out the kit for a couple of minutes and review my goals for fighting.
- Make it a part of your repentance plan. If I fall into sin, I follow this process of repentance: 1) Confess to God contritely. 2) Confess to my wife and accountability partners. 3) Spend as much time fighting sin as I spent succumbing to it. I use step three to bolster my first aid kit with Scriptures, prayers, and other resources that soften my heart.
Ease of Access
Lastly, A first aid kit must be accessible. Hikers don’t hope for a shack to miraculously appear in the middle of the woods; they carry the essentials on their backs. Neither can you embark on your daily spiritual journey without the proper supplies on hand. As a matter of preference, a hiker may decide to use GoogleMaps over a compass. Similarly, you might choose to:
- Develop your collection in an envelope, like me.
- File a digital collection on your smart device or in an online folder (if it’s not more tempting).
- Pack your kit into a collection of 3×5 cards.
Your decision should be based on what’s most useful and accessible to you. Either way, the most successful hikers are those who keep the essentials close at hand.
Bonus Expansion Pack
This tool is versatile. While my first aid kit for sexual temptation is fully developed, I’m working on a first aid kit for anger and have thought about creating one for gluttony. Whatever your area of sin, a collection of prepared materials, a plan for regular review, and easy access to the kit will strengthen your fight and help you look to Christ.
May the Lord bless you and keep you as you fight for him.
23 Mar 2023
This post was written by Angela Suh, a Women’s Ministry intern at Harvest USA.
As a Harvest USA intern, some of my time has been dedicated to serving sexually betrayed wives through our biblical support group. I quickly learned that sexual betrayal in marriage has complicated, painful consequences and observed the tension these wives experience through feeling hopelessly stuck in their marriages.
A sexually betrayed wife faces her husband’s violation of the marriage covenant. When children are present, she may have to consider boundaries and relational dynamics within the home. She may be burdened with the family’s finances if the sexual betrayal caused his unemployment. Wives are sometimes unseen by their church leadership and left to suffer alone. Regardless of their circumstances, these betrayed wives are “bent over” (Luke 13:10–17), desperate (like Hannah, 1 Sam. 1), and longing to be seen (Gen. 16).
As I grieved with these women, I turned to God’s words to Hagar—a woman shunned, moving toward a dead end, and longing to be seen.
Echoes of the Fall
Hagar was Sarai’s Egyptian servant. Because Sarai was frustrated by her infertility, she commanded her husband, Abram, to “go in to” Hagar so Sarai might obtain children through her. He listened, and when Hagar conceived, she looked at Sarai with contempt. Therefore, Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar and Hagar fled (Gen. 16:1–6).
Sin drives this entire narrative. Sarai sinfully doubted God’s promise to provide a son, leading her to take matters into her own hands. Abram’s sinful desires caused him to listen to his wife’s voice and sleep with Hagar rather than protect Sarai (and Hagar) with God’s promises.
Does this ring a bell? Sarai and Abram’s behavior mirrors the fall in the Garden of Eden. Rather than clinging to God’s commands and promises, Eve doubted his words. She pursued knowledge with her very own hands— “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” —like Sarai, who “took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife” (Gen. 3:6 and 16:3, my emphasis). Adam ate the fruit, without any question or objection, and Abram took a second wife.
Although the degree and impact of our sin may differ, it’s humbling to acknowledge that we have more similarities than differences when it comes to sinning against God.
Then the story in Genesis 16 reveals another layer of sin: Hagar responded to the wrong committed against her by being sinfully contemptuous of Sarai and running away (Gen. 16:4).
Sin begets sin and comes from the heart (Luke 6:45). The complex consequences of sexual unfaithfulness are not random or isolated from the person or circumstances. But they are birthed from the desires of the heart (James 1:14). Wives can see their husbands’ sin for what it is even as, by God’s grace, they soberly recognize and confess their own sinfulness. This is not to shift the blame or put responsibility for the husband’s unfaithfulness onto the wife. But we live in a sinful world as sinful individuals. Although the degree and impact of our sin may differ, it’s humbling to acknowledge that we have more similarities than differences when it comes to sinning against God.
The God Who Sees
In Hagar’s flight, she meets the angel of the Lord “by a spring of water in the wilderness.” He asked, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Gen. 16:7–8). The angel of the Lord identified Hagar for who she was and met her where she was. Among all the titles and names he could’ve used, the angel identified her as “servant of Sarai.” He looked at her with sober and realistic eyes.
The dualistic inquiry, “Where have you come from and where are you going,” recognizes Hagar’s past and notices her destination. Often, a sexually betrayed wife is so consumed by her husband’s failure and sin that all she wants to do—if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually—is run away.
But God’s Word shows our Father stopping to ask his broken daughters where they’re coming from and where they’re going. God is all-knowing; he doesn’t need this information. It’s like God asking Adam, “Where are you?” after the fall (Gen. 3:9). Of course, God knows—he is the God who sees. If God already knows, why does he ask?
The God Who Saves
God calls out and approaches in judgment. Yet God’s pursuit of Adam and Eve reveals his mercy. In questioning Hagar, God reveals his kindness.
Friends, his inquiry is not to put us to shame but to meet us exactly where we are; he is never too far behind or ahead. Even when Hagar couldn’t see her destination, God carefully and firmly directed her. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
After the angel of the Lord commanded Hagar to return to Sarai and declared God’s promises, she identified God as “a God of seeing.” She said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). While broken and rejected, Hagar was seen and looked after by God, and that was enough for her.
While broken and rejected, Hagar was seen and looked after by God, and that was enough for her.
Hagar’s circumstances were not fixed. She still had to bear Abram’s child and return to her mistress. However, Hagar didn’t find comfort in her circumstances but in the God who cared for her. Out in the desert—lonely, scared, and running away from a terrible situation—the God of the universe pursued Hagar. He knew her, looked after her, and “listened to [her] affliction” (Gen. 16:11).
This is my hope and prayer for wives suffering from sexual betrayal: that they would lay their souls bare before God and be satisfied in him alone. I pray for reconciliation, for husbands to turn from their sins. But above all, I pray for wives to know and believe that God sees and looks after them. He gave his one and only Son, the perfect Husband, to take on his bride’s every sin and redeem all her suffering. He will bring us to our final dwelling place, where he will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). Until that day: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
09 Mar 2023
Name: Hi, all; my name is Keith Seary.
Hometown: I’m Jersey born and raised—from the shores of Brigantine to the blueberry farmlands of Hammonton, New Jersey.
Position: I’m beyond blessed to begin serving as part of the Men’s Ministry staff here at Harvest USA.
Description of work at Harvest USA: A quick Google search says there are 59 “one another” commands in Scripture. I hope it can be said that my work at Harvest USA is living out those commands. My heart is to love, support, teach, admonish, and sympathize with men struggling with sexual sin through one-on-one and group discipleship. I’m also working to equip believers to be ready to give an answer to what the world has to say about topics on sex through contributing to our website and many outreach events. Finally, I have the honor of developing foundational relationships God uses to keep his ministry through Harvest USA functioning. Praise God for prayer warriors, ministry advocates, and financial supporters!
How did you get to Harvest USA?
“Mom, I’m just not sure I’m smart enough for college,” I said right before my senior year of high school. “Pick!” my mom replied. “I talked with your dad, and we decided you’re going to take a dual-credit class to prove yourself wrong.” I scanned the list until my eyes settled on a class with a term I’d never heard before: “Intro to Biblical Counseling.” I’ll do this. It looks interesting, I thought.
Fast forward about two years into my bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. My fellow young adult ministry co-leader and I came to our pastor seeking guidance about a transgender individual who joined our group. Our pastor gave us the book Hide or Seek, a Harvest USA resource.
A few more years passed, and the high school senior was now a college senior wondering how to serve God with my impending degree. I searched online for ministry jobs (in typical Gen Z fashion) and, after some scrolling in the late hours of the night, found an opening at Harvest USA. In that moment, I experienced a sense of déjà vu from my high school self: I’ll do this. It looks interesting. Through making a resume, submitting an application, being interviewed, and doing my own research on Harvest USA, my interest quickly became a passion to serve here. By God’s gracious sovereignty, here I am.
What is your favorite Scripture or Bible book?
This is a bit like asking my little sister which of our seven goats is her favorite. The more I study the Word in each season of life, new verses and books rise above the rest in how they minister to my heart. Romans 8 will always be dear to me. The believer is eternally, unfailingly, and without exception secure in salvation through the triune God—that is the core truth of this chapter. Paul mixes beauty, logic, and love together in his case for this truth. Romans 8 motivates, comforts, instills peace, and drives me to worship every time I read it.
What is your favorite thing about living in Philadelphia?
I live in New Jersey, but Philly is part of my heritage—my mother spent some of her childhood in the Philly area, and my grandfather served the city as a police officer for about two decades. So, I think I can get away with saying there’s a bit of brotherly love running through my veins. I’m also a proud Philadelphia Union fan. It’s encouraging and exciting to watch their competitive performance draw attention to Major League Soccer in the United States, a nation sadly confused about which football is superior.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
If I could choose between living in a house or a tent, I would choose the tent. The outdoors is where I feel refreshed. There is nothing better than being under the stars while mesmerized by a fire. I could watch a nice campfire for hours. God expresses his goodness so clearly in his creation! Kayaking, hiking, jet skiing, rock climbing, fishing—you name it, if it involves the outdoors, it’s an activity for me.