07 Dec 2023
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1)
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:2)
Trials come into the life of every human being. When trouble comes, we were created to find shelter from the storm and peace for our souls. Scripture is clear that God is the person we are to run to amid storms; he provides a level of peace that is incomprehensible to humanity (Phil. 4:7).
Unfortunately, we often miss out on the peace that surpasses all understanding by running to the false refuges of passing or poisoned pleasures. Trauma compounds this struggle in two primary ways. First, the severity of suffering one endures in traumatic experiences is extreme and cries out for an equally extreme level of pleasure to counter it. Second, trauma leaves a mark in one’s memory, so the suffering repeatedly intrudes into one’s experience. These frequent intrusions of past experience, coupled with their severe nature, drive people to seek quick relief and not enduring peace.
The False Refuge of Passing and Poisoned Pleasure
Passing pleasures and poisoned pleasures promise to satiate our desires temporarily, but never truly satisfy. Passing pleasures are not inherently sinful pursuits. Many passing pleasures are good things that we misuse to alleviate or distract from pain. Sex is a wondrous, delightful gift from God in its proper context. But, when used as a salve for the traumatized soul, sex (even within marriage) will never address the whole-person problems faced in trauma. It can give a momentary relief in physical pleasure, but it will never address or heal the soul’s wounds. It is a hollow, temporary, passing pleasure, not the true peace and soul solace we need.
Finding our refuge in God soothes the whole person instead of simply distracting through physical pleasure.
Poisoned pleasures are even worse. These are the inherently sinful pleasures we seek to alleviate our pain. Fornication, adultery, pornography, masturbation, and any other type of sexual sin are poisoned pleasures. They provide momentary physical pleasure, but they will always leave us worse than we were to begin with. The pleasure from sexual sin fades quickly, then heaps guilt and shame on an already hurting and burdened soul. The insanity of sin is that we keep going back to these pleasures, sometimes even to soothe the pain and emptiness they left us with the last time. These sins easily entangle and enslave those who are running to them with the hope of finding relief (Rom. 6, Heb. 12:1). The intensity and recurrent nature of the struggle can speed the enslaving process as someone is driven to find refuge from the intense and frequent storms of trauma.
The rightful compassion one feels for a person disoriented by trauma can also complicate matters. Knowing the intensity of someone’s struggle, we can dismiss sinful responses as “understandable” or fear that addressing sin will be seen as unloving or ungracious. We must provide compassion and confrontation to people who are making sinful choices, even if those choices are fueled by trauma-induced pain.
Our True Refuge
As we speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15), we shouldn’t simply condemn sinful choices; we must also point people to the true source of the hope and healing they genuinely need. The Psalms repeatedly remind us that we find that shelter and peace in God. The psalmists call him our “refuge” 47 times, “stronghold” seven times, “fortress” 14 times, “shelter” five times, “rock” 25 times, “shield” 15 times, and “strong tower” once (ESV). The message is clear—when the going gets rough, run to God. He is the source of true comfort and peace amid all kinds of suffering.
There are many ways to run to God as our refuge: prayer, lament, meditating on Scripture. None of these offer the quick physical sensation of sexual gratification, but they offer deeper lasting peace. Finding our refuge in God soothes the whole person instead of simply distracting through physical pleasure.
When we fail to endure suffering, seeking pleasure instead of God, our salvation is secure because Jesus suffered perfectly for us.
Our Savior sets the perfect example of how to deal with trials, tribulations, and trauma. When Jesus learns of the execution of his cousin, John the Baptist, his first impulse is to go be alone with the Lord (Matt. 14:13, 23). What Jesus experienced would certainly be classified as a traumatic event—his cousin and ministry herald had just been beheaded. Clearly, Jesus was affected. Clearly, he was grieved. He wanted comfort from the pain. Where did he turn for that comfort? He turned to his heavenly Father. 1 Peter 2:23 tells us that Jesus “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” In the context of Peter’s letter, this continual entrusting took place during the torture leading up to the crucifixion and the crucifixion itself. No human being has ever endured suffering like Jesus. Amid the worst suffering humanity has ever seen, he gives us an example to follow. And his righteousness is our hope. When we fail to endure suffering, seeking pleasure instead of God, our salvation is secure because Jesus suffered perfectly for us.
When suffering comes, when trials abound, when trauma strikes—run to God. When you’re hurting, cry out to him. When there are no words to cry out, turn to him and know he cries out for you (Rom. 8:26). He is there, and he is your refuge. He is your shelter in the storm. He is the source of true peace—lasting peace.
Put Pleasure in Its Proper Place
God does not require us to abandon or forsake the pleasures of sex. He doesn’t forbid us from seeking pleasure from sex in our suffering. Genuine pleasure and relief from pain can be found in sex as part of pursuing refuge in God. Of course, that is limited to sex within the relationship of marriage between one man and one woman and is not to be a substitute for refuge in God. If one is running to God—casting one’s cares on him, knowing he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:6–7), seeking solace in his Word, drawing near to him in times of trouble (Heb. 4:16)—then one can freely enjoy the good gifts of the good Father (Matt. 7:7–11).
In the right context, sex can be part of God’s kind love and care for us, but only if it’s part of our pursuit of him, not a substitute for him.
True, proper sex is an act of worship (1 Cor. 6:18–20) and should lead to further worship and praise toward God. Illicit sex, pornography, or selfish sexual gratification (even in the context of marriage) will offer fleeting physical pleasure, but it cannot offer the whole-person positive results of the act of true sex as God designed it.
When we face trials and suffering, God wants us to run to him for comfort. We too often miss the opportunity of experiencing his incomprehensible comfort because we seek comfort in his good gifts or in sinful distortions of those good gifts. Sexual sin or sexual pleasure can never provide true, lasting peace or satisfaction. In the right context, sex can be part of God’s kind love and care for us, but only if it’s part of our pursuit of him, not a substitute for him.
This guest post is by Curtis Solomon, PhD., Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and Program Coordinator for Biblical Counseling at Boyce College. Solomon is the author of Redeem Your Marriage: Hope for Husbands Who Have Hurt Through Pornography and I Have PTSD: Reorienting After Trauma.
30 Nov 2023
You broke up with your unbelieving boyfriend. You pressed pause on an unhealthy relationship. You confessed your porn addiction to your boss, and now you’re out of a job. You admitted your emotional affair, and not only is your spouse a tornado of emotions, but you’re in excruciating pain from cutting ties with your “secret person.” You decided to leave your church because they’ve wavered on a commitment to God’s truth regarding same-sex marriage. Now you’re discouraged, lonely, and weary about starting over with building Christ-centered, biblically faithful community.
Brother, sister, your obedience is beautiful in God’s sight. He knows how painful it is to honestly face losses which come through his pruning; he removes things from our lives in the process of sanctification.
The Father cuts things away from our lives so that we may bear more fruit, not less.
Tim Keller’s sermon on John 15:1–2, The Vinedresser, is full of comfort for you. He addresses the ministry God our Father has as the Master Gardener and how his pruning of us is essential for growth. Our Father examines us—the branches—looking for a few things. Are we abiding in Christ, the true vine? Are we drawing love and life from him or from something else? Are we bearing supernatural fruit, testimony that we’re vitally connected to Christ and his fragrant, fruitful life? Are we stagnant in our faith or resting in circumstances which threaten our devotion to Jesus?
Two verses into this beautiful chapter of Scripture, Jesus says something startling: the Father wounds, cuts, and prunes fruitful, abiding branches! Does he prune to punish? Shame? Sideline from the good life? NO! The Father cuts things away from our lives so that we may bear more fruit, not less.
When Loss Equals Gain
Keller says that our Father never cuts or prunes something out of life unless there is a loving purpose behind it. “The skillful eye knows that there are no random strokes of the [Father’s] pruning shears; nothing is cut off that wasn’t a gain to lose because it would be a loss to keep.”
Let those words soak in. The Lord will take his pruning shears and cut things out of our lives, even leafy branches and clusters of tasty grapes we’ve grown fond of. God may take good things, remove not so great things, or outright cut off influences leading us to sin. The purpose in every situation is that we become more like Jesus, bearing more fruit as his life surges, unhindered, through us.
Sometimes good things become ultimate things that distract us from what is best. Friendships, marriages, jobs, ministry opportunities, bank accounts, houses can be good gifts. Good gifts, however, can become more important to us than the Giver. That includes our relationships, use of technology, money, and so much more.
Ever-so-subtly, our focus shifts from Christ to this person, this thing, this feeling. Before we know it, we’re attempting to abide—draw life from, find our meaning in—that gift. We’re in a sinful mess and need rescue! Our Father loves us so much that he will tenderly draw near with his pruning shears to remove things for a time or maybe permanently. He may rearrange our life so that this gift returns to its right place “under the feet” of Jesus (see Eph. 1:22–23).
Turning from sin will mean loss, yet God never initiates the removal of anything in our lives unless he will use it for good—for growth in our lives and glory to his name.
When God’s purposes are mysterious to us, we can find refuge in who he is: a loving, purposeful Father.
No Random Strokes
When I had cancer surgery, I trusted the surgeon to wound me with precision and remove only the diseased tissue. Praise God that the surgery was successful; while my scar reminds me of the pain I endured, I am healthy and cancer free.
Friends, our Father is precise, purposeful, and effective in the surgery he does in our lives. There are no random, haphazard, out-of-his-control acts of pruning. Are you experiencing the Master Gardener’s pruning in:
- A relationship? Perhaps your relational terrain has been plowed and bulldozed, leaving an unfamiliar landscape that seems lonely and barren.
- A “not a big deal” temptation or sin struggle that is now in the light and your life is turned upside down?
- Finances, health, family? These important aspects of life aren’t flourishing anymore but floundering, perhaps failing.
“When You Feel the Steel, Cling to the Vine”
Jesus was cut, wounded, and put to death so that our experiences of pruning are temporary. Our Savior, slain and pierced on the cross for our sins, died and conquered death so that “by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). When you feel the Father’s pruning, look away from your painful losses and fix your eyes upon Jesus. Grieve, cry, and pour out your heart to God with raw honesty—yet, in your grief, be careful not to push God away. Turning from sin will mean loss, yet he never initiates the removal of anything in our lives unless he will use it for good—for growth in our lives and glory to his name.
When you feel the cost of your obedience, don’t look back! Look to Jesus and cling to him. Jesus is with you in the changed landscape of your life, and he promises not to leave you. “He wounds,” wrote John Newton, “in order to heal, kills that he may make alive, casts down when he designs to raise, brings a death upon our feelings, wishes, and prospects, when he is about to give us the desires of our hearts.”
Father, for any who are walking out a beautiful and costly obedience to you, please pour out your comfort and strength upon them, that they may cling to Jesus by faith—and not turn back to sin.
 Keller, “The Vinedresser,” Jan. 12, 1992. https://gospelinlife.com/downloads/the-vinedresser-5769/, accessed Nov. 16, 2023
 Ibid., Keller.
 John Newton, Letter VII, November 6, 1777, The Works of the Rev. John Newton. … Published by Direction of His Executors. United Kingdom: n.p., 1821, 201.
A version of this article was originally published here: https://women.pcacdm.org/when-loss-comes-hold-on-to-jesus-wisdom-from-the-sermon-i-quote-most.
22 Nov 2023
There’s a hurting and often invisible population amid the LGBTQ+ revolution right now: parents. Each week I hear stories from moms and dads who communicate their pain, need, and sense of grievous loss in response to a child who is struggling with sexuality or gender or has embraced unbiblical ideology altogether. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” I’d like to humbly offer a few suggestions to my brothers and sisters in the church about how to love this often-invisible part of the body of Christ well in their adversity.
Weep with Those Who Weep
We are all familiar with Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Be prepared to enter the heartbreak of your brothers and sisters walking this difficult road. Even Job’s friends, who did not always offer the best counsel or help, entered into Job’s grief. Job 2:11 says, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.”
As people who need Christ, we ought to not be shocked that these issues are on our doorstep.
How can you grow into that kind of friend, seeking out parents who are hurting? You don’t always need all the right words to say; sometimes a quiet companion in suffering is just what someone needs. “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13).
A Showcase or a Hospital?
As people who need Christ, we ought to not be shocked that these issues are on our doorstep. How is God wanting you to grow as a safe and trustworthy friend for others in their heartache? After all, we are fellow Christians who know that in this world, we face trouble. We all know the painful burden of others’ sins and the reality of our own dark hearts without Christ.
Brothers and sisters dealing with the trauma of a child who has embraced a transgender or gay identity commonly describe their ordeal with words such as devastating, suffocating, sleeplessness, agonizing, earth shattering. The parents I’ve ministered to are generally earnest, sincere believers who have poured into their children’s lives and nurtured them in the Lord. Frequently, I hear stories from parents who were blindsided by their kids’ embrace of an LGBTQ+ identity. Their hopes and expectations for their kids becoming faithful adult followers of Jesus are crushed, and so are their hearts.
We want these believing parents and their children to see the church as a welcoming place where they can wrestle with these issues.
Pray about how you can be approachable and ready to enter into the sorrow of these parents. And consider talking with your church’s leaders about how they are thinking this through as they shepherd your congregation. We want these believing parents and their children to see the church as a welcoming place where they can wrestle with these issues. Remember Jesus’s words to the scribes and Pharisees when they murmured against him because he ate with publicans and sinners: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31).
Pastors, Preach on LGBTQ+ Ideology
Brothers, you have an amazing privilege to preach about the beauty of God’s good creation—male and female made in his image and the beauty of marriage between one man and one woman. Preach to the young people in the church; warn, urge, and encourage them in the way of truth. Don’t shy away from these topics. Based on the constant flow of Christian parents reaching out to us here at Harvest USA for help in dealing with their LGBTQ+ identified children, these issues are in our churches whether we know about them or not. We can’t abdicate through silence, hoping we’ll somehow be safe. Parents desperately need God’s ambassadors to be that prophetic voice to their children alongside them. If you’re preaching on this issue, it makes it a lot easier for parents to feel comfortable approaching church leadership for help.
Many parents feel alone and isolated, even in their church. This ought not to be. Often, when their child comes out of the closet, they go in the closet.
Many parents feel alone and isolated, even in their church. This ought not to be. Often, when their child comes out of the closet, they go in the closet. They feel shame and guilt. Unfortunately, many young people caught up in the LGBTQ+ movement are poisoned against their parents and coached to blame and attack their parents as toxic for not affirming their new identity. These parents need the church to be there for them. The church is God’s place for these parents to grieve, to receive wise counsel, to be bolstered in the truth, and to be supported in their many difficult decisions. And the church needs to be ready and willing to minister to their children, as well.
Humility and Love
Philippians 2:1–8 is helpful and instructive—it calls us to emulate the humility and love of our blessed Savior. Parents going through this kind of suffering won’t benefit from pronouncements of guilt, judgmental assessments of their parenting, or easy answers to their child’s struggles. They need kind, humble, and gracious brothers and sisters who will walk gently beside them and be there in all the ups, downs, and messiness of this difficult road God has called them to walk.
The parents I walk with are asking hard questions and doing serious heart work which requires faith, repentance, and a teachable spirit as we work through our curriculum, Shattered Dreams, New Hope. They’re often dealing with excruciatingly hard decisions about pronouns, new names, same sex wedding attendance, how to navigate their relationship with their child’s gay partner, how this issue affects family dynamics with other children and grandchildren, and a myriad of other things. Be the kind of friend who is faithful in prayer, ever ready to encourage, and willing to lament with them. And be real about your own suffering and shattered dreams.
These are just a few suggestions which I’ve ruminated on over the time I’ve been privileged to walk alongside these hurting parents. May God help us to be those who are known by our love and willing to lay down our lives for the brethren to the glory of God, the good of his church, and as a witness to the unbelieving world.
16 Nov 2023
Recently I taught Romans 1:18–32 for the women’s Bible study at my church. This passage shows God’s response to those who persist in rejecting him as Creator, Savior, and loving Lord. There’s no way to faithfully deal with this passage without explaining that all forms of sexual immorality are displeasing to our Creator. When we refuse to live under his design and instead invent our own “truth” about how we want to live sexually, we shake a defiant fist in his face.
Paul goes on in this passage to soberly proclaim that God’s holy hostility towards evil, what the Bible describes as his wrath, “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18). God takes it seriously when the image-bearers he created push down his truth and choose lies. Our determination to pursue man-made rules for life—including all we do with our bodies—is dangerous.
God’s Holy Hostility and Lavish Love
Romans 1 is surely a passage our secular society would like to “cancel.” Why? Paul refuses to spin God’s truth to make it tickle his audience’s ears. He boldly names several expressions of ungodliness which provoke God’s holy hostility against evil: sexual immorality (any behavior outside the covenantal marriage of one man and one woman) and thinking that is unmoored from biblical truth. In fact, I wonder if the “giving up” to a “debased mind” (v. 28) is the most severe example of God giving people over to sinful desires. Courtney Doctor points out that Paul lists twenty-two fruits of God’s wrath (ESV) because “in response to continued rebellion and open idolatry, [God] will release people to the misery of who we are apart from him.” (38)
I don’t promote the shaming, angry, call-down-God’s-fire kind of preaching that is sometimes the caricature of Christian Bible teaching. Yet the Scriptures do present our God as holy and righteously angry toward sin, even as they reveal him as the loving Father and Rescuer of brokenhearted, hopeless sinners. Ephesians 2 is a clarifying and comforting complement to Romans 1:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:2–7)
In Christ Jesus, God takes us from death to life, from following the adversary to being seated with Christ in heaven, from being children of wrath to eternally loved children with access to heavenly riches. THIS is the truth we must cling to, believe in, and live out. Why would we choose something or someone else? Surely our Savior is worthy of being savored—not pushed away or suppressed.
Savor Jesus as the Good Creator and Lord
My favorite passage when I teach about biblical sexuality doesn’t include the word sex! Colossians 1:15–16 clearly and beautifully explains that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
I appreciate how Jackie Hill Perry comments on the impact it makes to realize that we have been made by and for Jesus. When she faced her Savior and Lord, then glanced at her attractions towards women, she grew to know that there was only one godly way to respond:
“My hands, head, face, legs, hips, hormones, private parts, voice, feet, fingers, feelings, were all made by Him and for Him. Apparently, this body was never mine to begin with—it was given to me from Somebody for Somebody. Somebody who’d made it for glory and not shame.” (51–52)
Making peace with what God calls sin is dangerous, to say the least; suppressing his truth to please our SELF never ends well. I’ve grown in faith through witnessing the beautiful savoring of Christ in the lives of many women who echo Jackie’s convictions. These sisters in Christ whom I’ve discipled have been tempted in same-sex directions, perhaps were in sinful relationships, and may have identified as gay for a time. I asked them how it impacts them when believers suppress God’s truth regarding sexuality.
- “It hurts and grieves my heart to see someone buying into a lie, being tossed and shipwrecked by false ‘winds and waves’ of doctrine…by feelings and emotions.”
- “The most frustrating and hurtful temptations come from my own brothers and sisters in Christ who are waving the rainbow flag on social media.”
- “It makes me sad, and I feel betrayed. At one moment, we’re fighting together against sin and the enemy, and then they give up the fight—it’s like I feel keenly the weakness that comes in losing a battle partner—and I am more vulnerable in their departure.”
Sexuality and gender are good gifts, but they were never meant to replace Jesus in our lives. For all the talk on attractions, orientation, and desires, how might we answer the earnest plea which one curious spiritual seeker asked Philip?
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)
Let’s show Jesus as the One greater than all. As good and beautiful as his creation is, Jesus is more worthy of our desires than anything!
Recently I caught up with one of the women who gave a personal testimony for our wives’ workbook, Jesus and Your Unwanted Journey. I hope this portion of our conversation encourages others who need reminders and evidence of God’s faithfulness amid the slow, painful process of pursuing marital restoration after sexual betrayal.
This is the original testimony of our ministry recipient, known as “C.C.” in the workbook:
I thought marriage would be the place where I would finally come to understand God’s love for me in a deeper way through the example of my husband’s love. Instead, God has chosen to teach me about his love by putting me in a place where I had to study his love so I could show it rather than receive it. I found myself running to the Lord, pouring out my pain to him about my unfaithful spouse and fellowshipping in his suffering. As I meditated on how God understood the pain of an unfaithful spouse (his people) and studied his response to their unfaithfulness, I learned about his long-suffering, pursuing love for me, and saw God begin teaching me how to love my spouse with his love.
Ellen: Hello, my dear sister! What’s been happening in your journey with Jesus since you wrote that testimony for our wives’ workbook a few years ago?
C.C.: In the last few years, my journey has continued to be painful. I needed to take a step which I’d begged God to never let happen; I separated from my husband with no guarantee of reconciliation. It required more courage than anything I’ve ever done. During this separation, God continues to deepen my understanding and appreciation for his character and love. How thankful I am that he won’t forsake me, even if my husband does—that he is always faithful, and his love is predictable. I don’t have to worry from day to day, moment to moment, if he is suddenly going to change!
“How thankful I am that God won’t forsake me, even if my husband does—that he is always faithful, and his love is predictable.”
After separating, we went through a few months where every time we met, my husband was acknowledging how he had sinned against me as he worked toward formally asking for forgiveness. I found myself anxious to tell him I had forgiven him, because I had already forgiven him in my heart before he asked. Once again, God used this journey to show me how his heart anxiously awaits my confession because he has already forgiven me, and he rejoices to tell me so!
Ellen: Can you share more about how you have experienced a lot of “undoing” in your understanding of God, faith, grace, and holiness, and how this impacted you as a wife?
C.C.: One area God has been untangling for me is personal responsibility. I thought that if I played any part in a scenario where a person reacted sinfully, then God viewed my “influence” as essentially “making” the other person sin. For example, if I didn’t agree with everything my husband said and this angered him, instigating a spiral into sexual sin as an escape, then it was my fault. I was constantly fearful, playing out each scenario in my head, trying to determine if I would be causing my husband to sin.
“Don’t run away from the hard work of pouring out your pain to God.”
As God has been untangling this for me, I have come to understand that, while surrounding factors may play a part in the context, sin comes out of a person’s heart because the sin was already there. In other words, I didn’t create the sin in my husband’s heart, he reacted sinfully because that was what was already in his heart. If I have acted in an unloving way, then I need to humbly repent before the Lord, but God never says that I can make someone sin.
Ellen: Imagine yourself back in the place you were when you first came to Harvest USA—the fear, grief, disillusionment, sense of overwhelm. Can you share some words of comfort and hope for wives who are in those excruciating early days after sexual sin comes to light?
C.C.: Regardless of what happens in your spouse’s journey, God has something for you! He will use this suffering to form Christ in you and it will be a beautiful thing. Don’t run away from the hard work of pouring out your pain to God. He will give you courage to do what you never thought you could do, and in the process, he will never leave you or forsake you. Keep asking God what it looks like to love wisely and well and think through the examples we see in the Bible of how Christ responded in similar sufferings. Ask God for community. It’s OK to need other people to pray when you can’t and to hope when you’re too afraid to hope. Make a playlist of songs that help you pour your heart out to God.
My song during this separation has been “Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me,” which speaks to my deepest hope:
The night is dark but I am not forsaken
For by my side, the Saviour He will stay
I labor on in weakness and rejoicing
For in my need, His power is displayed
To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me
Through the deepest valley He will lead
Oh the night has been won, and I shall overcome!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me
If you have suffered the painful experience of sexual betrayal, our Harvest USA Direct Ministry is here to help. To reach out for help click either of the following links: Women’s Ministry or Men’s Ministry
02 Nov 2023
Creativity—and imagination. Humans are blessed with these things by their Creator. It’s part of the image of God in us. He, after all, is endlessly creative.
The trouble is that our creativity, like all other good things he has given, is twisted by our fallenness; we’re very good at misusing it.
Consider our tendency to imagine the future. There’s a place for planning and organizing, but “thinking ahead” can simply mean manufacturing negative what-ifs. It can become a constant habit of borrowing trouble; it can be the incubator of false assumptions, worry, and despair. We often readily adopt those what-ifs as real possibilities, which soon develop into probabilities. Before we know it, we’re imagining them as prophecies. . . and soon, in our mind’s eye, they’re facts!
This negatively creative mindset can become our regular context of thinking and cause us to progressively doubt much of what God has told us in his Word.
It’s incredibly easy to wander into the fearsome Land of What-If and live there.
Why Is What-If Thinking So Easy?
Parents and families of sexual strugglers may ask:
- What if my son marries his partner?
- What if I’m the only one in the family who says this is wrong?
- What if my daughter decides to do hormones or surgery?
- What if the people at church shut us out because our son is gay?
- What if my daughter tells the grandchildren that Uncle Jim is now Aunt Jane?
- What if my son stops all communication with me because I accept Scripture?
- What if my daughter’s new “friends” lead her into drugs, or worse?
- What if this all goes on for years . . . and years?
We’re capable of filling our thinking with awful possibilities. But to what end? Why do we do that, especially when we don’t (and can’t) exist in the future?
Control and Trust
Our desire to be in control is the primary motivation for what-if thinking. We want to make and control the plans. In this, we’re still doing what Adam and Eve did: trying to know, be, and do what only God can know, be, and do. We want to replace him; we want to be sovereign. That may sound like an extreme diagnosis, but when we’re controlled by worry and manufactured assumptions about the future, we usually spend our time fearing and trying to manipulate that future based on the self-deception that we can manipulate or prevent it.
In essence, then, we have forgotten what we know about a sovereign God who is in charge. His will always culminates in good and glory, regardless of what it looks like to us in the process. When we forget this, fear seems warranted—even necessary. It’s a vicious cycle. Essentially, we’ve panicked over the “horizontal”—the relationships and situations between us and other people—and forgotten the “vertical”—our relationship with our Creator and Savior. We’ve stopped trusting the only One who can help. What-if thinking fixes our eyes on ourselves—our wisdom, understanding, and desires—instead of trusting the Lord who knows and loves us.
How Can We Escape What-If Thinking?
We do what-if thinking so very well. We can’t just stop thinking this way; our what-ifs must be replaced by something even stronger—and the good news is that we have that in the gospel of Jesus. Look at it this way:
- What-if thinking consists of possibilities. It makes sense to replace possibilities with something that is for sure, always factual—the person of a Creator God.
- What-if thinking requires that I, myself, create and manage scenarios that look like solutions. However, working a heart-change in a sexual struggler is beyond my ability. So why not rely on the Holy Spirit to do a job that was never mine in the first place?
- What-if thinking quickly loses its hold on our minds when we see prayer for the struggler as our main ministry. Prayer means laying our concerns before our Father—without including timetables or directions. We admit our inability, we trust him to work, and we ask him to direct us clearly toward any role that he has for us. In other words, we pray; we follow.
Not surprisingly, Philippians 4:6 says that the outcome of this dependent, prayerful, patient-with-God approach will indeed be a stronger way, made-to-order for keeping us from the Land of What-ifs entirely:
“And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Look to the cross of Christ and see our Lord’s faithfulness; consider our Father’s overcoming grace. Ask him for the grace to focus on all he is and says. Let him be God. As for the Land of What-ifs? No need to go there!
In the modern age, we are sex saturated. God calls Christians to be in the world but not of the world, but without careful examination and the renewing of our minds, we will ingest falsehoods about sex by default. Some of the most pervasive lies are that sex is necessary for true fulfillment and that we can’t experience intimacy apart from sexual expression. For brothers and sisters in circumstances like unwanted singleness, divorce, or widowhood, this issue is practical; it’s vital that Christians share God’s vision for the unmarried life.
Sex vs. Intimacy: Defined
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines intimacy as “marked by warm friendship developed through long association; suggesting informal warmth or privacy.” A secondary definition states, “engaged in, involving or marked by sex or sexual relations.” The closeness and intimacy that sex can cultivate was God’s idea (Gen. 2:24–25). However, intimacy does not depend on sex. True intimacy can exist in godly friendships; sex and intimacy are not identical.
Even within the church, sex can be spoken of as a peak life experience or a prize for the faithful. It can be explicitly taught or merely implied that marriage is the answer to loneliness and longings for intimacy. To be sure, God gives the gift of marriage to many, in part, as a grace in this life for those who “burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9) and desire sexual intimacy. Considering God’s high calling of faithfulness to one’s spouse as the only God-honoring context for sexual expression, a significant question emerges: Can you have intimacy without sexual expression? What are the implications for singles, widows, and those who will never marry?
What Are You Really Seeking?
When men and women pursue sex outside God’s design, it’s rarely just about sex. We bring our whole selves to everything we do—body, mind, and spirit. Have you ever considered that your longings for sexual expression may be masking your longings for a much more profound intimacy—one only found in God? Have multiple partners, endless pornography pursuits, and the emptiness of solo sex left you feeling numb and empty?
What if the remedy for your longings is not to quell them but to long for something much more extravagant?
What if the remedy for your longings is not to quell them but to long for something much more extravagant? Unmarried Christian, your sexuality points to a greater reality about God’s love for his church. Yes, we’re called to obedience. But don’t settle by living in the “don’ts” of your sexuality as if God has not provided abundantly more than we can imagine. God designed your longings so he can satisfy them—not always with what you desire, but with what he, as the lover of your soul, provides.
The Intimacy That’s Yours in Christ
Many books and sermons about singleness neglect God’s bold and glorious vision for his people, instead majoring on the “don’ts:” Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t cross boundaries. Don’t covet. Don’t lust. Don’t waste your single years selfishly. Consider these two passages where Jesus speaks of his intimate heart of love toward his people. If you’re in Christ, these words are for you!
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:11–12)
Jesus does not say he always gives the gifts we desire. He gives something far better—his Holy Spirit! If you’re in a hard battle in singleness or feel overlooked, you may be thinking, Come on! You mean to tell me that Jesus is supposed to fulfill my longings? I still sleep alone every night. Jesus simply is not real to me in this area of my life. Yet in all the ways you suffer, even in unwanted singleness, loneliness, and temptation, Jesus is compassionate and tender toward you. The lie is that the life, joy, and peace you long for can be found outside God’s design and ultimately outside God himself.
Unbelief is a shape-shifting sin struggle. It tends to hide within other sins and often hides in plain sight.
Psalm 16:4a wisely reminds us that “the sorrows of those who run after other gods will only increase.” This passage puts a sincere question before you today: Do you believe in the good heart of your Father toward you, his beloved child? Unbelief is a shape-shifting sin struggle. It tends to hide within other sins and often hides in plain sight.
If your relational pain, temptation, and disappointment has caused your heart to turn away from God, he invites you today to run to him with your deepest longings, fears, and pain. Psalm 62:8 exhorts us: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (my emphasis).
Relational Intimacy with God
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)
Jesus expressly says that he desires to be with his people to show us his glory! Don’t miss the profound riches in these words of Christ. The Holy Lord of all, the God of the universe, desires that you abide with him for all eternity. Believer, his heart is inclined toward you forever, desiring fellowship and oneness with you as his beloved. We see the beautiful image of God’s love in the covenant intimacy of marriage, but it’s only that—an image, a dim reflection. Don’t be deceived. Single Christians are, by no means, missing out on the main thing—God himself!
Both married and single brothers and sisters must look to the ultimate fulfillment of their longings not in the blessings of this life but in heaven (1 Peter 1:13), where Christ is.
Imagine you’re on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. You see a sign that says, “Grand Canyon National Park, 14 miles,” and you pull over. You jump out of your car and take photos of the sign, sitting at its base, marveling. Foolish, right? This is precisely what happens when we focus our hearts and relational pursuits on good gifts apart from God. Marriage, and the relational intimacy it provides, are merely a signpost. Both married and single brothers and sisters must look to the ultimate fulfillment of their longings not in the blessings of this life but in heaven (1 Peter 1:13), where Christ is.
Samuel Rutherford said, “Our little inch of time suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.” Are you longing for home? Me, too. Look to Christ, in whom all the deepest treasures of intimacy, love, and rest are found.
19 Oct 2023
Rest. It’s a difficult word, and I’ve failed to place and describe it in my life. There are many days when I turn from rest—in my heart and with my priorities. I’m ashamed, tired, and needy. And so, I cry out in repentance, Abba Father, forgive me, for many were the days I did not rest in you. I am weary, yet I seem to run away from your presence even though your arms are wide open. Please hear my plea and bring me to Christ’s peace, in whom I eagerly long for eternal rest. In his name, amen.
Resting Away from Christ
Beloved, can you relate to the following three major issues I’ve noticed each time I sought rest away from Christ?
- A self-seeking stubbornness, keeping myself crushed and forsaken despite the work of Christ’s cross and leading me to conclude, from a bottomless pit, “I am but dust, and, therefore, I shall rest when I return to dust.”
- A self-perceived, Christless worthlessness, where my past defines my present and the pressures I face convince me with the lie that “I do not deserve rest.”
- A self-inflicted condemnation, deeming myself sentenced to lashes, expecting falsely that such punishment will ultimately fulfill a works-righteousness requirement because of the lie that “this is my penance, my cross.”
Oh, how arrogant and foolish I am—and, like you, I hurt too.
How do we rest in God’s rest in a burnout culture that demands every inch of our lives, 24/7? We have every opportunity to hear Christ first thing in the morning, but we deliberately turn away from him. Our phones, calendars, and sinful pursuits claim a higher priority, leaving only scraps for God.
How do we rest in God’s rest in a burnout culture that demands every inch of our lives, 24/7?
Brothers and sisters, this is not what God has created us for! We aren’t meant to live on the throne of our lives, demanding everything and clenching our fists against his love for us. We do not need to live as blind beggars, exhausting ourselves with work, sexual sins, or even seemingly innocent pleasures that won’t deliver what we need: rest and comfort in and through our God.
Without Christ, we walk toward a discouraging destination where we can only arrive tired and hopeless. And you know very well that sexual sins are waiting right around the corner to make that final kill as you sigh, exhausted, after your 14-hour shift.
But Our Days Don’t Have to End This Way . . .
Because we know who our Savior is, and he knows us too (John 15:15). He is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).
In him, we find rest (Matt. 11:28–30), though we were once unrighteous (1 Cor. 6:11).
In him, we put off the old and put on the new self (Eph. 4:22–24), knowing that one day, mourning shall be no more (Rev. 21:4).
In him, we “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), for God is not far but near to the brokenhearted, saving the crushed spirit (Ps. 34:18).
He has counted our misery and placed our tears in his bottle (Psalm 56:8). He gives “a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ez. 36:26).
And so, we can pray, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Ps. 62:5).
Resting in Christ
Oh, beloved, as the gospel roots and grounds you in the love of Christ (Eph. 3:17), remember that rest means valuing each day as its own portion. Our time with the Lord today matters; it has an eternal bearing. What we do in the here and now should be a response to a grace-paced life, a life that ultimately trusts our Father in heaven and cultivates a daily resting in him and not in the worries of this world. “For tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34b). That means you sometimes need to leave an unfinished task for tomorrow—that you will guard your hours with family and sleep—that you will say “no” to entertainment when you’ve set your priority to spend that moment with your Savior.
When long days deprive you of rest, when the tragedy of sexual sins leaves you undone, look to Christ.
Yes, we are dust, but our identity in this life remains ever secure in Christ. Let that inform and guide you particularly when resting seems impossible. Never lose sight of the reality that “as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Though our “days are like grass” and we are soon gone, “the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” (Ps. 103:13–18). Remember, “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).
When long days deprive you of rest, when the tragedy of sexual sins leaves you undone, look to Christ. Bear your cross (Luke 14:27). Repent. Like Job, who asked a valuable question to his wife amid her mockery and his suffering, ask yourself: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) Turn away from sin, beloved, and turn to Christ. Let the assurance of his rest lead you through the darkest of times. Remember, as Job did, that with life, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.”
But don’t stop there. Even when grief tears your robes and shaves your head, persevere in worship with a heart that says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Our Savior persevered—sweating drops of blood, enduring lashings, and breathing his last breath on the cross. Because he finished the race and kept the faith, his children will, too (2 Tim. 4:7). In him alone, we find rest—the faithful rest of our souls.
21 Sep 2023
It was a snowy day in January 1850, and Charles Spurgeon was only 15 years old. Walking to Sunday service at his own church, he was overcome by the snowstorm and slipped into a small, sparsely attended church along the way. The pastor was absent, presumably due to the storm, and a lay leader took to the pulpit. He preached on a single verse from Isaiah:
“Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)
That day changed young Charles Spurgeon forever—he came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Spurgeon went on to be one of the most prolific ministers of the 19th century, whose mark on the church today is hard to overestimate.
Spurgeon was saved through the irresistible call of God’s Word to look to the only Savior. But what does “look to Christ” mean? It may feel frustrating because it sounds so deep and spiritual. How do we do it?
Deadly Snake Bites
In Numbers, we come to a truly harrowing scene as the people of Israel travel with Moses through the wilderness:
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:4–9)
Did the people have to crawl over and touch the bronze serpent to be healed? Did they have to chant any particular words or pray with special emotion? No! They looked.
Our Only Cure: Look and Live!
When we look to Christ, we’re doing the same thing that the snake-bitten Israelites did in the desert. Stung by serpents, with venom coursing through their veins, they were doomed. The problem was within them—death was certain. Can you see the amazing simplicity of their salvation? As Spurgeon said, “look and live!” What must we do to receive God’s effective and ready help? Simply look! Even those who are suffering and weary can look. You may not feel you can run a race; maybe you can barely lift your head. But can you look?
Jesus is not only the destination for our soul’s rest; he is the way as well.
Jesus points to this story, too: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14–16). What is salvation? Believing in—looking to—Jesus.
But looking to Christ is not a single action when we first come to saving faith. Looking to Jesus is a believer’s continual act and lifelong pursuit. Jesus is not only the destination for our soul’s rest; he is the way as well (John 14:6).
Where do you find yourself today? Are you stuck in a rut? Does your broken marriage, your pornography secret, or the struggles of your child feel like a death sentence? Have you given up hope that Jesus can help you in the mess of your suffering and sin?
Reasons We Don’t Look
Shame can feel like a heavy blanket covering us. It can be a powerful de-motivator, keeping us from risk or transparency because our hearts are sunk deep down. I’ve been there. The paradox is that the true antidote to shame is to be known and loved amid it, not waiting to look to Jesus until you feel you’re on the other side. Jesus bore our shame; he became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). As your compassionate Savior, he sympathizes with you as you feel shame’s sting; he longs to meet you in it with his gentle care.
It’s humbling to look outside yourself for the rescue you need. Some days I’m addicted to self-sufficiency— “pulling myself up by my bootstraps.” One painful lesson I’ve been learning is that my pride keeps me from receiving the humbling help I need from outside myself. Why is it so humbling? Because I have nothing to do with it! Looking to Christ requires that we abandon all hope in ourselves—our best intentions, our best efforts—and wholly cast ourselves on Christ’s mercy and strong help.
Sometimes looking to Christ seems too good to be true. How can God really help me? What could Jesus possibly do in this darkness? We ask these questions from a place of unbelief and hard-heartedness, not knowing that the God we serve is able to do more than we could even ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20)!
Jesus Is Your Only Real Hope
Referring to Israel’s pilgrimage in the wilderness, Jesus speaks about himself as the bread of life and gives an incredible promise: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
Your growth in holiness depends on Jesus and happens as you behold him!
Jesus repeats the very same “look and live” concept, and he points to himself as the only hope for eternal life. Believing Jesus is not merely coming to Christ for salvation; by believing, we have life in his name (John 20:31). The whole life of the Christian—in suffering, through struggles with sin, and all the way to heaven’s sinless glory—is believing the Lord Jesus, not just all that he has said, but all that he is to his people. Looking to Jesus is turning our attention to him as our only hope, rescue, and refuge and surrendering to obey him, whatever the cost.
Behold! Your Path of Sanctification
What does all this have to do with the struggle of a pornography addiction or feeling ensnared by an unholy relationship? Friends, it is only by looking to Jesus that we will be transformed to look more like him (2 Cor. 3:18). Your growth in holiness depends on Jesus and happens as you behold him! Will you agree today that your greatest need is to look to Jesus and live? Let your heart be changed by beholding him in his Word, with his people, and by his Spirit. We all need help to grow more like Jesus; we can’t do it alone. Reach out to a trusted friend, a church leader, or Harvest USA. In whatever darkness you’re carrying, you’re not alone.
14 Sep 2023
This post is an edited excerpt from Across the Kitchen Table: Talking about Trans with Your Teen, by Sam A. Andreades. Available to preorder now at Harvest USA!
A difficult case confronted Jesus as he came down from the mountain in Mark 9. His disciples had been trying to help a father whose boy was really messed up, but the problem was too difficult for them. What follows is the longest description of a healing/exorcism in the Gospels. The uncommon amount of detail affords us insight into how Jesus worked to restore people to wholeness. While we do not know all that Jesus did each time he made someone better, this lengthy example shows that it sometimes involved a process.
Jesus the Diagnostician
Jesus works with families. The process of addressing the child’s need first turns into an instruction for the friends trying to help—in this case, the disciples (Mark 9:14, 18–19, 28–29). It then turns into an address of the father’s need as well. Jesus talks to the father about the man’s own heart as revealed by the situation (Mark 9:22–24).
We similarly find, in trying to help a condition like teen trans, God challenges our own hearts. As secular psychologists Susan and Marcus Evans recognize, “exploring the family dynamics is an essential part of any assessment [of gender dysphoria].” As you help your son or daughter, God is after your growth as well. At the very least, a gender-troubled loved one will require you to grow in love and faith. You, as the parent, are instrumental in your child’s progress.
Then the Diagnostician turns to the boy himself. Jesus has a way of drawing the real problem out of people. In his presence, the evil possessing this man’s son soon shows (Mark 9:20). The boy is in the grip of a spirit that brings him to body-mutilation. This self-destructive force has overcome his soul (Mark 9:18, 20 and Matthew 17:15 emphasizes the boy’s self-harm). As Jesus observes the manifestation with the father, he asks the man a telling question about his son: “How long has he been like this?” (Mark 9:21, NIV). Jesus is interested in the boy’s history; it somehow helped to hear what may have led to the present condition.
Breakfast and Other Past Events
Revisiting the past to study a key moment when “it all started” occurs in other places where we see God’s counsel in the Bible—in fact, the first one. God revisits the beginning of Adam and Eve’s problem by asking them what they had for breakfast (Gen 3:11). He thereby takes them back to see the decision they made that produced the shame under which they now labor. Isaiah the prophet conveys God’s diagnosis of how Israel had, at one point, gone wrong in adopting another means of security instead of God himself. He takes them back to a past key time when they “made a covenant with death” (Isa. 28:14–19).
Going backward sometimes helps people go forward. A probable cause of pronounced body alienation is earlier-life trauma. As John Calvin put it, “Satan mixes up his attacks with natural means.” Sins by others against our bodies can greatly exacerbate the shame to which we are already susceptible. If one feels like one’s body is the problem, a reasonable place to look for the source of that discomfiture is in an experience that would make one want to separate from the body. Unfortunately, childhood sexual abuse, an example of the kind of trauma that can derail a person’s gender, can take place without anyone finding out until much later.
Sometimes, for example, in response to being hurt by a man, one finds in an abused girl a desire to be a man in order to not get hurt: “I want to be a man because men are not vulnerable.” Early on, she makes a decision to never get hurt again, and this is the best way to ensure it. She deeply wants what she perceives as the protective power of being a man. Sometimes, a sexually abused boy concludes, “I am treated by men as a woman, so I must be a woman.” He internalizes his abuse and shields himself from disgust by the strong desire to be a woman.
Of course, such a horrid experience as child abuse is very difficult to revisit. It is easier to say, “I’m in the wrong body” and never have to speak of it again. But, if that is our reality, ignoring it further damages us. When a person is ready to talk about past excruciating experiences, licensed counselors can help provide the delicate care needed to make the recalling tolerable. Furthermore, revisiting such awful memories can only help if the person reinterprets them in light of God’s presence and acceptance. As cited above, God directed his first “How long has it been like this?” question to Adam and Eve. God revisited their initial decision to help them connect their wrong reaction to temptation to what they were currently experiencing. He then lovingly clothed them, giving them a new way to deal with their shame (Gen 3:21). Jesus’s questioning of the boy’s father showed that his presence can overcome any trauma, even if it dates to childhood (Mark 9:21).
In Prison No Longer
When, as Jesus found in his diagnosis, we see a greater evil has taken hold, God will take greater measures. One time, a cross-dressing man—we’ll call him “Archie”—contacted me at his wits’ end. He came over to talk, and we reviewed his strange history. Since age fourteen, Archie had periodically adopted a woman’s persona. Therapist after therapist, psychologist after psychologist, told him this was just how he was made. But it didn’t help. He ended up in prison. When he got out, he said, “I am still in prison.” He was, at times, close to suicide. When, decades later, he finally broke free of the addictive medications he was on, he began to have clarity about himself.
As he described his strange history to me and asked for my help, he made no bones about having a demonic possession. It was more a matter of Archie doing the diagnosing rather than me. He could tell that Satan lay behind his man-denying behavior. The Dark One exploited the sexual molestation visited on Archie at six years old by an evil grandfather.
I do not tend to rush into these things. Archie had not been to church in 25 years. But he did understand his guilt, shame, and need for reinterpretation in Christ. After further discussion, prayer, and enacting appropriate safeguards, I (as I’ve done on rare occasions) performed an exorcism. That was the beginning of Archie as a changed man. In my last contact with him, he wasn’t in prison anymore. (We can expect more need for demonic deliverance as our culture continues its steady march to paganism.)
Trauma-induced gender tearing can be redeemed by re-understanding it to be inside the care of our heavenly Father and including it in the reason for Christ’s work on our behalf. But this the Holy Spirit is faithful to do with God’s children. It is remarkable to see him apply Jesus Christ’s excruciation to areas of pain in our lives to bring about healing, forgiveness, and, in the end, freedom. Yet this, he does.
 Susan Evans and Marcus Evans, Gender Dysphoria: A Therapeutic Model for Working with Children, Adolescents and Young Adults (Oxfordshire, Oxford, England: Phoenix Publishing House Ltd., 2021), 93.
 John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries (1852; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), XVI:II:322.