“No more _____.” I wrote this across the top of the January page of the following year’s calendar on New Year’s Eve approximately 20 years ago. I didn’t fill in the blank, but I knew what it stood for. It stood for something that had held me bound for about 15 years since I was 11 years old. It stood for something that I had let become my safe place since my dad’s death at the same age. It stood for something I despised, and had countless times tried to stop.
But this time, I was convinced. I would be done with it. I had my fill and was disgusted with myself. So, I vowed that New Year’s Eve–for the 1,576,382nd time–that I was done with the habit of masturbation. This time would be different. I just knew it. I would be steadfast in my resolve. Unfortunately, that New Year’s resolution didn’t make it past January of that year.
And so it went. I continued to stumble over this sin (the Lord showed me that for me, this was sin) for the next several years, even as a recent Bible college graduate involved in several ministries.
One evening at church, my pastor preached about a character I had never heard of–Hazael (2 Kings 8). Essentially, the Lord sent Hazael to Elisha to get a Word from the Lord for his king. God gave a Word through Elisha, but also gave a word to Hazael. Elisha prophesied to Hazael of the future sin he would commit. Hazael did not respond with humility. Instead, he stated, “Am I dog that I would ever do such a thing?” Well, as the Bible records, Hazael ended up doing what was prophesied.
During this message, the Lord showed me my masturbation would lead to other things if I didn’t stop. I wish I could say I responded differently than Hazael.
Stepping Stones and Rock Bottom
My heart became hardened as I ignored the conviction. Within less than two weeks I became involved in my first anonymous sexual encounter. That encounter led to approximately nine more years of stumbling over masturbation, porn, and countless more anonymous encounters. And it all started with the “innocent” habit of masturbation.
For many, masturbation is addictive and a coping mechanism. For those who say this isn’t true for them, I would argue it’s still not God’s plan for sexuality. I believe it should be avoided. If you’re reading this and even questioning it, then it is likely that the Holy Spirit may be trying to pinpoint this area of your life to bring you into true freedom.
I am happy to say that I am off of the cycle of continually vowing to stop masturbating. In a short month, it will be 11 years since I engaged in it.
The difference did not come in “white knuckling it,” trying harder, or making more vows. The difference came when I finally hit rock bottom and cried out to Jesus, willing to do whatever it took.
Thankfully, Jesus led me to the right resources to lead me into freedom. Like the old Chinese proverb says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
The Right Resource to Find Freedom
What did it take? Well, for me it took a willingness to submit myself to counseling for several years. It took me humbling myself and sharing my struggle, and being accountable every day in this area for over two years.
It also took me allowing people to connect with me. I was looking for true connection, not an orgasm. An orgasm is the easy way out. Being truly relational takes real risk and hard work, and as painful as it was, God helped me to do it.
Many people on this journey want to continue trying it on their own. My question would be, “How has that worked out for you so far?” For the most part, God uses someone to present us with the gospel. Our journey continues the way it started. He uses people. It’s not just God we need, and it’s not just man we need. We need both on our journey. If it weren’t so, scripture would not be full of admonitions such as, “Exhort one another daily,” and “Forsake not the assembling together of yourselves.”
Freedom didn’t just come in learning to be relational with other people. I also learned how to be relational with myself in healthy ways. I learned to be intimate with Jesus. I spent hundreds of hours at His feet crying out and asking Him to meet me in the place of my heart that caused me to go after my sin. He faithfully met me. I have found Him and His provision enough.
Your journey to freedom may not look exactly like mine. But I have no doubt it won’t be a complete journey without taking many relational risks and inviting others into this area of your heart. Our sexually addictive behavior is really about an unmet relational need. Unmet needs don’t just go away. They manifest themselves in ways they were never intended to.
Let’s allow Jesus and the body of Christ do what God intended all along. Let’s risk laying down our coping mechanisms, and understand that He is our shield. Jesus and His ways are more than enough.