Just this week, a couple of Christian guys told me about being found out while “watching porn.”

The reason I heard about it was not that they felt bad about doing it. But because they got an email the next day saying that they had been filmed through the porn site. The film was going to be emailed to everyone in their contact list if they did not pay a ransom.

They both panicked!

Both guys were terribly shamed — not because they watched the porn. But because it appeared their secret sin was now about to be exposed! One was married and had to confess to his wife what he had done. His life was about to come apart. But so was hers!

Turns out the email was a hoax. But what if it wasn’t?

Well, the church would then be openly confronted with what is secretly already going on in their congregations. The percentage of Christians who view porn at least once a month is only one percent lower than nonChristians (64 percent versus 65 percent).

I work in the Care and Recovery ministry at Solid Ground Brethren in Christ Church in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and am on staff with Standing Stone Ministry (www.standingstoneministry.org). With Standing Stone, my wife and I come alongside pastors and spouses, as well as staff and board members, who find themselves trapped in an addiction or are married to someone who is. More importantly, I also teach pastors who are not addicted how to effectively counsel those who want help.

I’ve been in recovery since 1989, and over those almost 30 years, I have seen an explosion in the availability and use of porn.

When I was a kid, I had to find porn. Today it comes to me.

What folks in and out of the church don’t get is that porn releases the same chemicals in the brain as drugs like heroin.

Think of it this way: your home is housing a stash of drugs (porn on computers, cellphone, iPads) that, if used, can easily become an addiction that will ruin lives, marriages, and families.

Fifty-six percent of those seeking a divorce now say the use of porn played a part in their decision. In the meetings I attend, more than 50 percent of our sharing focuses on what we guys can do to stay married and to rebuild trust.

The addiction is a family issue in that both the addict and his wife are forced into isolation. This is especially true for wives who have no one to talk to about what is going at home. It’s also important to keep in mind that addiction to porn has nothing to do with sex! Instead, it is a way for the addict to medicate pain that, in most cases, has roots going back to early childhood abuse (97 percent of the time) with the result being toxic shame.

The learned behaviors that accompany addictions are lying, isolation, and self-hatred, to name just a few.

When you bring this kind of baggage into a marriage, true intimacy is impossible. How can you be intimate with a person whose level of honesty is always in question? The addict will not talk about his addiction because he believes at his core that if folks really knew him they would reject him. He desperately wants to stop and hates the “lying pervert” he perceives himself to be.

Wives blame themselves for not being enough. They do not understand that their addict husband cannot stop. Can an addiction be stopped? Yes, but can the addict do it himself? No! He needs faith, grace, and community, not a small group Bible study. He needs to join a group of other addicts with whom he can be completely honest.

So, what can you who are addicted and you who are married to an addict do about this mess? II Kings 6 tells the story of the prophet Elisha taking his disciple to the river to cut some trees for a new dorm. One of the ax heads falls into the river. The disciple is distraught because the ax was borrowed. Elisha asked where the ax head fell and made it float back to the surface. Elisha then told the disciple to pick it up.

Like the disciple, the addict and his spouse need to acknowledge that this is an impossible problem. By this I mean the addict needs to admit that he is powerless, and the spouse needs to admit she is powerless as well. She cannot change him. And he is powerless to change himself.

Like the disciple, the addict and his spouse need to acknowledge they don’t have the power to fix the problem. They need to call on someone who does. That’s where God comes in!

Elisha did not put the ax head back; he told the disciple to do it. There is action required on the addict’s and the spouse’s part.

These three points just happen to also be the first three steps of the 12-step program.

  1. First, admit there is a major problem. According to a new Barna Research book called The Porn Phenomenon, “When 54 percent of Christian young adults ages 18 to 24 seek out porn at least occasionally, and when two out of three youth pastors and more than half of senior pastors have a current or past struggle, we have a genuine crisis on our hands.”
  2. Second, our God is the God of the impossible. No sin or addiction is too big for God. The power to stop these addictive and co-dependent behaviors is available only through God’s grace and is acquired, like salvation, through faith alone.
  3. Third, recovery cannot and will never occur in isolation. I surrendered my life to Christ more times than I can count, but only found recovery when I was got out of isolation with a group of fellow addicts. For my wife, this meant plugging into Al-Anon meetings. Ladies, don’t try to do this alone; you need help and community as much as your husband does. Together watch the movie, “When Love is Not Enough: the Lois Wilson Story.” It’s free on YouTube.
  4. Last, believe there is hope and answers for those who want recovery. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” This promise holds true today as much as it did when Jeremiah wrote it. I am among hundreds of thousands who have been there and have successfully found God to be true.

Originally published for the summer 2018 issue of Shalom! A Journal for the Practice of Reconciliation.

Brian Hoerning
Brian Hoerning is part of Standing Stone Ministry at the Solid Ground Brethren in Christ Church, Rancho Cucamonga, California. Brian is eager to be a resource to others on the issue of pornography. You can reach him at (909) 997-3816 or brian.h@standingstoneministry.org. You can also download his ebook, How in the World Do I Help A Sex Addict: A Pastors Guide to Sex Addiction.

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