Do you feel like a member of the Lonely Hearts Club? Were you disappointed on Valentine’s Day? You’re not alone.
So, no secret admirer surprised you with a card or box of chocolates yesterday. Your spouse didn’t overwhelm you with flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries for a romantic evening. Perhaps you’re buried up to your eyeballs in bills, diapers, and dirty dishes and that kind of love seems a distant memory. Or you’ve avoided retail establishments and worked extra-long hours this week just to forget that you don’t have a Valentine this year.
I know what it’s like to be lonely. In medical school a group of us single girls gathered one February 14 at the first and only formal meeting of the LLU chapter of the Lonely Hearts Club. I lived single until I was 48 years old, and I’m single again now that my husband is with Jesus. And pink doesn’t look good on me anyway!
But just because you have a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t mean romance and love are guaranteed. Some of the loneliest people I talk with are married. It’s not your Relationship Status on Facebook that’s at issue; it’s the status of your heart.
The State of Your Heart
We as human beings were made for connection. Deep, secure, long-lasting, intimate connection. We long to be known, to be affirmed, to be cherished, to be desired, to be sought after, to be loved. We want to be Number One to someone, and we often struggle to survive – let alone thrive – when we’re not.
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Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale was an officer in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. He became a fighter pilot, and in 1965 he was shot down while returning from his second combat tour over North Vietnam. Held for nearly eight years as a prisoner-of-war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”, he suffered repeated torture and years in solitary confinement without any prisoner’s rights, and with no assurance that he would survive the war or live to see his family again.
As the highest ranking officer in the camp, Stockdale shouldered responsibility for the other men also held there. He made it his mission to do everything in his power to help the men survive unbroken, while at the same time leading the American resistance against Vietnamese attempts to use the prisoners for propaganda. He instituted a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior which provided the men with hope and empowerment. He developed an elaborate method of internal communication the men could use even during enforced silence or solitary confinement. Risking further torture or death if discovered, he found ways to forward secret intelligence to the US government through letters he was allowed to write to his wife. Following his release he received a total of 26 medals including the Medal of Honor.
Could you survive that kind of trauma? What kept Admiral Stockdale sane during those years of imprisonment and torture? What allowed him to do so much to help so many other men survive unbroken?
The Stockdale Paradox
Researcher and author Jim Collins writes of an enlightening conversation he had with Stockdale. When asked how he made it through Stockdale responded;
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How do you find freedom from compulsive sexual behavior? What does it look like? What does it take to get there?
I’ve been overwhelmed by your response to my post last week about Dealing with Masturbation and Pornography as a Christian. I’ve heard from men and women all over the world who are crying out for freedom. And I’m here to tell you that God has a way out! There is a pathway to freedom! And that’s what this post is about.
This is not for you if you wonder whether what you’re doing is wrong. It’s not for you if pornography and/or masturbation is not your struggle. It’s not for you if you think maybe you should “cut down” on your consumption of compulsive sexuality.
But if the Holy Spirit has put His finger on this part of your life and said, “This right here; it needs to stop. Let Me have this!”, then this post is for you.
This is for you if you’re sick and tired of the bondage, the hiding, the shame and the guilt. It is for you if you’re ready to do whatever it takes to find freedom. It is for you if you’re ready to fight with everything in your being to experience Christ’s victory in this area of your life.
You cannot be successful in this journey by going half-way. If you’re not all in, you’ll fail. Jesus has freedom available for you, but you cannot do your own thing in one area and expect to win a battle with compulsive sexual behavior.
This means war!
So pick up your sword, get furiously angry at your bondage and the one holding you there, and get ready to do the work ahead of you. As Mel Gibson when he played William Wallace, find the scream in the bottom of your soul and cry out with all your might,
7 Steps to Freedom
Here’s what it takes to get there.
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How do you handle the solo sexual stuff? How do you deal with masturbation and pornography as a Christian?
I’m writing about this because you asked. You send me questions about this almost every week, and you deserve an answer. As both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Ministry, I’ll do my best to offer you both truth and hope on this topic.
For starters, if the gospel isn’t big enough to have answers for this kind of touchy stuff, what good is it? There is no problem in our lives for which God does not have an answer. The answers may not be simple or easy, but that’s why we’re talking about it.
Pornography and masturbation are not the same. I don’t believe God judges them the same. I’m addressing them together because they often go together; masturbating while watching pornography.
If you’re struggling here I encourage you to read all the way to the end of this article. I’ll share with you a dramatic story of how one person found amazing freedom from her private sexual hell. I know Jesus can do the same for you!
How you are affected
Here are some of the people I’ve heard from:
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Someone has hurt you – badly. Or you face a really tough decision. Or something happens to rock you to your very core. You take the risk and tell one of your church friends, and they respond, “I’ll be praying for you.”
And you want to SCREAM!
It’s not that praying is bad. It’s good. Very good. But it’s like they expect offering a prayer takes them off the hook. They can feel they’ve done their Christian duty while you’re left dying under the crushing load.
When your spouse walks out you don’t need someone to quote Scripture to you. When you just found out your son or daughter is sexually active with a same-sex partner you don’t need to be encouraged to go to church. When you just heard the word “cancer” from your doctor an “I’ll pray for you” doesn’t go very far. When your spouse or child just died a pat on the back with a “God will be with you” is just empty.
I’m on a bit of a rant today. I’ve recently been touched by two different Christian friends whose marriages were lost through no obvious fault of their own. I’ve wrestled with my own healing from grief after the loss of my husband Al a few months ago. And I’ve heard a few truly ugly stories from you, my readers, about what look like truly impossible situations.
At such times the standard Christian platitudes just don’t work. It’s not that they’re wrong; it’s that they’re not enough.
One of my friends was tearful after sharing a moment of his pain, and I responded: “If the gospel can’t deal with this, then what good is it?!”
God With Us
What is the kingdom of God really all about? Why did Jesus come here? Why are we trying to live this Christian life anyway?
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