Sarah woke up from a deep sleep at 3 AM and realized that her husband wasn’t in bed, so she got up to see if he was okay. She was not prepared for what she saw next. Her husband of 27 years, who she respected as a godly man, was sitting in front of their home computer in some sort of “trance” while looking at the most sexually graphic pictures that she had ever seen. “Mark,” she shouted! “What are you doing?” Mark was shocked to see her, but then looked up into the confused eyes of his wife and sobbed out, ‘I don’t know.’
Sadly this sort of scene is played out every single day in Christian homes. The research shows that there are over 1,000 ‘adult’ pornographic sites added to the internet every week, which are readily available to anyone surfing the web looking for a quick sexual thrill. Sexual addiction is a huge problem in Christian circles. The Christian Men’s group ‘Promise Keepers’ recently did a confidential survey and discovered that 62% of men attending their stadium events listed lust as their number one life problem. Ministries Today magazine reported that 29 % of men who regularly attend church believe that they have a sexual addiction.
This type of struggle is not new. Thousands of years ago the leader of Israel was a man named Samson. You may remember that the bible teaches us in Judges 14 that he was physically stronger than any other man who ever lived, yet would often struggle with the temptation toward sexual behavior with prostitutes and eventually was seduced into captivity by Delilah. He had seen God work miracles in his life; he had been raised in a godly home by godly parents; he knew the ways of the Lord, and although he was by far the strongest man on the battlefield, he never had any strength or victory over his lustful eyes.
Think of it! The strongest man who ever lived was no match for the sexual temptations of his culture. Could the same reasons that plagued Samson thousands of years ago still be the reasons why so many strong men still fall into this addictive area? Let’s look at some of the main issues that led to Mark’s struggle to discover the answers.
The dictionary defines ‘lust’ as sexual desire, often to an intense or unrestrained degree. There is a simple outline to use to see if someone you love is being overwhelmed by lust, with each letter spelling out the behaviors that had slowly taken over Mark’s life leading to his on-line addiction, and may be warning signs for someone in your home as well.
Men today are more lonely and ‘disconnected’ than ever before. This loneliness leaves them feeling empty as they realize that they are totally alone in the world. You may remember that when God looked down on Adam in the Garden of Eden, He saw that man was alone and it was not good, so He made a help-mate for him named Eve.
The Bible models the need for relationships in countless ways. From Jonathan & David, to the twelve disciples, to the connected relationship of the Holy Trinity that God the Father has with God the Son and with God the Spirit, we see the need to do things together for comfort, strength and unity. Sadly, in Mark and Sarah’s case, he had become isolated and had pulled away from her, so he was alone more and ore of the time, leading to his ‘middle of the night’ ritual with pornography that almost destroyed his marriage.
Think of the men in your life. Are they connected into a relationship with you or with other godly men? If you see significant times of isolation, especially if it involves the computer or television, you need to be aware of the possible temptations and dangers of sexual addiction that lonely men often turn to and then are trapped by.
This letter represents the tremendous levels of being unfulfilled that many men feel in their personal or professional life. They don’t know their purpose or life passion, which can be especially challenging during the middle years of life where there is incredible pressure to be successful and financially secure. If a man begins to question his ability to keep up with the expectations of his culture, or his own personal goals or expectations don’t look like they are going to be realized, he begins to give up inside. It is this lack of fulfillment which leads to the desire for something more than he has, something bigger and something fun or exciting to fill the emptiness of his life.
Sexual addictions are often about escaping from inner pain, but equally common is the short-term pleasure associated with these mental fantasies. Whether the on-line searching behavior is driven by pleasure seeking or by escapism or both; the bottom line is that sexual addictions are an attempt to find some relief from pressure. He might feel empty or like a failure over the things that he believes are going wrong in his business, finances, marriage or family so the secretive behavior of on-line porn usage becomes like a quick ‘fix’ to cope with the pressures. It doesn’t last and it only makes a man feel more empty and more like a failure inside, further trapping him into an addictive pattern of sexual addiction.
Mark had tried to forget about the pressure that he felt to financially keep his family and business going, while keeping up with the growing expenses of having kids in college and still trying to plan for his retirement. These were huge financial goals, and though he was stressed he was making it financially, still in the back corner of his mind he though he was a financial failure and it was this ongoing fear which continued to fuel his escapism into pornography to forget about the pressures of his life for a few minutes.
Stress is the next warning symptom that can snare men into sexual addictions. Every man has stress of course, but what happens when you don’t deal with the stress at it’s source? Answer- it just gets bigger and bigger and that is what happened in Mark’s case. He had learned to cope with the growing stress and financial pressure in his life by just stuffing it inside. He had learned to simply say that ‘it doesn’t bother me’ or ‘no big deal’ but in reality the stress and pressure was eating him alive inside.
Stuffed emotions are a way of life for many men, but eventually those stuffed feelings will come out, sometimes through an explosion of an angry fit of rage, or sometimes through long periods of a moody or depressive type of brooding behavior. Either way, if a man doesn’t deal with the pressures that are eating away at him, he very likely may end up addicted to porn like Mark.
Attempting to use media images and fantasies to avoid the very real fears, doubts, worries and anxieties a man often faces is only a short term escape anyway since nothing is done to actually deal with or resolve the real problems in life. It’s like the classic General Motors commercial about ‘Mr. Goodwrench’ who says ‘pay me now- or pay me later’. The difference being that with stress you have to ‘Deal with it now, or deal with it later,’ because either way, he is going to have to deal with the real issues in his life and the sooner the better because it’s easier to address before it becomes a life dominating problem.
This word in the formula is familiar to most men, because Mark was tired, really, really tired. The years of secret, sexual behavior, which were mostly during the night hours had really taken its toll. He had cheated his body out of sleep for too many years and was totally exhausted most of the time. Face it- tired people are really easy to tempt. Think of the chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer when it is late at night and you have starved all day. The more physically fatigued you are, the more likely you are to do and say things that are impulsive as an attempt to find some relief. Mark knew that he was fatigued and that he hated his behavior, but he just didn’t have the energy to say “no” to the temptation anymore so he would cave into to his desires and feel like a failure as a Christian and as a committed husband over and over again.
Put this formula together and you have letters representing the biggest reasons for sexual addiction-
which represent the symptoms of a lonely, unfulfilled, emotionally stuffed and tired man. No wonder Mark was so open to the temptations of his culture and no wonder he became so enslaved to this increasingly common sin.
Not long ago John Stossel, from ABC News did a TV special on the issue of addiction to pornography. He made this observation at the end of his investigative report.
‘Media images trick us into believing that there are many available, attractive people that want to be with me.’
While you and I may know that the perfectly airbrushed Hollywood ‘babes’ of the magazines or movies are not really going to seek out a twenty or thirty year older guy with a big belly and growing bald spot, the need to believe in the fantasy is often is stronger than simply in facing reality. Perhaps it is better understood to consider the principle listed in Ephesians 4:19 ‘Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.’
Our culture offers many escapes from facing reality; while God gives us some hard advice about the reality of the danger of lust. Jesus was quoted by St. Matthew, (Matthew 5:28) as saying ‘whoever looks at a women to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ In other words, deal with your sex drive by showing some self control.
Thankfully Mark and Sarah sought out some professional help with a licensed therapist and over time, their marriage was able to recover from the betrayal of an addiction to pornography. This is a real couple I personally know, (although the names were changed), who would want me to share their steps toward a healed relationship. They would want me tell you that you can’t get better by yourself, and to secretly keep stuffing it inside only makes it bigger. Living with a secret that is eating you and your marriage alive is like a cancer that is killing you a little each day. You have to deal with it or it will kill you and your marriage!
They would urge you to open your eyes and ears to any odd behavior that may be an indicator that your mate may be addicted to pornography and often is just too weak to stop the behavior without help. They would plead with you to take this seriously before it ruins another home like it almost did theirs. They would challenge you and your family member to seek out a Bible-teaching church that offers practical teaching and accountability groups for addictive behavior. They would tell you that it can and will change, if you get honest, humble your heart and seek some professional help on your road to break free of sexual addiction and rebuild a life of sexual purity as God designed.
Tragically we know that Samson didn’t do that. He had no power over his lustful eyes, and you may remember that when his enemies captured him. The first thing that they did was to poke out his eyes with a burning hot iron rod. Blinded, and in prison, Samson repented and came back to his God. As a blind man, he could finally see the truth reflected in Psalms 101:3 ‘I will set nothing wicked before my eyes’. My prayer is that Christian men would live out that Biblical truth, and then boldly reach out to help rescue others trapped in the “Samson Syndrome”.