11 minute read

“Why Doesn’t God Help Me Overcome Porn for Good?”

Last Updated: May 24, 2018

Jim Rose

Rev. J.E. (Jim) Rose is an ordained minister, licensed professional counselor, and certified clinical supervisor. He is a staff counselor at Covenant Eyes and specializes in sexual addictions and the unique needs of clergy and other professional caregivers. He is also the Director of Nehemiah Ministries, a 160-acre retreat and counseling center in south-central Michigan for pastors and missionaries.

You’ve tried everything to deal with your porn struggle. You’ve read all the right books, listened to the podcasts, maybe even talked to a counselor. You studied passages in the Bible about freedom from sin and prayed God would remove it from you.  There may have been times it seemed like you were winning. You would go days, or even weeks without looking. This gave you confidence and renewed your hope. It even made you feel closer to God.

But then it happened. Out of the blue you were blindsided by a wave of temptation and a collapse that set you back further than you were before. It’s been hard enough to deal with the personal disappointment in yourself. What has been hardest of all is the disappointment with God. Why did he let this happen to you? You were doing so well, reading your Bible more than ever, praying with great confidence. Now, it’s like he doesn’t even exist.

As a counselor for 35 years I have heard this story more times than I can count. It’s been my own story. Likely it’s yours also. Why doesn’t God seem to help us when we ask? Why do our prayers for victory go seemingly unanswered? Here are five answers to consider when you find yourself questioning God’s timing.

Why Won't God Help Me Overcome Porn for Good?

Never Doubt in the Dark What God Has Revealed in the Light

I’m not sure who made up this phrase, but it has been a good reminder to me over the years when prayers go unanswered and God seems far away. It wasn’t always this way. Even a little bit of historical reflection brings back earlier days when God did answer prayer and when God did seem close by. So, which is true? During seasons of isolation it’s easy to tell ourselves, “God has never been there for me. He never hears my prayer. How do I really know his promises are true?” But we didn’t think that way before. This is why we must never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light.

Practically speaking, one way to deal with “dark-doubt” is to make sure we keep track of God’s blessings in the “light.” I have come to see journaling as an essential part of recovery for my clients. The best is a prayer journal that recounts both the blessings and disappointments. It doesn’t have to be long. Entries don’t have to be eloquent. But a journal can be a good way to remember God’s faithfulness in the past, especially when he seems far away in the present.

Related: My Prayers for Purity Don’t Seem to Work–What’s Missing?

Remember God’s Timetable Is Always Different From Ours

Brace yourself for a hard truth, but one you will have heard before. It’s mentioned many times in the Bible, particularly when God’s people are struggling with “delays” of prayer. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “God is not slow to fulfill his promises as others are…” This is a true statement, but it doesn’t necessarily make us feel any better. Even though Peter said just before this: “for with the Lord a thousand years are like a day.” It may be so for God, but what about us? We can’t wait a thousand years for our answer!

So, it is interesting what Peter said after this, “The Lord is not slow to keep his promises as some are slow but is patient with us, not willing that any should perish” (3:9). Yes, God’s timetable for answers to your pleading prayers is different from yours. And while it seems to you like the urgency of your struggle demands an immediate change, God’s eternal perspective and his infinite character say otherwise. It’s hard for us to believe. But the Bible is unmistakable in the truth: God is good. And all things in our lives are working together for his good purpose to be accomplished—in his timing, not ours (Romans 8:28,29).

Admit and Confess Your Real Feelings to God

So, we (reluctantly) admit that God’s timing is not ours and (reluctantly) submit to it. “Okay, God. You obviously have a plan I can’t figure out. But I still don’t like it!” Is that bad? I find in my work with suffering Christians who are dealing with disappointments and failures that they at some point have to deal with their anger at God. Some are aware of how unanswered prayers have left them disappointed with God, feeling like he is not fulfilling his promises, leaving them hurt and even angry. But very few want to admit that. It may be crystal clear to others how angry they are. But they refuse to admit it.

Related: Faith Leaders–When We Blame Lust, We Intensify Sexual Sin

I am thinking of specific ways some of my clients have acted out their anger—even while refusing to acknowledge it exists. One of the most common is their personal devotions. They stop reading the Bible at some point, maybe stop praying. The excuse is they don’t have time. But the reality is, they are seeking revenge on a God who seems to have abandoned them. In other cases, they begin acting out in church—perhaps sitting in the back row instead of where they used to be up front. Maybe they refuse to sing the hymns. Or they just stop going altogether.

All these are serious problems. But the best solution is to admit and confess their real feelings to God, instead of pretending all is well. As a specialist in clergy counseling this is particularly challenging for those in professional ministry or church leadership. They too often feel angry at God. They too are reluctant to admit it.

Notice, however I not only said, “admit” but also “confess.” What probably keeps a lot of us from venting our anger at God is the implicit understanding that God is God! It’s reasonable to be a bit fearful of shaking our fists at the Sovereign of the universe. But God is actually big enough to handle our emotions. That doesn’t mean we can continue in our anger for along time, however. That’s why I said “admit” it. It’s not right to be angry at God. It isn’t right not to trust his goodness and his timing. But we can confess our anger and doubt and then we are on a better footing to really know his heart.

Consider Recalibrating Your Recovery

A fourth answer is that maybe the problem is not with God but with your recovery plan. I’m a firm believer in accountability partners, especially when dealing with some kind of sexual struggle. However, not all accountability relationships are effective. While we may assume that God is letting us down in our struggle, maybe what’s really going on is a dysfunctional accountability relationship. This is what I mean by recalibrating your recovery.

I have a different take on accountability relationships than many counselors and will just mention it here. But I suspect God designed accountability to focus on those with authority over us, perhaps more than our peers or best friends. I’m not opposed to being accountable to peers or friends, but my experience tells me those are not the best ones primarily because they have limited consequences when we fail. The examples of accountability relationships in the Bible typically involve submitting to those in positions of authority. If you are struggling in a stalled recovery, perhaps God is not the one who let you down. Maybe it’s your accountability relationship.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Christian Accountability Fails

Realize There May Be a Bigger Picture at Play

Mental health professionals are familiar with the term “cognitive reframing.” I won’t take time to explain it if you have never heard it before. You can look it up online if you’re interested. But simply it means to see a new meaning for something by focusing on a different point of view. This “point of view” is the “frame” in “cognitive reframing.” For us that means we need to see God’s bigger purpose and plan—need to try and view our suffering and circumstances from his eternal perspective rather than our own.

Many years ago I heard a wonderful illustration of this process and I’ll close with it. Imagine you are a rock climber, perilously hanging from a rope, standing on some jagged outcroppings, but unable to see more than a few feet above your head. It is very easy to wonder if you’ll ever get to the top. In fact, it’s tempting to doubt you’ll ever be safe again. But let’s say you are blest to have a friend waiting for you at the summit. He has climbed this rock successfully and knows every handhold and crag. And let’s also say that friend and you are in radio contact. At this very moment, the friend can see you even though you can’t see him. He assures you through the radio that you are almost at the top. You have only a few feet to go. And then, you’ll be home free.

Is it possible that this is what is happening in your life right now? You feel like you’ll never be free. You imagine the worst things happening. But God is your “best friend” and he’s at the summit, having already climbed it successfully. He is speaking (through his word): “You are almost at the top! Don’t worry, there are only a few feet to go.”

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  • Comments on: “Why Doesn’t God Help Me Overcome Porn for Good?”
    1. Brian Hoerning on

      Dear Jim, I know you are trying to help, but, I want to say this in the kindest way – you are not helping. I am the guy you are talking about -saved at a young age and also abused at about the same time. I gave my life to Christ over and over and I talked to pastors and counselors from my teens all the way through my 50’s and it was always the same story and no one ever gave me an answer that worked. My recovery came about as a result of the 12-Step program, which originally was based, as I’m sure you know, on a Bible study called The Oxford Group. The 12-Steps three keys to recovery are Faith, Grace, and Community, but they go deeper – the first 3 steps get us right with God as we accept that we can’t and that He can and does. We are saved and recover by faith through grace, but the missing part for me was that this only works in community. It was not until Bill W and Dr. Bob met and shared their stories with each other that they were able to stop drinking. This community is not an accountability partner – it is a group and a sponsor who all walk in the same shoes. The 12 steps (steps 4-8) get us (through God’s grace) allow us to get right with ourselves and steps 8-9 allow us through God’s grace to get right with others. This is sanctification in action! Steps 10-11 allow us to continue to grow with God and others and step 12 comes full circle in that we can now share with others what God has done for us.

      Reply
    2. Giovanni Velazquez on

      Hi I’m been struggling with pron and I want to stop but I don’t know how. I’m tired and overwhelmed, I love God and I want follow him and do great things for his kingdom. It’s like my heart doesn’t want to let go but at sometime it does. So I pray and pray but nothing. I want to listen God’s voice but my heart ignore him and I listen to temptation but want to stop I want to change for good I want a heart that listens to him and not temptation I want to see and feel the way God’s seems in sexual sin I’m tired but just don’t know how to stop and I want a new heart, I want God to awaken my spirit, I want to open my eyes.

      Reply
      • Moriah Dufrin on

        Hi Giovanni,

        Thank you for being open with your struggles and expressing your desire to change. Do you have an ally? This could be a friend, relative, church leader, mentor…anyone who you can hold you accountable to your recovery and talk to you frequently about how you are doing. I would also encourage you (if you haven’t already) to join a church. A church body will encourage you, guide you, and provide a safe place for you to worship God and heal.

        I am praying for you! Keep fighting the good fight.
        Blessings,
        Moriah

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