Walking away from sexual sin can feel like walking into a desert. Even logically, we second guess ourselves. Why are we walking away from a sure thing, a ready and present pleasure (even other-worldly pleasure) for what seems like a dry, dull, colorless, barren place? Why am I leaving the oasis for the desert? In our better moments we remember the oasis is just a mirage, and believing in the mirage is actually the one surefire way to remain in the desert. Trekking out into the desert is our only hope of finding what we’re really after.
But we are challenged further because it is like we are standing on a knife sometimes, between where we are and where we used to be, where temptation (and the tempter) reminds us we can return. And it seems it’s because we’re saying no to the pleasure that we’re in so much pain. But the truth is it is because we’ve said yes to the temptation so many times before that we’re in pain now. Those who haven’t given their hearts, wills, minds, and bodies over to sexual addiction do not experience the same kind of pain saying no to sexual addiction, do they?
After a while in recovery, we begin to get the idea that the temptation before us is only a mirage. And still we are tempted. Part of this is due to the fact that the enemy has filled our minds and hearts with desert spin—lies about the road Jesus is leading us on, lies aimed at getting us to return to the mirage. Specifically, there are four common deceptions the enemy sows about the desert of the real. He says the desert of the real is . . .
- Evidence – that God doesn’t love you, that you were born this way, that you can’t change
- And Avoidable
Eternal. Satan wants us to believe that the hard road of recovery will last forever, that it’s an eternal sentence. He whispers:
Do you feel these withdrawal symptoms? They’ll only continue to dog you.
These temptations will remain as intense and frequent as they are now.
If you want to remain sober, you’ll have to put in just as much work as you do now.
You have no life! You’ll never have a life again!
Knowing that he is doomed to hell, he wants you to leave the road to heaven by convincing you that the road you’re on is leading to hell.
Unbearable. The enemy wants us to believe that what we’re walking through cannot be endured. He whispers:
No one ever feels this lonely this long. Find someone, anyone!
If you try to face the pain from your past, you will fall apart.
If you bring up the abuse, it will break your whole family apart.
If you don’t give in to this temptation, you’re going to explode.
Just indulge in a little fantasy so you can finally all asleep.
Evidence. The enemy suggests that the desert you’re in reveals that God doesn’t love you. He whispers:
If God really loved you, he would take this temptation from you.
How can you trust a God who gives you these desires and then tells you can’t act on them?
Wouldn’t a loving God have given you some kind of companionship by now?
Why isn’t God answering you? He must not care about you.
Did God really say you can’t eat from any of the trees in the garden?
From the beginning, the enemy has suggested this to God’s children. His animosity is rooted in his own bitterness at being cast down. In the desert, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the visible representation of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). He understands our hunger, loneliness, and suffering. We can trust Him.
And finally, the final deception about the desert is that it is Avoidable. For those who want to learn to walk in sexual purity, it is not. Christ bids us follow Him, and He went the way of the desert, the way of suffering. Only in the desert can we learn love. And love is the antithesis of the lust that otherwise enslaves us.
We’ll discuss this more in another post, but for now:
Only by lifting more can we build our muscle. Only by running further can we strengthen our lungs. Only in battle can we rid the land of the enemy.