I watched her body tense as she made eye contact with me and said tearfully, “I don’t want to pray; I don’t know what to say.”

To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing God, You, and Sex: A Profound Mystery by David White and When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart by Vicki Tiede. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.

You can also read the blog, “How to Pray When Your Heart Hurts,” which corresponds to this video.

Pain is deafening. Whether physical or emotional, pain not only has the ability to hurt deeply but also to smother our faith and hope in Christ. Pain of betrayal. Rejection. Broken relationships. Loss. Loneliness. Uncertainty. Ongoing sexual struggles. Deferred hopes. Or simply the consequences of living in a broken world with our sinful choices. The sad reality is that, regardless of what triggers our pain, the aftermath can be just as disorienting.

Many Christians have been taught that prayer is a wise response to painful life circumstances. However, one of the things I hear the most from women amidst their suffering and heartache is that they struggle to know what to pray. In the throes of emotional turmoil, many people find that words evade them, or they don’t think they are allowed to say what they truly feel to a holy God. Sexual strugglers can mistakenly believe that their temptations and sins cannot be voiced at the throne of grace. Shame keeps them silent and stuck in an internal dialogue of unbelief: “Can God really handle my truth?!”

God is holy and deserves our reverence, but he also desires to be in relationship with us. For relationship to thrive, there must be communication. But what do you do when the pain of life cuts so deep that you can’t think, let alone find the vocabulary to pray?

Well, you can pray God’s Word. Let his Word come up with what to say for you. Scripture shows us examples of God’s people crying out gut-raw, honest prayers in the midst of their pain and suffering. The Psalms are a great example of this appropriate honesty. When life hurts most, we have a guide!

Here are some ways you can pray when pain is disorienting.

When you feel weak and weary, pray…
“Lord, I am so tired; I don’t feel like I can do this. Your Word says you give power to the weak, and you increase their strength when they have none. Please give me strength to get through this day” (Isaiah 40:29).

When you feel ashamed, pray…
“Father, I am so ashamed; I just keep failing. Please remove my shame because, in Christ, I am your beloved one. Thank you that as I look to you, my face is never covered with shame, regardless of what my emotions tell me” (Psalm 34:5).

When you feel alone and afraid, pray…
“Father, I feel all alone. I’m so scared that this pain is never going to go away. Your Word says not to fear because you are with me, but it is so hard to believe that you are near. Please help me believe. Strengthen me, help me, and uphold me with your righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

When you feel grief, pray…
“Father, my hopes and dreams are caving in. As Proverbs 13:12 says, a deferred hope makes the heart sick, and that’s all I feel right now. Thank you that a day is coming when you will wipe away every tear from my eyes; when there will be no more death, sorrow, or crying; when there will be no more pain as the former things pass away” (Revelation 21:4).

When you doubt God, pray…
“Lord, I just don’t understand! The pain of this ongoing struggle is making me question so many things. Please help me trust in you and not lean on my own understanding. I acknowledge you as God. Help me believe that you will make straight my path” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

When you feel tempted, pray…
“Father, help! I don’t feel like I can say no to this. I know this temptation that is trying to overtake me is common to mankind, and your Word says you are faithful⁠—you will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. This feels like too much to bear, so help me see the way out that you provide for me to endure this” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

When you need hope, pray…
“Lord, I feel hopeless. But thank you that I have more to hope in than my present circumstances. Thank you that, according to your great mercy, you have caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for me. By your power, I am guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last days” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

Are you struggling to know what to pray? Be honest with God about how you feel. When we are crushed in spirit, God doesn’t expect us to package all of our emotions into neat, little gift boxes. He doesn’t say, “Child, don’t speak until you have something eloquent to say.”

Instead, he meets us in our honesty with mercy and compassion. He speaks tenderly to us with peace, love, and forgiveness (Hosea 2:14). He does what only he can do by taking the pain meant to destroy us and using it to make us more like Jesus, the person who is most able to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15).

The next time that life hurts so bad you can’t think of words to pray, or when circumstances make despair seem like the only feasible option, let God’s Word be your guide. Our loving Father already knows exactly what you’re feeling, so accept his invitation to tell him about it.

You can also watch the video, “Praying with Someone in Pain,” which corresponds to this blog.

Have you ever taken the Lay’s potato chip challenge and tried to eat just one? It’s not easy! Or consider the Pringles slogan: “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop!” Even though we know there are healthier options, those chips taste so good that we want to keep eating more.

On a more serious note, though, we often find it hard to refrain from unhealthy, non-food indulgences as well. Why? Our sinful hearts easily turn pleasurable experiences into idol worship. We encounter something good, and then we often treat that thing as ultimately fulfilling. Have you ever been given a good gift, like sex within marriage, only to use it wrongly, such as a source of pleasure only for yourself and not for your spouse? We usually don’t view pleasure as a good gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. Instead, we see it as a need or a right. The idol then has the chance to persuade your heart to continue feasting, to keep coming back for more pleasure.

Whenever you believe that life is truly found in a certain pleasure, you will continue to experience a gravitational pull in its direction. You will be torn between fighting sin and believing you can’t live without it.

But God wants us to understand life and pleasure in a very different way. Pleasure in itself is not bad. It’s a natural response to anything good that comes from God. C.S. Lewis shows us how pleasure goes awry in his book, The Screwtape Letters. Speaking from the standpoint of one demon to another, he writes, “All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent to its Maker, and least pleasurable.¹”

Pleasure in its truest essence always finds its source in God. Sexual pleasure is not the problem. The problem resides in the receptor of pleasure, our hearts. As Lewis points out, our problem is that we indulge in sexual pleasure in forbidden times, ways, and degrees. We do this because we believe sexual pleasure will bring us life, justifying in our hearts our willingness to disobey God’s commands.

So what can you do to seek deeper transformation and experience pleasure as God intended? Here are three suggestions.

Cultivate a Heart of Thankfulness

Sinful pleasure has a dreadful way of killing our enjoyment of life. We become desensitized to so many good gifts while simultaneously becoming ultra-sensitized to one specific pleasure that controls our affections, time, and energy. Start re-sensitizing yourself to simple, good pleasures in life by thanking God for the food you eat, the bed you sleep in, the relationships in your life, and so on. Of course, all of these temporal pleasures from our benevolent Father pale in comparison to the pleasure found in our union with Christ.

Pursue Pleasure as an Act of Worship

God created you for worship. And while there are clearly-defined, formal ways in which God requires his people to worship him, he created you to bring him praise and glory in unique ways as well. In Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell, an Olympic gold medalist, said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” For Eric, running was an act of worship. Running brought him incredible joy and fulfillment. But he also refused to let running be his source of life. As the movie shows, when the pleasure of running was offered in a way that stirred Eric’s conscience, he refrained.

How has God made you to feel his pleasure? In what unique ways has he called you into worshipful activities? Whether it is painting, reading, playing sports, parenting, or cooking, acknowledge your Creator and Redeemer in those moments. The more you live before God with your pleasure, the greater power you will have to resist turning that pleasure into an idol.

Fasting as a Way of Realignment

What are those things in your life that aren’t sinful in and of themselves, but that you use in degrees that are sinful? These are things that take too much of your time, attention, and affection, showing that your heart is out of alignment. Are you over-exercising, over-eating, scrolling social media with a jealous heart, or interrupting others in conversation to make sure your own opinion is voiced? Just as a car needs a realignment if it’s veering to one side, so too our hearts need realignment. Fasting is one powerful and purposeful way to give up those activities that you know sinfully pull on your heart. I would recommend at least a week-long fast. The degree of pain and struggle you go through to give that up is indicative of the life you were deriving from it. Allow your fast to be a time of repentance and also a time of true pleasure and life, which can only come from the Life-giver.

Idols lie to us that we are foregoing enjoyment when we forsake them. But nothing could be further from the truth. Idols take your heart’s capacity to enjoy infinite pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11) and shrivel it up, so that you can only enjoy the confined, ever-shrinking space of creature-worship. Believe instead that your heavenly Father will give you “fullness of joy” in his presence.

¹C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996), 44.

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You can also watch the video, How Does Jesus Meet Us in Our Desires?, which corresponds to this blog.

In this post, you’ll hear from women and men whom our staff know personally. These brothers and sisters in Christ are seeking to stand firm in obedience during the unusual circumstances forced upon them through the COVID-19 pandemic. They are battling well by fleeing sexual and relational temptations through the daily graces that God provides to all believers. As you read their words, perhaps you’ll be encouraged afresh to flee your personal temptations through the mercies that are yours in the Lord.

“Prayer is being used of God to help me focus on Christ and the hope that I have in him! This slower, quieter, at-home pace of life has meant fewer distractions from prayer, as well as unique need for prayer, and I rejoice to be nearer to him.”

“Instead of seeing my temptations—being afraid and anxious, or finding comfort and security in sexual sin—exclusively as invitations to evil, I have begun using them as signposts to remind me to run to Christ and keep my focus on him. It is easy to forget God when going through the normal rhythms of daily life, but, when life gets tough, the suffering and temptation to sin reminds me of the truth that I need God all the time!”

“During my prayer time, I have been using the Psalms as a guide to help me verbalize the troubles of my heart and to remind me of who my God is. Being transparent with God about how I feel and taking time to think about his character has helped to stabilize my heart during these uncertain times!”

“What’s helped me during this time has been cutting off sources that fuel my temptation: TV, movies, music, social media. I’ve been trying to starve my temptations as much as possible. Also, I’ve been consistent in my time with God, pouring my heart out in worship.”

“Completing my workbook assignments in Sexual Sanity for Women (SSFW) has kept me disciplined and reminds me that I always need to be on guard from the enemy’s schemes. Isolation can lead to destructive behaviors that leave scars on my soul, and SSFW reminds me that I must lean on him constantly and never let go!”

“During this time of forced isolation, it’s important for me to stay in contact with my accountability partners. I have to make a conscious effort to call, text, or video chat with them to bring temptations into the light, because that is where they lose their power.”

“As often as possible, I download Christian teaching from my favorite conference speakers, online sermons, or other edifying podcasts and listen to them while working or on a break. This has kept my mind engaged on the Lord and kingdom-living, rather than allowing my mind to wander into lustful thought patterns and fruitless habits. This has an added benefit of providing edifying material to discuss with my wife and others.”

These dear brothers and sisters are living out practical theology while they draw near to Christ, our true “way of escape,” as Paul beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 10:13-14. My former colleague, David White, explained the beauty of looking to Christ when the battle rages:

“Jesus is the way of escape because he knows your pain specifically! ‘For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18). How was he tempted? Lest you think his experience was different, Hebrews tells us, ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). Listen to that hope! He has suffered the same temptations you experience. Therefore, right in the midst of your battle with temptation, his help is real and substantial. Knowing that Jesus suffered like you, but did so victoriously, is a deep source of strength and comfort. He alone knows exactly what you need, because he alone knows exactly what it takes, having endured the same temptations, but without ever failing.”

Our direct ministry staff team is honored to jump into the trenches with people day after day, pointing them to our Lord Jesus, our ever-present help in every need and every period of history.

If you’ve been helped and encouraged by our ministry, would you consider giving to Harvest USA today? Even during COVID-19, we remain dependent on God’s sustaining grace and the generous partnership of his people. Thank you for standing with us as we joyfully engage the battle for the advancement of God’s kingdom!

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You can also watch the video, Our Ever-Present Help in Sexual Temptation, which corresponds to this blog.

In this video, Shalee Lehning discusses the pain that women endure when the men in their lives use pornography.

Shalee also reminds us that Christ offers hope to women and men. Where trust has been broken, Christ offers forgiveness. Where there is ongoing struggle, Christ offers grace that is sufficient for you.

To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing What’s Wrong with a Little Porn When You’re Married by Nicholas Black or Your Husband Is Addicted to Porn by Vicki Tiede. When you buy these minibooks from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.

You can also read the blog, Coming to Grips with How Porn Damaged My View of Women, which corresponds to this video.

COVID-19 has the real ability to destroy lives and families, but, in Christ, our true hope rests in the God who raises the dead. Sexual sin also has the powerful ability to destroy lives. But for all who have experienced the ravages of this sin, there is hope in the God who takes what was dead and makes it alive. No matter how far your sin has taken you, you are not out of the reach of Christ’s redemption.

In this video, Mark Sanders highlights the similarities between COVID-19 and the destruction caused by sexual sin.

To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing How to Say No When Your Body Says Yes by Dan Wilson or Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex  by John Freeman. When you buy these resources from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.

You can also read the blog, Redeem Your Quarantine: Help for Fighting Sexual Temptations, which corresponds to this video.

Hearing brothers and sisters in Christ share their expectations for God’s purposes in this season has been a rich blessing. During global crises like the coronavirus, we Christians have the unique benefit of knowing that God is sovereign, good, and loving through this season of great suffering. We need to maintain the hope in Romans 8:32 that all things are ours in Christ, especially as we love and minister to those who are suffering.

But there is another being striving for his own purposes in this season. The devil, while always restrained by God’s sovereign will, is seeking to destroy many people through COVID-19. Whether it’s marital conflict, impatient parenting, rebellious children, anxiety, selfishness, or all of the dangers that accompany isolation, Satan is trying to take advantage of this moment.

One of his major tactics is to capitalize on people’s loneliness and isolation. The situation in which many people find themselves right now is rife with temptation towards pornography. Loneliness is perhaps the most common circumstance that accompanies pornography usage. To make matters worse, the porn industry sees the coronavirus as fertile ground for greater pornography consumption, and they are making access easier and cheaper while everyone is quarantined.

Brothers and sisters, may we be able to say with Paul that we are not ignorant of the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11). Satan has a crafty plan to use your quarantine as an opportunity for guilt, shame, misery, and destruction, all for the sole purpose of damaging your intimacy with the Lord and others.

So what will you do to withstand these attacks? Will you just take them as they come and hope for the best, or will you, with the Spirit, proactively plan to fight temptation well? Here are nine practical steps you can take to minimize temptation’s power:

One: Take away access.

One of the biggest sources of temptation is availability. I currently have no ice cream in my house, so I simply cannot eat it. But if I did have some in the freezer, my temptation would increase tenfold. Especially if you are already succumbing to temptation, you need to take radical steps to cut off accessibility. This might mean installing filters and accountability software, getting rid of devices altogether, or limiting when and where you use them. The goal is to put as much distance between you and temptation as possible.

In this season, many of you are working from home on work computers with unfettered access to the Internet and no way to install accountability software. While router protection¹ is something to consider, working from home does present a degree of access that might be unavoidable, which is why the second point is so crucial!

Two: Establish accountability immediately.

You might already have someone to whom you are vaguely accountable. Now is the time to step that up! Get a team of people to come alongside you, and check in every day with at least one of them. This is actually a great time for accountability because everyone is available—we’re all at home! Encourage your accountability partners to also share how you can keep them accountable; mutual accountability is always best.

Three: Set up a daily routine.

For most of us, our lives before quarantine had external structure and routine. While some are able to maintain that routine in isolation, many of us have had our daily lives thrown off track. Idle time is a huge enemy in your fight against pornography, so develop a daily routine that allows for planned rest and productivity each day.

Four: Be proactive in caring for others.

Pornography is a fully selfish endeavor. There is absolutely zero love for neighbor involved. In fact, it’s an act of hating your neighbor. Engaging in activities of loving others lifts your spirit and makes acts of hatred more repulsive. Whenever you feel lonely or depressed, remind yourself that others feel just like you do and would greatly benefit from a phone call, text, or even a handwritten letter.

Five: Don’t settle for false comfort.

In the pit of loneliness, fear, and despair, we all seek relief. In those moments, God freely invites you to take and eat of his goodness and comfort (Isaiah 55). While turning to false comforts will only leave you feeling empty, more depressed, and full of regret, the God of all comfort opens his arms to embrace you.

Six: Set goals to fill your extra time.

Some examples might be studying a second language, learning a musical instrument, finishing a house project, reading a specific book, doing something creative, calling a friend or family member every day, or memorizing a whole book of the Bible. Incorporate these goals into your daily routine. Pick goals that you can work towards each day and perhaps will continue to pursue after quarantine.

Seven: Consider how you will further your relationship with God.

Even if you’ve been cut off from all physical human contact, you are not separated from God. He says to you in Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Every moment of your quarantine is an opportunity to be near to God. He invites you to enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with him through Jesus Christ.

Eight: Find a psalm that resonates with you, memorize it, and pray it to God every day.

Scripture provides a psalm for every experience you can possibly endure, from isolation and depression to fear and anxiety. A psalm that speaks to our hearts gives amazing comfort because it shows us that God understands what we’re going through. Moreover, he invites us to speak these painful experiences to him. We all know the healing that comes from sharing hard things with others. These are but signposts to the healing and comfort that God gives when you pour out your heart to him!

Nine: Invest in heavenly treasures.

Many people I talk to are more concerned about the economy than the virus. If there is anything we can learn from this pandemic, it is the utter frailty of our earthly investments. This is a special moment, when God has captured our attention and made it undeniably clear, that “fading is the worldling’s pleasure.”² Don’t squander this window of clarity. When things go back to normal, we will again be tempted to trust and hope in things that are wasting away. Use this season to invest in heavenly treasures that can never fade, spoil, or perish (1 Peter 1:4).

You can also watch the video, Invisible Destruction: COVID-19 and Sexual Sin, which corresponds to this blog.


¹Router protection refers to products such as “Circle” and “OpenDNS.” These products block content at the source of the router itself, so that any device connected to your Wi-Fi has a degree of filtering.

² “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” (No.345) in Trinity Hymnal (Rev.ed.) (Suwanee, GA: Great Commission Publications, 1990).

A few weeks ago, I read an article about the recently released movie, Rocketman, which chronicles the life of openly gay and quite flamboyant British rock star, Elton John. The article exposed that the Russian government had removed all of the homosexual love scenes from the movie since Russian law interprets these as “lewd acts” and considers them lawbreaking.

Although I’m not sure that outlawing sin is the best way for believers to suppress our own sinful desires, let alone mandate that non-believers do the same, I was kind of thankful for this declaration since I believe that the Bible defines homosexual sex as sin. To be clear, however, the Holy Spirit is the one who confronts our sin and moves us to repent of it. He also moves us to believe in the power of the atonement, received by the Lord Jesus on behalf of our sin, and fights in and through us against sin that remains both in us and around us.

But, nonetheless, my response got me wondering and made me think: why am I so on-board with the Russians here? I guess a better question is: why am I not up in arms about other sins that are so prevalent in our culture?

Blind to Sin Around Us

To be clear, I was probably never going to see Rocketman, but it doesn’t change the fact that I had a visceral and agreeable response to the Russian government’s indictment on the movie. I mean, when’s the last time I agreed with the Russian government about anything?

What bothered me even more was that sexual sin that is so prevalent in our culture doesn’t seem to unnerve me nearly as much. Why not? Maybe because I’m blind. Maybe because sexual sin is so pervasive in our society that I simply don’t notice it anymore.

The movies we love, the shows we watch, the songs we sing: so much of what we adore in pop culture is chock full of sexual sin and innuendos that slip under the radar unnoticed. Maybe we do notice, but we just look away or justify our complicity providing an excuse that we can be in the world as long as we’re not of it.

There was a similar struggle in Old Testament Israel when God’s people performed idolatrous rituals and sacrifices in the “high places” that they learned from surrounding nations. The people had been influenced by the culture around them. Kevin DeYoung writes, “The high places were so entrenched in the culture, they seemed so normal, that even the good kings did not think to remove them. . . Sexual immorality is one of our high places. I’m afraid we–and there is an “I” in that “we”–don’t have the eyes to see how much the world has squeezed us into its mold.” (Kevin DeYoung, Hole in Our Holiness, page 108.)

Striving Toward Purity

For all of us, married or single, attacks upon our sexual purity are strengthening and increasing. One way we strive toward purity is by running from impurity (1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:13, Genesis 39:13). Remember Joseph and Potiphar’s wife? Joseph ran away from temptation so fast that he left his garment behind. Do we run from sexual sin?

So often I think we’re trying so hard to relate to the world that we’ve lost our edge. We’ve lost our desire for holiness. To be honest, I’m often shocked at what we consider okay to watch on a screen. The sexual sin we tend to accept, maybe because it’s heterosexual sin, is no less dangerous and should bother us just as much.

Let’s be honest. We all have our list of sins we love to hate. And we’re commanded to hate sin. But, we’re commanded to hate all of it.

We all have our list of sins we love to hate. And we’re commanded to hate sin. But, we’re commanded to hate all of it.

After reading that article, I asked myself: do I have the same visceral response that opposes the sex scenes in TitanicTop GunMy Big Fat Greek WeddingA Star is Born? Each and every Fast and Furious movie? Was I as repulsed as I should have been or did I even notice the sexual scenes in those movies that many of us embrace?

I know that we can’t come out of the woodwork to oppose all of the works of the flesh because if we did, that’s all we’d ever do. But is it possible that the Spirit who lives in us isn’t stirred regularly regarding sexual sin because we have quenched him in this area (1 Thessalonians 5)? Contrary to popular belief, we are supposed to judge sin. We are called to obey the Spirit as we use Scripture and wisdom to judge sin in us and in others, and Jesus tells us exactly how to do it. Simply put, we are instructed that we can’t be hypocrites when we judge (Matthew 7:1-5).

Homosexuality is sin. But so is coarse joking, adultery, sensuality, pornography, masturbation, and promiscuity. I’m not suggesting that we run for the hills and create a safe Christian commune so that we can avoid our culture entirely. However, I am praying that we (and I am part of the “we”) consider judging all sins, not just the sins we love to hate, before we decide to finally throw a stone. And maybe then we can become a small part of redeeming our over-sexualized culture and strive toward the holiness that God desires.

Editor’s note: This article was first published by enCourage in 2019.

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You can also watch the video, Transformed Hates and Loves, which corresponds to this blog.

As our focus increasingly centers on the Lord, the more our desires become conformed to what he loves and hates. The idea here isn’t to focus on a list of sins, but rather to fix our affections on Christ, who reorders our desires by opening our eyes and hearts towards what is good and holy.

To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness by Ellen Dykas. When you buy this book from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.

You can also read the blog, The Sins We Love to Hate, which corresponds to this video.

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3 ESV)

I looked at my calendar, confused. I already had a dentist appointment scheduled Wednesday.  But another one on Friday? I skimmed my phone contacts and of course I hadn’t saved the dentist’s phone number. I checked my wallet for where I’d placed the business card—gone now. And I’d recycled our Yellow Pages long ago.

Old Me would’ve simply looked up the number in my Safari browser (and probably neglected to save it once again).

New Me doesn’t have this option. As I paw fruitlessly through my wallet one last time, I feel a little angry. And a lot humbled. If I didn’t have a porn habit, sending pictures of myself for cheap approval, then I wouldn’t be fishing for something as routine as my dentist’s phone number, simply because my husband helped lock up the internet. Now I’ll have to interrupt my husband at work so he can Google it for me or wait until he returns home to log on for me so I can search for it myself. I feel childish and rather petty, seeking “permission” to use a computer or have a new app installed on my phone. But costing my marriage, my family, and certainly God’s glory for the sake of freely accessing the internet will never balance. I must know my sin.

I’m reminded of my sin, even as I experience changes in my daily minutiae, like figuring out a new way to locate a phone number. My sin is ever before me as I feel frustrated by these changes, however trivial. Then there are times when I feel victory as I see my almost-full cell phone battery from lack of use—and lack of temptation. My sin is before me when I’m quietly folding laundry and my brain starts to replay porn that I viewed five years ago. My sin is before me as I watch my husband spend two hours trying to correctly install web-filtering programs on our computers. Tenderly, my sin is before me when he hugs me afterward and tells me he loves me.

An hour after my missing-phone-number debacle, the dentist calls to confirm Wednesday’s appointment—like a nod from my heavenly Father that he sees my plight.

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)

 As a married woman—a pastor’s wife, at that—with a house full of preschoolers, I don’t much fit the “profile” of a porn-user. I have no history of abuse, and the only traumatic event I seek to escape is the tedious monotony of life on-call with preschoolers—diapers, laundry, dinner, dishes, repeat. Sometimes not fitting the stereotype can make me feel lonely, or exceptionally depraved. In those moments when I’m more responsive to God’s wisdom, I see it as a reminder of how desperate my heart is: no matter how orderly my life looks on the outside, I was born a sinner and a sinner I will be until Christ’s return.

As a married woman—a pastor’s wife, at that—with a house full of preschoolers, I don’t much fit the “profile” of a porn-user.

I didn’t date much in high school. I was painfully shy but constantly craved affirmation that I was good enough—pretty enough, smart enough, friendly enough. Motivated by curiosity and feeling some warped pressure to ‘keep up’, my first internet search for pornographic pictures occurred after hearing a fellow female classmate share that she missed having sex. I’d never even seen male genitalia and my research was a way to feel good enough, perhaps even prepared enough.

In college my curiosity morphed into intrigue. None of my friends dated much or seemed pressured to be in a relationship, while I felt plagued by loneliness. I discovered porn videos and in the solitude of my dorm room began fantasizing that I could be that woman in the videos—beautiful, desired, confident. Although I contemplated it, my resistance to sharing this new habit with anyone left me vulnerable and solitary. Praise God for his mercy, that he protected me from any harmful relationship in which my lonely heart would have undoubtedly sought affirmation in a man’s physical attention, rather than God’s perfect affection.

I met my now husband in my junior year of college. This led me into a prolonged season in which the internet wasn’t a temptation. He truly led me to desire a deeper relationship with God; beautifully the desire for affirmation elsewhere faded as I found it in this godly man and perfectly in God, Himself. As an engaged couple, we stumbled our way through a conversation about sexual histories and our desires and expectations for physical intimacy. I remember feeling deep shame creep over me as I shared pieces of my struggles, but what sweet, precious relief to yet again experience not only his forgiveness but my heavenly Father’s as well.

As newlyweds, we enjoyed—and struggled through, on occasion—our new physical freedom as husband and wife. I don’t remember feeling particularly tempted to find those old websites.  But that all changed when we began expecting our first child. That old context of loneliness resurfaced with no close workplace friends and my husband’s first pastoral position. Combine that with hormone surges from pregnancy and few defenses, I began to find new access to porn videos. My husband had just left for an overnight church retreat. I was alone. And then the old lies returned:  I’m not good enough…A good pastor’s wife wouldn’t look at porn…A good mom wouldn’t, either…Besides, no one would find me attractive, anyway…I’m not good enough.

As my pregnancy progressed, I had numerous frank conversations with my husband to build accountability and resistance to this sin. Hormones shifted, our baby was born, and we were thrust into that world of figuring out how to be parents. Busyness temporarily outweighed any room for temptation.

But in the swirl of acclimating to my new role as a mother, I never fully processed why I’d been tempted in the first place. I didn’t root out the reason why my husband’s affirmation was no longer sufficient for me. I didn’t confront my own lie that a pastor’s wife does not struggle like I did. I just assumed that, because these temptations went away on their own, I was “better” now.

Not surprisingly, when I was pregnant with baby #2, my struggle came roaring back. This time I found a website where women submitted their own pictures for comments and even re-postings. Never having dropped back to my pre-pregnancy weight after my first child and desperate for affirmation in spite of my growing belly from my second child, I submitted my own photo. Never mind that my husband showered me with compliments and sought my physical affection. Was I still desirable to others? After the initial thrill from that post faded, I was deeply ashamed. I sat in a Sunday service, fighting tears, knowing I just had to confess this to my husband, and that he’d be devastated. I was also fearful.  Could he be fired for this?  What was wrong with me? I remember a tearful conversation with him and lots of crying. Then I remember a season of waking early for time in the Word and prayer—something I’d never done before. All glory to the Holy Spirit for convicting me and enabling me to obey his leading!

“[A] broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17b)

 Oh, how I have been dreading writing this next part of my story.

I wish I had learned my lesson. I wish I had taken more time to pray, reflect, and see where these “triggers” came from, other than blaming pregnancy hormones. I wish I had remained vigilant, even when the temptations relented, to maintain internet filters and time restrictions on my computer and smartphone and more honest accountability check-ins with my husband. But how easily we forget!

I became pregnant with our next child and my husband accepted another ministry call, prompting us to move away from all that was familiar and stable. Cue again loneliness and fear of not being “good enough.” Again, I found virtual strangers to whom I could send photos of myself—more cheap insurance as I, the Homemaker and New Pastor’s Wife, sought affirmation from somewhere. I attended new church services, pushing forward, but feeling miserable.

Finally, I closed out my online accounts permanently—no more photos. I remember cold afternoons in our new backyard, reading my Bible and praying while my kids played. Slowly the temptation faded; slowly I rebuilt my relationship with the Lord. Significantly, I chose not to confess to my husband this time. Having nailed this online door shut to strangers, I felt it would cause more harm than good. Feeling almost noble, I bore my guilt alone, as if that were punishment enough for my crime.

It festered…until I couldn’t keep my secret anymore. My out-of-the-blue, terrifying-yet-impossible need to confess to my husband ended in another heartbreaking revelation. This one was even more difficult, because my sin had gone on for so long without him knowing. He felt lied to. It took weeks before our marriage felt “right” again; even then, shame would still creep up on me. Restoring my relationship with Christ was another uphill battle; I felt plagued, living a lie while serving in my home and my church.

My struggle continues. Usually I measure my life as ‘spiritually neutral’, distinguished by peaks of godly growth, cancelled out by valleys of sexual sin. Since my battles come and go, it’s easy to box them up, like a winter coat that gets put away when spring emerges. Satan’s lust for victory is never far away, like recently when I snuck off to send another photo to a website.  Enter yet another hard conversation with my husband and new internet restrictions and countless tears. No internet filter can heal my desperation for true spiritual healing.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12)

Each failure makes my marriage harder to restore. Yet, each failure reminds me again of my wicked heart that desperately needs to rely on Jesus. I could throw away my computer, but my wicked heart will still find a way to sin—even if only in my mind. My weapons for protection are still the same: prayer, regular Bible reading, tools like Sexual Sanity for Women, and Harvest USA’s Journeyers in Grace biblical support group. I’ve had both a recent failing and victory as well. One day I recognized my own loneliness before it could lead me to temptation by simply texting a friend to see how she was doing. I’ve pushed myself to serve high school girls at our church, instead of letting that “not good enough” feeling cripple me.

Each failure makes my marriage harder to restore. Yet, each failure reminds me again of my wicked heart that desperately needs to rely on Jesus.

While I may never be sin-free in this life, by God’s grace my sin will continue to fade as he is ever illuminated.

Editor’s note: In this article, we do not disclose our ministry recipient’s real name because she has chosen to remain anonymous.


To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness by Ellen Dykas. When you buy this book from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.

You can also watch Shalee Lehning’s video, How to Be a Person Who Welcomes Honesty, which corresponds to this blog.


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