I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Even though pornography is not a source of lasting satisfaction, guys who view it usually do so because they're looking to fill a deep need. Pornography is a cheap substitute for what they're really seeking intimacy.

Intimacy means being known inside and out and being loved for who you are. Because God designed us for relationships, he made us with a hunger for intimacy. But being known that well is scary, because it makes us vulnerable. So we go searching for intimacy in less threatening places. Pornography is one of them.

Even if pornography portrayed accurate images of women (and it doesn't), it still only offers an image not a real person. For many guys, an image is easier to relate to than a young woman with a heart, mind and emotions. An image has no expectations. You don't have to impress an image or deal with any of the awkwardness that comes with relating to a real person.

In his book False Intimacy, Dr. Harry Schaumburg explains how pornography becomes a substitute for real relationships. €œFor the sex addict, each external sexual act is a desperate attempt to be involved in a relationship without being truly known and having to take the risks involved in developing real intimacy. €

Face it. We are all imperfect people. Ever since Adam and Eve messed up in the garden, we have had to deal with shortcomings and disappointments in relationships. The temptation of pornography is to bypass the effort involved in building a relationship between two imperfect people. Porn gives guys a chance to fantasize about perfect people and helps them to forget about their own imperfections. This was something that enticed Brad.

Looking back on his struggle, a recent college graduate named Brad could see how pornography tried to fill his need for intimacy with a lie. €œThat lie tried to convince me that intimacy can be found in pornography, and it can be just as fulfilling if not better than a real relationship. I was drawn to attach my intimacy, emotion and personal desires to a piece of paper or a computer screen. € Using pornography as a shortcut to intimacy can cause men to develop a fear of true intimacy despite deep loneliness, they're not able to give their hearts to real women.

The road to freedom

Often it's easier to get into a world of fantasy images than it is to get out. Those who are stuck on the porn roller coaster may vow to jump off after they have bottomed out, but then find themselves thinking about the next high and not wanting to get off quite yet.

Porn promises intimacy and satisfaction, but leaves guys empty and searching for more. The good news is we don't have to search endlessly. Jesus Christ knows our desires and is able to fill them perfectly with His love. If you don't already have a personal relationship with Him, talk to a pastor or wise Christian adult to ask how you can begin this relationship.

What's more, God has a plan for you that's good. He's not anti-sex; in fact, it was his idea in the first place. He created sex to be the deepest physical expression of intimacy between a man and woman. God is excited about sex and he wants us to experience pure sexual fulfillment in the way that He planned. Unfortunately, pornography damages our sexuality, not to mention the mental and emotional parts of us. Pornography isn't wrong because God wants to kill our fun. It's wrong because our loving Heavenly Dad wants to protect us from porn's damaging effects and keep us pure. When we guard our hearts and minds, we can enter joyfully into marriage the exclusive place God created for sexual expression and true intimacy.

In order to experience sex as God designed it, we need to be walking the road of purity. No matter what you've been involved in up to this point, God is ready and waiting to help you get back on that road. To get there, you've got to make a serious commitment to restoration and a new life. This kind of commitment has three key components: confession, accountability and mental transformation.

Confession

The Bible tells us that €œIf we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness € (1 John 1:9). No matter how dirty, broken and worthless we feel, God can and will restore our purity. Confession means admitting that we've done wrong, agreeing with God that it is sin and deciding to turn around and do the right thing from now on.

King David was known as €œa man after God's own heart. € But even David sinned sexually and got caught in the trap of his actions. (See 2 Samuel 11-12.) He had an affair with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to try to cover up his wrongdoing. Once David was confronted with his sin, he was heartbroken. Psalm 51 demonstrates his anguish and shows how he opened his heart before God and pleaded for restoration. Grab your Bible and read his words as a prayer of confession for your own life.

€œCreate in me a pure heart, O God €¦ € (Psalm 51:10).

God didn't ignore David's confession. In fact, Psalm 32 tells the rest of the story: €œ €¦ I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, €˜I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' and you forgave the guilt of my sin € (Psalm 32:5). If God forgave and cleansed David, He will forgive and cleanse you too!

Accountability

Consuming pornography is a private sin, so the temptations are greater when you're alone. For that reason, it is important to surround yourself with godly friends who will build you up and support you in your efforts to be pure.

€œAccountability is the key to breaking the chains of pornography, € explains Brad. €œWhat helped me the most was being able to share my struggles with someone else. It was difficult at first, but gradually it became easier. It finally reached the point that I was comfortable with sharing everything, and Satan's game plan was thwarted. He relied on shame and guilt to keep me feeling that I was in a unique situation with no way out. By exposing his lies to the light by being accountable I was able to start down the road to recovery. €

Here we meet Johnny, yet another guy who found freedom from pornography. Johnny grew up with an alcoholic father and longed for a real relationship with him. Pornography gave him the appearance of intimacy and adventure but always left him longing for more. Johnny says accountability relationships were key in his recovery as well. €œI sought out guys who were strong in this area and asked them to check up on me. I looked for one guy who was my age and then found an older man who had a lot of wisdom and life experience. As I grew to realize that God could meet my needs for intimacy better than porn could, my accountability partner would constantly remind me to keep my €˜God cup' filled. €

Online Accountability: In addition to personal accountability, take advantage of €œvirtual accountability. € Several companies provide technology to reduce online temptations including Internet service that is filtered before it comes into your home. For a more complete list of filtered services, check out www.filterreview.com.

Counseling: If you have found that confession and accountability efforts are not adequately addressing your struggle, you should consider professional counseling. A counselor can be like a physical trainer offering steady encouragement and professional insight for tackling problems. Most important, a counselor can help you address underlying issues such as family trauma that may be woven into your struggle.

Focus on the Family has a staff of counselors available for you. Each one is a Christian who is a licensed therapist. You can reach them by calling 719-531-3400 weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. (MST). You should ask for the counselor's assistant. This one-time counseling service is available at no cost to you. Our staff may also be able to help you find a professional counselor in your region who can provide more in-depth and long-term help.

Mental transformation

The ongoing battleground in a world saturated with sexual images is your thought life. You will be confronted with sexual images. The enemy will place lustful thoughts in your mind. You will have relapses and remember images you have seen in the past. But you don't have to dwell on those thoughts.

One way you can reduce the temptation is to cut back on the number of €œgateway images € you expose yourself to. As Clay pointed out, his struggle was with mainstream stuff: TV, movies, magazines and music. If you know that a particular sitcom causes your mind to wander to sexual fantasies, it's time to cut it off. When Johnny realized that his temptation was to channel surf late-night television for sexual images, he resolved to no longer watch TV after 10 P.M.

Second Timothy 2:22 says €œFlee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. € Reading that passage, Johnny was reminded that it wasn't enough for him to just avoid temptation, he needed to pursue righteousness. This includes working actively to replace sexual images in your mind with more wholesome thoughts.

€œFinally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things € (Philippians 4:8).

It is also essential to replace selfish and lustful thoughts about women with a Godly view of love. Brad describes how his thought life had become dominated with lustful thoughts about women he met and talked with: €œI would look at a woman, undress her in my mind and then complete my fantasy. These women were completely unaware of what I was doing. After all, this can happen anywhere the mall, at work, even at church. And all of this takes place with complete disregard for the woman. € In contrast, Paul's description of love offers a higher view that transcends lust:

€œLove is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres € (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).

Brad came to understand that to get rid of these wrong ideas about women and love, he needed to restructure his time and thoughts: €œYou have to replace the deceptive images with positive ones. When I was deeply involved in pornography, it was not uncommon for me to spend three, four, even five hours on the Internet. When I was finished, it seemed that I had only been online for a hour or so. Once I began to break free from the porn, the next question I had to answer for myself was, €˜How do I fill this time the time I used to spend engulfed in pornography with productive alternatives?'

€œI began to invest in relationships, get into God's Word, seek Him in prayer, and step out of the mold that pornography had cast me in. Sometimes I didn't want to put forth the effort, but to come to a complete healing, it was something I had to do. So I began to reach out to others, read more, pray more and talk more. My emphasis shifted from myself to the people around me, and I began to care again. I noticed that I was much less susceptible to lust when I was actively pursuing relationships with others. It was a hard road to travel, but the alternative was literally destroying me, and I was determined that I was going to make it. €

Although it is difficult in today's culture to avoid suggestive images, you can avoid the consequences of giving in to their pull. By committing to a high standard of purity and setting up an accountability structure, you can avoid the emptiness and frustration that comes with a secret porn habit. If you have already been drawn in by pornography's lies, there is hope and healing for you. Now is the time to allow God to erase the images of your past and to recast you in His image.

Adapted from the booklet In Your Face, In Your Mind by Stephen O. Watters. Copyright © 2000 Focus on the Family.