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The Next Step

What do I do now?

The following is a guest post by Anabelle Woods.

He has let out his nasty little secret. His burden has been put down; he feels relief and asks for forgiveness. You just got dumped on. You are in shock, angry, in disbelief, and cut to the core. Forgive? How? Do I stay? Do I go? How can I go? How far has he gone? With whom? How much do I need to know? How much can I handle? Am I safe? How could I ever trust him again? You have been traumatized.

Just what do you do?

Let the Tears Fall

They clear the heart and mind. Breathe. Slow and deep…just keep breathing.

Find Good Counsel

For me, my Pastor was my first go to, a safe haven, taking me to the Lord in prayer, helping me lay my burdens at His feet and learn to LET GO! Proverbs 3:5 | “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” 1Peter 5:7 | “Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you.”

I also found a secular counselor to deal with depression and anxiety. Finding a Christian counselor was not enough; he/she had to know the need for the Savior as well as understand addiction and the trauma to a spouse. For those reading this, you have the blessing of Conquerors Through Christ. Editor’s Note: Conquerors through Christ does not offer direct, professional counseling, but we are very willing and able to connect you professional, Christian counselors who understand the psychology and the Gospel.

Give Yourself Grace

Allow yourself to mourn the losses, be angry for a while, and go through the cycles of grief: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sorrow, and Acceptance. If you find yourself stuck in Angry-ville – get help! Anger is justified, but it should not last months on end and should never be violent in any way.

  • Shock is often fleeting, lasting minutes, hours, maybe days.
  • Denial: He just can’t be an addict; he is the model husband, a solid member of our church, a good father, a good man.
  • Anger: You start to realize he MAY actually be an addict. You get the full force of the betrayal. Things start making sense – the missing money, the late work nights, the silence and alone feeling even sitting right next to him. You begin to understand the impact this will have on your life: STD testing, counseling, support groups, healing, time in prayer and study.
  • Bargaining: God, if this isn’t true or if he isn’t an addict or if this could all go away, then I will promise to …
  • Sorrow: The deep sadness that accompanies the realization your life, through no fault of your own, has been forever changed. The life you dreamed of with this man will never be. Who you thought he was, is shattered. You feel as though you don’t know him anymore.
  • Acceptance: You accept his addiction. You stop blaming or looking for a magic fix. You begin recovery – your own. You become honest, even when it hurts. You can forgive.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Human nature doesn’t always allow us to forget such a painful act or the impact it has on our lives. I had a pastor years ago who taught us to forgive and remember – learn the lesson, but don’t hold a grudge. Forgiving helps you grow. Forgiving my husband gave me such peace! Withholding just kept the anger alive. And guilt – how could I accept God’s forgiveness for me and not forgive my husband? How could I go to communion and receive all it has to offer, when my heart held resentment – and worse? I would put my eternal life at risk. Colossians 3:13 | “Forgive, as the Lord forgave you.”

Forgiving also does not mean trusting. He has to earn that back through his actions. You are accepting and letting go of the past, starting anew, on to a new relationship with him, the old one is gone. If he is repentant, and even if he isn’t, forgive.

Pray

Oh, how important this one is! I debated putting it first. Pray every morning for help and guidance throughout your day. Pray during the day when life seems overwhelming. Pray every night, thanking God for helping you through the day, and ask for restful sleep. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 | Pray without ceasing. The un-uttered cries of your soul are heard by God. He knows what you need. Let Him give you His shelter, comfort and guidance. Philippians 4:6 | Be anxious (worry) for nothing. But in all things, by prayer and petition, ….present your requests to the Lord.

Read

The Bible. Find a concordance and look up whatever you are feeling at the time: Sorrow, Forgiveness, Worthiness, Beauty, Marriage, Family, Trust, Divorce. Our church had a Bible reading challenge to read the New Testament in 40 days. That got me into the Bible regularly, showing me how much of it I had never read, had never heard – even growing up in a parochial grade school, attending Sunday School for 8 years, and High School. It made me more comfortable really searching for what I needed. Some friends said they would let the book fall open and read to whatever God lead them.

Spousal Recovery Books – there are so many!!! I found Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado. Dr. Weiss has written many books on the subject. The group I attended for spouses used his workbooks – a 12 step recovery program. The first read they recommend is Partners: Healing from His Addiction by Dr. Doug Weiss. I also recently finished reading Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, How Partners Can Cope and Heal by Steffens and Means. I wished I had read it second – the lady authors write from experience, giving understanding, direction and advice so needed. Co-Dependent No More, by Beattie is one I fought reading. I wasn’t co-dependent! I didn’t support and condone his behavior! After only a few chapters, I found out I understood co-dependency all wrong. It made many relationships in my life more clear. To save money, I turned to Amazon.com. It is much more affordable than hitting the local or counselor’s bookstore. I have 5 typed pages of suggested reading materials, most of which I have not begun to read in 5 years! Ask your counselor for suggestions for you.

Care for Yourself

Get what you need. A message, pedicure, manicure is worth every penny. Go for a walk in the park or favorite woods. Garden or craft or read for enjoyment. Even 5 minutes a day. Get your mind off the issues of the day for a little while. Learn Tai Chi or yoga. My counselor recommended taking a trip away, alone at least once a quarter. It felt weird at first – and every time! But it was good to get away from the routine and the everyday reminders and do what I wanted, when I wanted, stay up late or sleep in. Find a friend. Someone in a recovery group is best, but if you have one friend you can confide in, ask her to be there by the phone for when you need to vent, to cry, to share at any time. She doesn’t have to say or do anything, just let you process. It should be someone who will not make judgments, or will keep them to herself, someone who will not tell you what you need to do before you’re ready. She must be trustworthy.

Don’t Make Any Important Decisions

…for a while, at least. Some say a year. Don’t feel you have to choose to stay or divorce right away. Don’t make a decision today you may regret tomorrow. Give yourself time to calm down and think rationally again. Do your research. Talk to a lawyer – initial consultation can be free, even if you are certain you will never take that route. The knowledge you will obtain is empowering, freeing. With that information, make an action plan, both short term and long term. What do you need to leave? What do you need to stay? How can you obtain that goal? Schooling? A Job? How can you become independent? Counseling or group? Make it as detailed as you can. Utilize it when and if you need. It takes much off your mind just knowing you have an action plan.

Hearing your prince has a deal-breaking flaw, that he broke the vows he pledged at your wedding, can be devastating. Don’t let it rule your future. You can be whole again. You can find peace.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless shame we bear
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations, is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful? Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in Prayer.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus vss. 1-2, by Joseph M. Scriven

John 14:27 | Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.

Use Them Right and Enter Light

Use Them Right and Enter Light

The following is a guest post by Chris Royce, a senior in the pre-seminary studies (pastoral track) program at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota.

Aside from small repairs and simple fixes, my family and I have never really been a family of elite handymen or “do-it-yourselfers.” Some people have great abilities when it comes to repairing appliances, fixing cars, and building things (and if you are one of these people, I must say, I envy this gift that you have) so for the most part, when something needs fixing in our house, we find the right person to do the job. When our dryer went last month, we called the dryer repair man. If the car springs a leak, we’ll have it at Fleet Farm for service the next day. When we want a new piece of furniture, we simply go to the store and buy it.

Lately, though, I’ve been trying to become more “hands-on” around the house. One way I tried to achieve that this past summer (besides watching HGTV) was by designing and building my own bed frame. (Note: it won’t be winning any awards at a fine woodworking show, but for a first endeavor into woodwork it turned out pretty nicely!) In doing this project, I learned more about different tools, how to use them, and the different purposes they served. It was vital to use the right tool and to use them properly; otherwise the project could be ruined.

Regardless of our experience or inexperience with fixing things, many of us work hard to be the “handyman” of our spiritual lives. When we have a certain pet sin, bad habit, or addiction that wages daily warfare in our hearts and consciences, we try fixing it with a DIY method. To try and make ourselves feel better about the rut we are living in, we try and talk ourselves through it. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’ll quit doing this tomorrow.”
  • “I haven’t done _____ for awhile. I’ve been pretty good lately, so I can treat myself this time.”
  • “I’m not harming anyone, so I don’t really see what the big deal is.”

These lines, and many similar ones, can be summed up into one thought that serves as the “mission statement” for our struggle against sin:

“I can fix this myself. Even if I’m going to struggle with this, I will get out of this on my own someday, somehow. There’s no way that I can bring someone else into this. What would they think of me? They’ll think I’m disgusting – they’ll be repulsed. I would let my family and closest friends down. I can’t burden somebody else with my petty problems.”

Friends, this is dangerous. Addictive sins (like pornography) are very difficult, if not impossible, to conquer singlehandedly. When we keep our addictions and bad habits bottled up inside our hearts and consciences, we are only giving them a place to keep growing. When we fall to the struggle and sin against our Savior, we easily bog ourselves down with guilt and shame instead of opening our eyes to the Gospel.

Many of us make daily efforts to make external changes. If I want to control my weight and stay in shape, it would be best to faithfully use a gym membership and a diet plan. Additionally, having a workout buddy would help me get my butt off the couch and get active. I could say: “I don’t want to spend the money on a gym membership or drag someone with me to exercise, I can do it myself.” – but so often Netflix and Doritos have greater appeal than a treadmill. If I want to do better in school and improve my grades, I’ll find a quiet study space, set aside my electronics, and study with a friend, to stay on task. But when I say “I can study on the couch with the TV on, but I’ll be productive,” my eyes are often more fixed on Monday Night Football than on that paper due the next day. In these scenarios, the best way to fix our external problems is with outside sources, like the gym membership and the library study buddy. When we leave it to ourselves to create perfect change in our lives, we often fall short of our hopes and goals. The best way to fix our internal faults, like the struggle against addictive sin, is with outside help. Luckily, God has given us two tangible resources we can use in this great struggle against sin – his precious Word and our brothers and sisters in the faith. If we are motivated to call on outside help to improve our bodies or our grades (as illustrated earlier), how much more should we be motivated to use the Word and fellow Christians to help eradicate a recurring sin in our hearts, the part of us that God looks at intently?

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, he addressed the sin of sexual immorality head-on. In Chapter 5, Paul strongly urges these Christians (and us today) to completely abstain from this impurity. In addition to the urgent call to avoid this sin, Paul insists that these “unfruitful works of darkness”(5:11) should be exposed to the light. He goes on to say in verses 12 and 13: “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” Porn addiction can be brought to light by sharing the struggle with a close friend, a family member, a pastor or a counselor. Our fellow Christians, as well as called workers who serve our churches and schools are blessings from God in the daily struggle against good and evil. They can pray for us, and we can pray for them. They can share the Gospel with us, and we can share the Gospel with them. They can forgive us, and we can forgive them. To neglect this fantastic source of strength, comfort, and hope from God would be a waste of an incredible blessing he has given to us.

While Paul mentions that is “shameful” to mention these sinful thoughts and feelings of the heart, he doesn’t stop there – and he breaks out the magic word “but.” “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” A popular reason for keeping our sexual sins to ourselves is the “EW!” factor we connect with it. Many of us feel that porn and lust are more revolting sins than gossip, stealing, or taking the Lord’s name in vain. But God sees all sin as “EW!” Porn, lust, gossip, stealing, and cursing God’s name are all disgusting sins to God, but all of these sins (and many more) were paid for when Jesus died on the cross and took our place. There is no sin so great and revolting that was not on Jesus’ shoulders on that very first Good Friday.

Speaking of the Gospel message, let’s not forget the other important tool that God has given to us to fight sin and grow in faith – his holy Word. In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, he emphasized what great power the Holy Scriptures have. Paul says “All Scripture is God-breathed as is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16). The Law portions of the Bible will show us our sin, and the Gospel message will show us our Savior. The Bible is the perfect source of comfort and encouragement in a world where sin lurks all around us. When we slip into sin, we can read of other men and women who were forgiven by God for their sins, and we can hear God speaking to us. Often, we will use God’s Word with our brothers and sisters in Christ when they need help or encouragement, and vice versa. When we slip in our struggle and go to a friend for help, they will encourage us with the Gospel.

Every day, we need to use the right tools to get through life. Whether it’s using the right tools for an elaborate project or for sparking life change, using them properly is the key to success. If we do not bring our sin to light through use of the Scripture or our comrades in Christ, we are going to make it very difficult and most likely impossible to escape our rut. Thanks be to God that he has given us resources in the fight against sin and Satan. He has won the great victory for us, and with his help we can achieve victory every day.

The Next Step

Top 6 Reasons to Go Pro Vs. Porn

The following is a guest post from Pastor Ed Frey

People often wonder if they are addicted to a certain behavior. The big question people often ask with addictions is “when is too much…too much?” Well, here are some signs indicating when an addiction to pornography might be beyond self-help.

Should you seek professional help? Well, here may be some triggers to consider …

  1. Out of control! You’ve attempted to make efforts to quit your usage, but every effort to stop or limit the use of porn is unsuccessful. The use feels like it is out of your control. You make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your use.
  2. Guilty as Charged! Your use of pornography is in direct conflict with your faith and conscience. You begin to sense strong feelings of guilt, shame, regret, and depression after using pornography. One of the casualties in pornography is our feelings.
  3. I’ve Got A Secret! Your use of pornography is a well-kept secret. You are obsessed, however, that someone might find out, so you find yourself perpetually trying to cover your tracks!
  4. Just A Little Bit More! You find that your use of pornography is consuming your time, your energy, and your thoughts. Even when you aren’t using porn, you think about it often and look forward to using it again.
  5. It’s All Bad! You begin to see the negative results that pornography is having on your life. You neglect basic responsibilities; you spend too much time with pornographic material and less and less time with people. You begin to spend money on pornographic material. Your appetite for other forms of pornography increases. You are willing to put yourself in compromising situations in order to satisfy your desire for porn, e.g. viewing it at work or other public locations. Work or academic performance begins to suffer.
  6. You’ve Got A Headache? That’s Okay, I’ve Got Porn! You begin to lack the desire for intimate contact with your spouse. You sense emotional distance between yourself and other people. The ones you love most begin to feel neglected. Pornography begins to be the preferred method for satisfying sexual desires.