Tag Archives: personal struggles

Is a Man Harmed by Looking at Pornography?

There are many today who would suggest that viewing pornography is a harmless recreational activity. Many men, including many Christian men, openly and secretly try to justify looking at the smorgasbord of pornography available on the Internet and video tape. The actual truth, however, is that viewing pornography harms a man in several significant ways.

First, looking at pornography affects how a man views women. Nude pictures and videos of women are degrading and dehumanizing. It portrays women as little more than sex objects to be used and discarded. Any man hooked by pornography is likely to develop disrespectful attitudes towards women.

Second, viewing pornography can turn into a sexual addiction. While it’s true that almost anything can turn into an addiction, the lure of pornography pulls a man in like little else does. Not every man who looks at pornography becomes addicted, but everyone who looks runs the risk. And the cost of a sexual addiction is high. As the addiction grows more and more out of control, it can wipe out a man’s job, his financial assets, his testimony, his peace, his family, his health, and even his freedom (James 1:14-15).

If a man is married, there are at least two additional implications to consider. First, looking at pornography violates the marriage covenant. Jesus said that a man who lusts after a woman commits adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Second, looking at pornography leads to an increasing distance between him and his wife. Lusting over sexually graphic images does not cause a married man to desire his wife more. It causes him to desire her less. He may not be drawn into an extramarital physical affair, but every time he fantasizes about having sex with other women, he creates distance from his wife in some way. His wife will sense the growing distance, which will cause problems. She may become angry or blame herself for the distance.

Rather than “spicing up” a married couple’s sex life and building intimacy, looking at pornography compromises the relationship and destroys intimacy. Viewing pornography will cause a man to crave more and more unrealistic sexual stimuli, which his wife won’t be willing or able to provide. Consequently, he will feel cheated and angry; she will feel used and inadequate, and they will grow further apart.

A single man is making a big mistake if he thinks that looking at pornography today will have no negative effect on his marriage in the future. Some single men even believe that getting married will end an affair with pornography, but it won’t. A man that is used to being sexually aroused by pornographic images often begins to crave it again once the novelty of marriage wears off. And the man who gives in to that craving not only violates the marital covenant, but also puts the marriage itself into serious jeopardy. To state it frankly, there are no redeeming attributes to pornography.

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How Can I Know If I’m Addicted to Pornography?

Pornography is a serious problem that is only getting worse. We live in a world of technology that some are taking full advantage of to make pornography more readily available than ever before. And as the pornographic industry continues to expand, more and more people are becoming enslaved to looking at sexually graphic images.

How can a person know if they’ve become trapped in an addiction to pornography? One of the surest signs is that you keep returning to something you know is wrong. If you have promised yourself over and over again that last time would be the last time — and it never is — then it’s likely that you’ve given yourself over to an activity that you believe you can’t live without.

A person who has become addicted to pornography will also identify with a number of the following statements:

  • I regularly seek out pornography.
  • I have an increasing need to view more pornography.
  • I have a pattern of spending large amounts of time looking forward to viewing pornography.
  • I shift between the extremes of feeling that my problem is either out-of-control or under control.
  • I’ve noticed a pattern of neglecting work, social, family responsibilities in order to view pornography.
  • I have a pattern of lying to conceal my struggle.
  • I have a pattern of breaking my promises to stop.
  • I have a pattern of minimizing the extent of my struggle.
  • I have suffered serious consequences as a result of looking at pornography such as financial debt or the loss of my marriage or job.

An addiction to pornography is a serious matter. The more you minimize it the more it will master you. If you suspect that you are addicted, stop kidding yourself. You can’t deal with this alone. You need to seek help. Let your secret out. At the very least, tell a “trusted” friend or wise pastor that you have a problem with pornography that feels out of control. Confiding in someone is scary for sure, but you have the assurance that “he conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

If you don’t consider yourself addicted to pornography, you should not assume that you can occasionally dabble in sexually graphic images. First, any watching of pornography, whether it occurs once or a thousand times, is wrong and harmful (See the ATQ article Is a Man Harmed by Looking at Pornography?). Second, anyone who lustfully looks at pornography is in danger of getting hooked.

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Is It Right for a Husband and Wife to View Pornographic Videos?

We live in a sexually charged culture where some would have us believe that it is acceptable and appropriate for a husband and wife to view pornographic videos. Most in this camp contend that couples watching tapes of other couples having sex can re-ignite dwindling passion and “spice up” a dull sex life.

Although some “training videos” may contain some practical information about the physical realities of sex, they cross a moral line by communicating that information with demonstrations of couples engaged in sexual activities. The strong sexual imagery in the Bible’s Song of Solomon illustrates God’s intention for a husband and wife to take great pleasure in viewing and touching each other’s bodies. Outside of marriage, however, such behavior is wrong. And it is wrong to view such an intimate act under the pretense of “sex education.”

Watching others (regardless of whether or not they are married) demonstrate various elements of the sexual act defiles and contaminates “the marriage bed” ( Hebrews 13:4 ). It’s one thing to read educational literature that objectively describes the various factors involved in the sex act. Thousands of engaged and married couples have benefited from reading books like Intended For Pleasure by Ed and Joy Wheat. But it’s another thing to view taped episodes of couples engaged in various forms of sexual activity. Common sense itself tells us that there is little, if any, objectivity in such “educational” voyeurism.

Whether it be one of the thousands of X-rated videos made each year, or one marketed as a “sex training” video, watching a tape of another man and woman having sexual intercourse ruins a married couple’s sex life. It is a prime example of something that may seem good, but is actually “deadly” ( Proverbs 14:12 ). Watching a videotape of another couple having sexual intercourse may initially inflame the interests and passions of the viewing couple. But in the end it leaves them with many misconceptions about sex that lead to false expectations, disappointment, self-doubt, and resentment.

Pornographic videos create unrealistic expectations about the frequency of sex, the pleasure of specific sexual acts, and the nature of a man’s and a woman’s sexual arousal and need for physical intimacy. Generally, they portray a woman as a sexual object that a man can quickly and easily “turn on” at his discretion. Furthermore, the participants are often digitally, cosmetically, or surgically enhanced, giving a false impression of what a man’s or a woman’s body should look like.

A husband and wife can’t possibly begin to measure up to the bedroom athletes (performers) they see on the screen, but there is an inherent pressure to do just that. Whether it’s acknowledged or not, a husband and wife who view sexually graphic scenes feel a strong pull to look like the actors and to imitate what they do. And when they can’t, many feel inadequate. Some feel resentful. A husband can ruin his relationship with his wife by coercing her into doing things that make her feel uncomfortable and cheap. If she refuses, she tends to feel guilty. If she concedes, she feels used, angry, and dirty.

Couples who have allowed pornography into the bedroom have learned that it keeps them constantly “charged up” looking for a sexual outlet. Sex is proper and normal in marriage, but it is not the dominant need. It is legitimately pleasurable, but people have a tendency to abuse everything pleasurable through inordinate indulgence ( Ephesians 4:19 ). Inordinate demands for physical intimacy and sexual stimuli are without doubt one of the most common killers of the emotional and spiritual intimacy that are the core of every good marriage. G. K. Chesterton wisely saw the end of such behavior: “Pride makes a man a devil; but lust makes him a machine.” Machines do not have good marriages.

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I’m a Christian, So Why Am I Unhappy?

Why am I having such a hard time being happy when, as a follower of Christ, I’ve got so much to be thankful for?

Yes, it’s true that we have so much to be thankful for. After all, God has given us salvation, forgiveness, love, and the promise of future paradise. Still, somewhere deep inside, is a nagging gloom and we wonder if our faith is weak because we aren’t happier with our lives.

But the sorrow is there, not because we’re doing something wrong, but because we live in a broken world; a place where we can’t experience all God has to offer us. It’s a sign to us that we were made for heaven, for eternity with God.

The apostle Paul tells us that we were created for far better things than this world has to offer. He writes:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).

And then again, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:2-6:

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”

Sometimes the yearning for God is too deep for words. We struggle to be happy, but we know that this place is contaminated with a sense of brokenness and futility. Working harder, doing better, serving longer, won’t take the edge off our sorrow. It lingers. And it won’t go away until the day our redemption is complete. Even our highest accomplishments feel pointless after awhile. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9). Nothing lasts here and nothing fully satisfies us.

The result of being claimed by God, but not yet living with Him, is sorrow. But not sorrow alone. It’s also mixed with anticipation. We eagerly anticipate being with our heavenly Father. We are cut off from our heavenly Father; not in a spiritual sense, but in the sense that, now, we can’t experience the total joy of living in His presence today. We’re adopted, but not yet living with our Abba Father. It’s like an abandoned child who’s been adopted but is still living in an orphanage, eagerly waiting for her new parents to embrace her and take her home. She lives with a yearning, a longing to be with her family. And so do we. We may not always be fully aware of how deeply we long for this, but we too anticipate being with our Father. The Holy Spirit comforts us, but until we’re fully redeemed, we live with an inner hunger that’s not completely satisfied.

For now, because of the discrepancy between God’s claim on us and living in a broken world, we’re frustrated, feeling out of sorts. This frustration, though, shouldn’t alarm us. It’s a sign of good things to come. When we realize that it’s natural to feel sad and dissatisfied and that we won’t be happy all the time, we can allow our groaning to be a sign of hope for great things to come, and we can allow it to draw us closer to our Lord. When we feel the groan of our soul, we can find comfort knowing that we will someday see our Lord and Savior face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

It’s the person who is oblivious to this alienation in nature and within us, this endless cycle of decay, who is in greater danger than the one who’s painfully aware of this separation from God. The unaware person sees this frustration as grounds for despair and he may live his life trying to quiet his groaning through sex, relationships, money, work, or any kind of pleasure. But he finds that there is nothing here on this earth that can reach down far enough into his soul and fulfill him. At that point he has a choice—to recognize his longing as a sign of better things to come, or deny the groaning in his heart and continue his futile effort to have paradise now.

It’s natural to feel unhappy from time to time. But this is good news, because this burden or groaning fuels our hope and lets us know that God intends to make everything right. It reminds us that nothing material in this world can satisfy us. God Himself satisfies us (Psalm 90:14; 103:2-5; 107:9). Given that fact, Christians can use their longings to draw them closer to God and further away from the flesh. God will free us from the slavery of corruption and completely restore us.

Let’s not stress over the pangs of loneliness and sadness when they invade our hearts, but let us have joy because we know that far better things are in store for us. Through the sufferings of this world, we become more like God’s son, Jesus (James 1:1-4).

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How Can I Go on Living When I Feel Like I Want to Die?

When the cares of life overwhelm us, it might seem easier to wish for death than to face the struggle. If you are hurting and trying to find a way out, please read on, for there is hope for you!

God knows your pain. He knows your doubts and fears. He knows that you have difficulties and that you even question Him.

A follower of Christ named Paul (who wrote much of the Bible’s New Testament) also struggled with circumstances to the point of losing hope. In 2 Corinthians 1 , he told the church of Corinth that he had suffered greatly while in Asia. He said that he and a friend named Timothy were “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,so that we despaired even of life” (v.8). Paul too was in despair!

But the story does not end there. He went on to say that “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (v.9).This emotional struggle, this hopelessness that Paul felt, caused him to rely on God even more. He saw more clearly how much he needed God through this dark hour in his life.

You may not be where Paul was when he wrote those words. You may be in the middle of a storm and you may be wondering if you are going to make it. You may even be questioning God’s presence in your life. Your story, however, like Paul’s, doesn’t have to end in despair. It is in the midst of the most desperate moments of your life that you too can call on the Lord and He will hear you.

Is it possible that instead of reaching out to the Lord, you have been using god-substitutes to avoid taking care of your real needs? Most of us do that from time to time. We find creative ways of drowning our sorrows and dulling our pain. We are often tempted to use sex, food, materialism, drugs, alcohol, shopping — anything to try and make the pain go away. When nothing seems to work, depression can set in. Depression is sometimes an internal decision to shut down and a refusal to deal with the difficult struggles of life. This kind of depression usually results from a series of failed attempts to deal with some painful circumstances or difficult relationships in one’s life. The feeling of a depressed person is often, “No matter how much I try, I am powerless to change the things that mean the most to me. I quit! Nothing works. I give up!” It is at this point that some think about ending their life. You are not alone in feeling as you do.

So how do we work through these deeply painful and frightening times? I believe it is when we admit that we are at the end and can’t make it on our own. God will comfort us in our grief, sorrow, and disappointments. He will reveal Himself to us and show us mercy ( Matthew 5:4,6 ).

Some experiences in your life may make you hesitant to reach out to the Lord for help. But, if you trust God with your pain, He can begin to show you that you have purpose and significance. You were created for a higher purpose, which is to worship your Creator and to find your hope and strength in Him.

If you continue to struggle with thoughts of suicide, seek help from a skilled counselor, your pastor, or a trusted friend. Your feelings may not change overnight, but you can begin to act in faith and take actions that will lead to a healthy perspective on life.

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