Hopelessness kills freedom. When you are bound by something you feel powerless to overcome, hopelessness is not far from you. I can think of countless times I sat with hopelessness and tried to throw sticks at it, to shoo it away with my attempts to reason with myself. “I can try harder and with more concentration this time,” I would tell myself, yet I would still fall into the same patterns and end up back at the starting point. Like a prisoner determined to pull my arms free from my chains, the harder I tried, the more bruised and bloodied I became. I denied the truth:
I had bowed to another.
I had become imprisoned.
I was not free.
The last time I watched pornography I was in one of the most epic “dark nights of the soul” times of my life. Imagine losing almost everything that you hold as dear and safe, then triple that. Actually, centuple it. That’s a word. I promise.
It was during this time that I decided I couldn’t continue to deal with life in this way, and I knew that God was able to free me from this sin pattern. If I was going to believe that Jesus existed, died on a cross, rose again, and is available to speak to me daily, I had to believe His promise that I could be free. I had to come to the end of myself. I had to stop pulling my arms out of the socket doing things my way.
There were moments during this time when I experienced His presence in a powerful way, but I don’t credit those moments to my breakthroughs of deliverance and freedom. My greatest moments of freedom were in the quiet of my room. When He and I were alone as I struggled to understand my heart and what it needed. When I sat with Him in the loneliness and defeat of my life, wanting desperately to return to the things that once comforted me. When I was being ripped away from a hateful god of this world that commanded me to cower, and brought into the arms of one that calmly offered His love. It was in those moments of vulnerability before God that He asked me to trust Him. That was when I received a new ability to stop self-pacifying through pornography, and it didn’t come from my own will. I had to cry out for help in order for God to hear and respond; I had to choose to receive His forgiveness and obey His request.
I was more aware of His presence the closer I came to the end of myself, but I know that His love and His pursuit of me was continual. He is unchanging in his feelings for me, but my freedom can indeed be slowed or accelerated. Everlasting freedom is a moment by moment commitment. The problem with being bound is that all you can see are the chains in front of your face. Then once those are off and you’re free, you have to learn to walk again. Your prison cell is open and the light is bright, you stink, and you probably have to start repairing the damage you did that incarcerated you in the first place. You have to trust that God is going to walk with you and trust that what He asks of you is always out of love.
I’ve often heard people reference a line from the The Chronicles of Narnia–when Lucy is asking about Aslan (a symbol of Jesus) and if he’s safe to be around. She’s told that he’s not safe, but that he is good. This seems to reinforce the idea that God loves you, but He causes harm to your life when he wants to teach you a lesson. I know this seems off the subject, and others may interpret the line in a different way, but I feel it’s important to end this here; this whole notion that God is not safe is unbiblical and a false world view.
God is love. 1 John 4:8. The definition of “safe” is: to be protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost. I will say that serving a loving God can often involve risk, but my point is that He does not ever harm us. Awful and horrible things happen in our life even when we know God. Yes, that’s absolutely true. We will all experience pain. Yet to point a finger at God in these situations is to speak a falsehood about Him. This belief that God is not safe with your heart keeps many people bound in sin.
We live in a fallen and decaying world because of sin. God did not cause sin or cause the decay of our planet; we did. In fact, He provided a plan of restoration through the death and resurrection of Jesus. (I know this is a lot of Bible talk, but hang in there.) We also have an adversary who hates us, and who steps over the boundaries which he’s been given, because he’s pure evil.
That’s where we come in as sons and daughters of God. I’m not saying that God will never send you into dark and dangerous places, but when He does it’s always with the belief that you can drive out that darkness.
Going to God is safe. You can trust Him with all that you are, and He cares about the things you care about. He is a good father. Any other god that you have attached yourself to is not safe, and that attachment can lead to a bloody mess. Not because He’s harming you out of punishment, but rather He’s warring for you. If you’re still attached when He pulls you away, it can be messy.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.
Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.