The process of dealing with sexual addiction is a process of repentance. For some, the word repentance conjures up images of preachers pounding on pulpits, demanding that we get right with God and flee our sins. Consequently, it can seem more like an act of shaming than a challenge to move towards God. Yet repentance essentially means to change direction. It means to turn away from a focus on yourself and your own autonomy and toward God.
The real question isn’t, “Are you sexually addicted?” The real question is, “Are you living your life by demanding that you fulfill your desires and avoid all pain?” A sexual fantasy stems from a desire to gain more in a relationship than is possible. It’s an attempt to gorge ourselves with passion and move into a state free of any chance for disappointment. Simply put, we want to enter the Garden of Eden again.
But the very desire to know the bliss of the Garden here on earth is skewed by our obsession with self. In demanding the bliss of someone’s real or imagined warmth, we become consumed with ourselves, which destroys the very ecstasy we seek. There is no way out. We are locked in reality, always wanting and therefore always destroying what we want. The process is insane. Until we become consumed with the love that desires to give for the sake of another’s good, all joy is an illusion.
One sex addict began to realize this when he understood that his pornography and masturbation were direct results of his fear of loving his wife. “It is safer,” he said, “to masturbate and look at a magazine. What you want me to do is impractical. I’d rather be with a caged lion than attempt to love her.”
Many of the illusions we design to find fulfillment are sexual. We believe that if only someone attractive will touch us with warmth, everything will be okay. God wants to strip us of our illusions. God wants to deprive us of anything that is meaningless or counterfeit. He wants us to experience isolation when we need it, to be pushed to the point of discovering that we can’t fulfill ourselves, to face the reality that life in this world will never be fully fulfilling: Emptiness and disappointment are chronic realities. We naturally (and wrongly) kick and scream when we are forced to face this reality.
Repentance is not simply a decision or an act of your will to stop addictive behavior. It’s not just a new effort you make. Rather, it’s an act of God and His grace that occurs as you open yourself to God and the deep work of His Spirit in your heart. Through repentance, you being to understand that you aren’t in control of discovering the source of true fulfillment or protecting yourself from pain.
Once you acknowledge your helplessness and dependence on God, real change can occur. Imagine yourself looking courageously into God’s eyes, which aren’t vengeful, bored, or patronizing. Refuse to defend yourself or to justify your behaviors because of what others have done to you or because your deepest needs have remained unmet. Face the gravity of your sinful heart.
After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he turned to God and wrote,
Have mercy on me, O God,
According to your unfailing love,
According to your great compassion
Blot out all my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
And done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are proved right when you speak
And justified when you judge
Surely I was sinful at birth,
Sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness
Let the bones you have crushed rejoice
Hide your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
(Psalm 51 1-12)
Like David, you can admit that you have failed to love God, that you have run from Him and others into your own illusion. Search your heart before Him for the pervasive unmet needs that, above all else, pushed you into the horrors of your double life. Acknowledge before Him in a simple prayer that you are helpless, weak, and frail. Confess your sins before the Lord, who promised in 1 John 1:9—”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
If you have never asked God to come into your life, invite Him in. He promises to respond to your invitation. “Here I am,” He says. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Through brokenness, hopelessness, and dependence on God, you will receive joy in your heart—your deepest desires and inner being—as you begin to pursue God. You will partake of what He alone can offer and move into real intimacy, as you love others.