Proverbs 2:1-5 – “If you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
When you’ve been let down by someone who matters a great deal to you, moving beyond boundaries is not easy work — but it is important. One thing you can do in this regard is to figure out if the problem that was previously an obstacle is truly being transformed. In other words, is this person really changing? Is the big problem being solved the right way?
Here’s an example. I (Dr. Townsend) worked with a couple in which the husband, Bill, was a nice guy but irresponsible. He was one of those likeable people who loves to hang out with others and is a lot of fun. But Bill’s performance in life did not match up to his personality, especially in the area of finances and spending. He overspent on cars, gadgets, and entertainment. He also hid his spending habits, which meant his wife, Pam, was routinely surprised by huge credit card bills. These patterns took a major toll on the marriage. Pam was terrified of an uncertain financial future with him. She was not perfect and had her own issues as well, but his behavior came close to breaking up the marriage.
In our work together, Pam was clear that though she still loved Bill, she had lost all trust in him. She could not believe anything he said. “If he told me at noon that the sun was shining, I would go outside to check,” she said. As is common in these situations, Bill did not want to acknowledge the severity of the problem or make the necessary changes. He wanted Pam to change, to stop blaming him, and to learn to trust him. “If you would be nicer to me and trust me,” he said, “I would feel more supported, and I’d do better in my career.”
I had to step in there and say, “You are right; she shouldn’t be mean to you or attack you. But I don’t want her to trust you.”
Bill was bothered by that and said, “Don’t you want the marriage to work out?”
“Sure I do,” I said. “I want Pam to love you with no strings attached. But that is different from trust. While love is free, trust is earned. In the area of financial responsibility, I don’t want her to relax and trust you until we have evidence that you have changed.”
Again, Bill didn’t like that: “You’re both judging me,” he said.
“No,” I said, “neither of us is consigning you to hell. There is no judgment in this office. But you have not shown that you understand how deeply you have hurt her, nor have you made the necessary changes so that she can trust you again. If you and I were neighbors and I borrowed your screwdriver and didn’t return it, then borrowed your saw and didn’t return it, then your pliers and didn’t return them, what would you do if I asked to borrow your hammer?”
“Of course I wouldn’t lend it to you,” he said. “Okay, I see the point.”
Bill wasn’t as sorry as I wanted him to be at that point. He still didn’t seem to be able to acknowledge the impact he had on his wife, but it was progress.
“Here’s the deal,” I said. “I want you to submit your finances to Pam on a monthly basis for a year. She is in charge. You both see a financial planner together. And we’ll see, month by month, if you are really changing for her sake and the relationship’s sake.”
I turned to Pam: “If he does what I am asking, would you be open to trusting him again?”
“I would,” she replied. “I want to get all this behind us. But it has to be real.”
They agreed to the plan. Bill did some blaming at first, which happens frequently. But he humbled himself and allowed her to be in charge of the money. As it turned out, Bill did fine. And Pam was able to get past her hurt and mistrust, because he had truly changed.
Hurt and mistrust are nothing more than signals. They tell you that you either have some healing to do, or the other person has some changing to do—or both. So, while monitoring if you are learning to trust again, also monitor how the other person is doing in the arena that caused a break in trust in the first place.
This devotional is drawn from Beyond Boundaries, by Dr. John Townsend.
Replacement therapy. Ever heard of that? So replacement therapy is when you try to make up for a deficit of a substance normally present in the body. Think nutrients or blood. Sounds simple enough and logical. Tonight I heard about another type of replacement therapy. Replacing the negative and destructive thoughts and behaviors with positive or good thoughts and behaviors. I will have to admit, I never thought of this type of replacement therapy.
I went to a group meeting tonight. The Tuesday one I like that isn’t too large. The leader is consistent, kind, and encouraging. Not bad qualities to have. So tonnight the topic was on Step 7 and humbly asking God to remove all our shortcomings. Did you catch that word? Humbly. Yeah, that one. So the steps leading up to Step 7 are focused on identifying those flaws and character defects that have led us down this path. Sorry, to identify those that have led ME down this path. I have done that. I have done Step 7. I have humbly asked him to remove them. I have also witnessed that happen. He has instantly removed some, He hasn’t others. I kind of expected them to all go away immediately. Yeah, I was that dumb. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
We went through the meeting, everyone shared. And the leader was closing the meeting. Until one guy I know and knew before recovery had something else to say. I am glad he interrupted because I hadn’t really tuned in to the discussion because I had already done Step 7 and asked God to remove my shortcomings. So obviously I had this, right? I was an expert. Only, I almost missed it. And I love how God connects everything.
He stopped us and said he wanted to say one more thing that was important to him. Something he almost missed when working Step 7 that his sponsor pointed out to him. He said he would have missed it because he hadn’t seen this written down anywhere. Ok, I am listening now. He said that his sponsor encouraged him to not just humbly ask God to remove his flaws and defects of character. He should also ask God to REPLACE them with fruits of the spirit. Where his flaw was focus on self, he prayed that God would not only remove that but give him the desire to focus on others before himself. That when you remove a behavior or trait from your life, something has to fill it. So why not be intentional in seeking out fruits of the spirit to fill in for my flaws? Wow.
In my life, I have removed many of the destructive behaviors I previously had. I have filled in that time with relationships in recovery, with writing, with presence in my wife and kids lives. I spent this morning reviewing my flaws from my Step 4. God, I have asked you to remove my arrogance. Replace it with a spirit of humility. Remove my flaw of criticism and replace it with the gift of encouragement. Take my pride, please Lord take my pride, and replace it with a knowledge of my identity in and through you. Thanks for the word at group, my friend. Replacement therapy is what I call it. What an amazing gift God gives us. The opportunity in recovery to know our flaws, identify them by name, and seek His help in replacing them. Pretty damn cool.
Admitting an addiction has its risks … and real ministry benefits.
Register here: http://houstonsfirst.org/event/addicted-to-porn-chasing-the-cardboard-butterfly-film-event
A film event for parents, grandparents, men, women, singles — anybody in high school and above
Dinner is available for purchase before the film, and a free dessert reception with the director will take place after the film.
About The Film
- Addicted to Porn does not include any provocative imagery.
- The film is narrated by James Hetfield, co-founder of Metallica.
- Learn more about Addicted to Porn on the film’s official website.
Cost & Registration
- $5 per ticket
- $10 per ticket with dinner included
- No charge for dessert reception
- Registration for dinner and the movie is now available and will continue until Wed, Sep 27
- 5:45–6:45p — Dinner available
- 7–8:30p — Film screening
- 8:30p — Dessert reception
Register here: http://houstonsfirst.org/event/addicted-to-porn-chasing-the-cardboard-butterfly-film-event
Ask adult Christians what should be done if their pastor is using pornography, and 41% say “He/she should be fired or asked to resign.”* Another 29% say the pastor should take a leave of absence until he/she stops using porn. Those over 50 years of age were more adamant about that—47% of age 51-69 and 57% of age 70+ were ready to can the pastor. But only 35% of age 25-30 and 27% of age 31-50 felt that way.
Wow! If that were the case, a lot of pastors would be out of a job! More than half (57%) of pastors say they are either currently struggling (14%) or have struggled in the past (43%) with pornography, and 33% of the ones currently struggling say they “are addicted” to porn.
Among youth pastors, the numbers are higher: 64% say they are struggling (21%) or have struggled in the past (43%). A whopping 56% of those currently struggling say they “are addicted” to porn.
It is not surprising that pastors think a little differently than the 41% of lay people who say pastors should be fired. Only 8% of pastors think that a pastor “should be fired or asked to resign” if found using porn.
And it is even less surprising to find out that 55% of those using porn “live in constant fear of being discovered.” No kidding! I know of many pastors who, upon being discovered, lose their careers, their families, their homes, their friends, everything. Some have even ended their own lives as a result of being discovered.
What solutions do pastors suggest?
- 82% said they should find a professional counselor.
- 59% said they should find “a group of mature Christians who can hold him accountable.”
- Only 1% of the pastors said that the congregation should be told.
But congregations are unaware of the scope of the problem. Awareness precedes understanding, and understanding precedes action. Once the people understand how addictive porn is and recognize that pastors are as prone to the sin as anyone else, they can take action.
If there is no problem among your pastors, that’s great! But as the pastors themselves say, accountability is the best preventive medicine. How devastating it would be to coast along, thinking there will be no problem, only to find out you need to rehabilitate or replace a key staff person. How disrupting to the ministry, how costly for the counseling, how humiliating for the staff—all of which could be headed off by installing Covenant Eyes on all of the staff computers to maintain accountability and have open and transparent conversations.
It would be like the Black Plague on the church if all of the struggling pastors had to resign. I believe they need help, not banishment. I also believe we need to educate the church that porn is a pervasive problem, and pastors are human, too. If we force pastors to live in constant fear, we force them to NOT seek help, the very help they know is needed.
The majority of those who struggle know what must be done–they need professional counseling along with accountability partners. But they aren’t going to seek that help if they can’t admit they struggle, and they can’t admit they struggle if they know they’re out the door the next minute. We need to meet them at the foot of the cross, where Christ took on the burden of our sins, as well as those of our pastors.
Send your pastor to the Set Free Summit, and have him bring a copy of this article to the Covenant Eyes booth for a free year’s subscription of Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability for you or your pastor.
*All data in this article are from The Porn Phenomenon, a 2016 study by the Barna Group. Get the full results at the Summit.
Written by Ron DeHaas