by Anne Kerr, Guest Blogger & Founder of TrueNorth Freedom Project
“The one thing I didn’t have when I was addicted to pornography was hope.”
Last year, my husband spoke these words to a group of supporters of TrueNorth. God set Greg free from his bondage to pornography in a powerful way in the fall of 2013. I learned of his addiction a few months after God rescued him from it, and his journey toward restoration and wholeness became our journey of transparency, healing, and hope.
Casual porn use can escalate into repeated porn use, affairs, purchasing sex, and abuse. Addiction is multi-layered and different for everyone. Porn addicts are not on a quest to find the perfect body. They are seeking to repeat pleasurable feelings in the brain that viewing porn generates. These feelings are a result of a chemical called dopamine which is released into the brain.
Dopamine plays a healthy role in everyone’s brain. Chocolate can give us a sweet reward, no pun intended. Joyful experiences like a wedding, or birth of a child, can send dopamine levels sky high. But watching moving porn can release up to ten times the amount of a normal, healthy dopamine spike. The brain literally gets high on it, higher than the brain was designed for. Similar to the neurological response to cocaine, the brain remembers the feeling and initiates a desire to feel that way again. Tolerance for the good feeling can develop, and more hardcore porn or riskier behavior may be needed to achieve the same chemical levels. This can lead to addiction.
God designed our brains to respond to sexual sights and experiences, and even children can get aroused by them. Many of us have forgotten how various sexual encounters caught our attention when we were young. Learning to talk about those feelings and to channel them as God intended is important, whether we are young or old. God-honoring sex within marriage also produces dopamine along with other chemicals that bond us to our mate. Sex outside of marriage, or variations of it such as viewing porn, creates unhealthy bonds that can leave us empty, isolated, and alone in our shame.
I began TrueNorth a few years ago to help Christians learn to talk about sexual issues and struggles more authentically within relationships. We’re working to bring information from science and God’s Word to help others understand the truth about sex and porn use. While God designed us as sexual beings, His Word gives direction for living within a sexualized culture and for raising children in this environment. Since we cannot fully shield kids from an overly sexualized culture, we must prepare them for it and lovingly guide them through it. And since we cannot completely avoid the temptations that a sexualized culture brings, we must learn to handle the temptations in a way that leads us toward God and each other and keeps us from falling deeper into sin and despair.
God has a clear message of hope, but sometimes habitual sin can make it harder to hear truth. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Slavery can take many forms. Porn addiction is a form of bondage, and Christ came to set us free.
Some who use porn may not hear God’s freedom call because they are bound by sin and shame. Some may believe it’s too late for them, or that God doesn’t hear their cries for help. Others may be wounded by another’s sexual sin and feel hopeless themselves.
God has so much more for us when He opens our eyes to the things that give us less. Porn is something that not only gives less; it steals more. My husband can attest to this. And when God reveals the truth of our sexual design and shows us that none of us are immune from the temptation of sexual sin, I believe we can begin much-needed conversations that lead to deeper intimacy with others.
My husband found a living hope in Jesus and together we have found healthy, healing ways to talk about sexual struggles and sexual intimacy within our marriage. If you’d like to read more about how God began changing Greg’s heart and his restoration journey, check out the blogs he wrote earlier this year beginning with Revealing the Heart. (click bold 'revealing the heart' to read that blog). Whether you struggle with sexual sin or someone you love struggles with it, Greg’s story will give you hope.
TrueNorth has resources and information for couples, parents, ministry leaders, and anyone desiring deeper intimacy with God and others while living with the challenges of a sexualized culture. You can find these by clicking “Tools” or “Stories” on the TrueNorth Freedom Project website, which is www.truenorthfp.org.
Christ, our living hope, frees us from our shame, gives us courage to step into the light of truth and grace, and invites us to go deeper with Him as we face the challenges this culture presents. Ask God to show you the next step and trust Him to lead you into truth for your journey. You will find grace for your own sin or perhaps God may use you to help rescue someone you love from their own bondage to sin. Trust Him to provide all that is needed.