On the 14th of May, Cru held a webinar on “Covid-19 Conversations: Dealing with Temptations (Porn on the Internet)”, the third in its series of special webinars with distinguished speakers to provide a platform for you to ask questions, receive counsel and be discipled during an unprecedented time of our lives.
I'll always remember the day I told my father about my struggle with pornography.
I remember sitting on the sofa with him, looking down at my fingers, anxiously picking at the cushions, barely able to choke out the words: “I’ve been struggling with temptation.” He listened quietly.
It was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life – yet one of the most necessary. I had given myself over to sexual sin long enough, and I wanted out.
I know I am not alone; masturbation and pornography continues to remain a big issue for many Christians, especially among young people. Too many of us know those shameful days spent in the dark, doors shut, alone and unaccountable for.
Normally we might try and curb it by going out more, surrounding ourselves with people and just putting it out of our minds. However, now with the circuit breaker measures in place, this is not as easy an option. The doors are held shut, and the temptation may feel at times like too much to bear.
So what can we do?
These are the issues dealt with by Dr Josh McDowell, renowned apologist and author, and Dr Valentino Gonzales, Academic Dean of the School of Counselling and Singapore Bible College, during Cru’s third COVID-19 Conversation.
How does the circuit breaker pose a greater risk?
Dr Gonzales, tapping on his experience as a counsellor to many who have struggled with pornography addiction, drew several links between the circuit breaker and increased porn usage:
Why do we slip back into porn?
Often, in spite of our best efforts and firm resolve to “love Jesus and stop”, we find ourselves falling back into temptation.
McDowell, from his home in California, explained why this is the case, and shared seven steps we have to take in order to live pure and stay pure.
1. Destroy the source.
Where are you accessing pornography? Whatever the source – be it your smartphone, computer, or even Netflix – if uncontrolled and unmonitored, will definitely cause a relapse, says McDowell. This may mean using apps like Blocksite and Covenant Eyes to restrain ourselves from sinning (Job 31:1).
2. Don’t go it alone.
Who’s in your corner? Often, because of shame or pride (often both), we try to go it alone, wanting to bear our own burdens.
But that was never God’s design for us. In the Scriptures, the phrase “one another” or “each other” appear over 200 times! We are to look to other people for comfort (2 Cor. 13:11), encouragement (1 Thess. 5:11) and healing (James 5:16).
Find a reliable group of friends or a mentor. Be accountable.
3. Decide decisively that you want to stop.
Just like Daniel, who “resolved not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8), we cannot sit on the fence. Or, as some might say, “Do or do not do. There is no try.”
Unless we set our faces like flint (Isa. 50:7) and make ourselves willing to do whatever it takes to live a life free from porn, no matter how uncomfortable it may be (and it will be uncomfortable), we will slip back into it.
4. Deal with the deeper pain.
More often than not, pornography itself is not the main problem – it’s a way of relieving the deeper wounds and hurts in our life. Curbing our porn usage alone will not address the root issue.
Until we can directly address these areas of brokenness with a trusted friend or mentor (preferably one with some training in this area), we will find ourselves slipping back once the pain crops up again.
5. Discover the brain science behind it.
From experience, pornography can seem like a ‘big bad’; an unknowable, mysterious sin. However, it’s not an unfathomable mist; it’s brain science – defined, understandable and predictable.
Just like a war commander seeks intelligence on enemy strategies, we should too; if we know our enemy, we know how to defeat it (Provers 20:18). Learn about the neural pathways that make porn so addictive and understand the triggers that prompt the behaviour.
6. Discern God’s original design for sex.
As Paul says, our own efforts to stop sinning through willpower and self-denial “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23). Why? Because porn feels good. Why? Because sex, within its proper confines, is a good gift from God meant to be enjoyed.
This is why it is so important to get yourself a positive, healthy, biblical view of sexuality. When we know what sex is, what God intended it to be, the meaning and joy behind it, then we can better identify pornography as the counterfeit, cheapened experience; glory exchanged for images (Rom. 1:23).
7. Douse yourself in Christ’s presence.
The Psalmist says, “I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Ultimately our ability to overcome porn is by walking in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). This means constant communication through prayer (even over the smallest things), and consciously “practising the presence of Christ”. In McDowell’s words:
“When you’re conscious of Christ’s presence, moment in and moment out, and quoting the Word, porn becomes much stranger in your thinking and your lifestyle.”
When the light of Christ shines brighter, the more we see the ugliness of porn, the less we want anything to do with it (1 John 1:5-7).
Proactively killing sin
Dr Gonzales stressed the need for intentionality in our fight against pornography; clear, simple decisions have to be made to actively prevent it, instead of simply responding to it whenever it arises.
He will fight for you
As someone who is still on the road to recovery from pornography, I find myself so grateful for the faithful ministry of people like Dr McDowell and Dr Gonzales. If there’s anything I’ve learnt since that first difficult night when I decided to become accountable, it’s that we cannot walk this road alone.
And we are not alone. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the whole body of Christ, “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped” (Eph. 4:16), to keep us from sin.
More than that, we have Christ Himself. As Dr Gonzales said to conclude the session:
“He is here! He is with you; He is inviting you to join with Him and to struggle [alongside] you. But you need to be vulnerable to Him. You need to be open to follow what He tells you to do. You cannot say, ‘I want to follow God but I want to do it my way.’ He is here all along, He is walking alongside you.”
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