If God loves us so much He will not leave us the way we are, how does that work to transform people? Are we left once again with the need to just work a lot harder in order to be a lot better? Does the quality of the relationship the Trinity has gifted to us make any difference when it comes to human weakness? Does God offer something radically different, or nothing more than another religious recipe to follow? Religion offers humanity a lot of different answers to these tough questions, but ultimately the answers boil down to what we need to do more of or less of in order to achieve some state of perfection. Achieving our desired state of bliss is dependent upon the strength of the will inside of the person practicing that religious recipe. But, what do you do when where you desperately need to go requires a will you do not have? Have you ever asked yourself, “Can anything help me when I can’t stop myself from doing the things I know I don’t want to do anymore? Can Jesus?”
Ken asked me that very question. Ken is not a real person but a composite of all the very real men I’ve pastored through the years, who have struggled with weakness, and have asked me that question in some form. Ken grew up in an unhappy home which produced an insecure, unhappy young man. At a very early age he stumbled into pictures of naked women, hidden away in his dad’s closet. Of course, dad had them “for the articles”. The images he saw increased his heart rate, made him feel happy in ways he didn’t feel in his home, and to top it all off the pictures were cool. His parents thought they would “help” him as he grew into a young man. They knew he probably would end up looking at pin-up girls anyway, and they preferred that if he was going to look that he do it in the safety of their own home. They bought Ken his first Hustler magazine. That pretty much did him in. Ken became addicted to images that made him feel a little more alive, a little better about his own insecurity, and a whole lot more buzzed than anything else going on in his unhappy life.
In college, Ken became a follower of Jesus. He loved the freedom from the guilt and the shame that he felt inside. It was great to be forgiven. It was great to know God loved Him no matter what, even as he struggled. He really wanted to stop, but he couldn’t stop himself. He thought he should be able to just stop his problem because he’d been taught that, “stopping is what truly godly people know how to do.” His inability to stop led to great frustration, and his great frustration led him to take his problem underground as a buried secret. For years he endured an unrelenting cycle: he would stop, he would start, he would feel horrible, he would swear he’d never do it again, and on and on. If he could have snapped his fingers and get rid of his weakness, he would have done it, but he couldn’t stop. One day his wife caught him looking at images online, and that began the painful and embarrassing journey of telling her everything. After spilling his guts he asked his wife, “Can God actually free me from this madness that I cannot bring myself to quit?”
Have you ever been, or are you now, in that very same place? Please don’t read about Ken and think, “Porn is not my problem.” Ken’s problem may not be your specific problem, but where are you weak in becoming who you really want to be? Do you find yourself unable to do what you really long to do, and unable to move in positive directions your will cannot seem to take you? Maybe you’re killing pain consuming more stuff that you really don’t need.. Maybe you’re escaping reality by drinking, or using over the counter drugs even when you know your chosen method of escaping reality is making reality worse. Maybe you’re watching too much TV, eating too much, spending too much of your time at work, or living a secret life that’s getting harder to hide.
Many of us struggle with certain irresistible, repeated, irrational impulses we call compulsions. Compulsive habits are what human beings do to provide some pleasurable escape, some numbing from pain, or some sense of feeling just a little more in control of their lives. They are the activities we continue to engage in even when the thing we’re doing to numb our pain is creating even more pain. It is the activity we know we need to stop, and maybe even want to stop, but on our own we can’t. What compulsion is defeating you right now?