27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30
Fifteen years old and full of youthful fire, I had just heard a talk on purity and this was the last time. I would never again look with lust at a woman or ever look at pornography. I had stumbled across some explicit web pages through my iPod at the time, and I knew it was wrong. So one afternoon which I remember vividly, I took a giant wooden walking stick and smashed my iPod to pieces. With every strike, I promised myself it was done. I was going to try really really hard. I would never look again….Until I did.
The feeling of guilt and shame overwhelmed me. What was wrong with me? I grew up in church and I knew the passage of Matthew 5:27-30. By physically smashing my iPod, I thought I was accomplishing Jesus’ metaphorical command to tear out my eye and cut off my hand that causes me to sin. But I missed the fact that the eye and hand do not cause sin. The heart does. And I had a heart issue. My curiosity and lust went deeper than a mere physical attraction. I was searching for intimacy, for connection, for satisfaction in all the wrong places. Every time I would give in to temptation, the immediate rush would soon give way to emptiness, dissatisfaction, and sadness.
By God’s grace, I have found freedom from this fierce struggle I experienced throughout High School. This freedom began as I realized this desire for lust is something deeper within all of us. As Michael John Cusick outlines in his book titled Surfing for God, which I highly recommend, our struggle with lust and pornography is really a search for a true passion. A desire to be truly satisfied. This satisfaction can only be found in a deep, abiding, and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Our deepest desire is to be known and loved. We only find that fully and completely in Christ. When we are satisfied in him, we trade our temporary pleasure for a lasting peace.
That being said, we must also be proactive. But we know that we are not “trying hard” in our own strength. We are pressing into God’s work in and through us. It is much easier to talk about finding intimacy with the Lord rather than actually experiencing it. The first step in overcoming lust is being aware of our problem. We can’t ignore or diminish the issue. We must first come daily to the Lord, relying on His strength at work in us. Next, we must flee from lust. I highly recommend practical resources such as Internet filtering software on computers and smart phones. Covenant Eyes provides a great platform, which will block certain sites and send a list of sites visited to an accountability partner. Even today, knowing my own weaknesses I have to be intentional to utilize these resources and think carefully about the movies and TV shows I watch, in addition to my cell phone, computer, and Internet use.
Group support can also be an excellent resource in this arena. Celebrate Recovery at South Fellowship is a wonderful group that helps provide freedom in Christ and recovery from life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It takes true strength to address our weaknesses. This side of heaven, we will always experience temptation so we must not give the devil a foothold. If we fall short, we must cling to the grace and forgiveness found in Christ.
Today, take some time to reflect. Perhaps ask the questions, what is my motivation behind my lust? What’s behind why I’m doing this? What am I truly seeking? Consider taking a proactive step utilizing one of these resources, while remembering and addressing the real heart issue at hand. Saint Augustine, a man who wrestled with deep sexual struggles in his own life, once wrote in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
By Billy Berglund