Those struggling with habitual sexual sins most certainly walk in confusion about the meaning and role of emotions in their lives. Some let emotions rule their lives. Others try to stifle or cut off emotions as unimportant. Many do both without realizing either.
The sexual addiction cycle is triggered by the presence of some type of pain or discomfort; the cycle culminates in the euphoria of orgasm, which numbs the pain; and the cycle concludes with grief over our repeated failure, which triggers the whole cycle to start again. Unchecked, this cycle repeats itself time after time.
Pain and discomfort are a normal and natural part of life. In fact, they are a God-given mechanism meant to clue us into the reality that something is wrong, that something is off kilter and needs attention. One reason the sexual addiction cycle is so destructive is because it shuts down this God-given mechanism to help us recognize there is a problem needing attention. Then, when our indulgence in the cycle produces further pain, instead of recognizing and adequately dealing with that, we shut down the pain again, and things only get worse.
Men and women caught in sexual addiction commonly experience a kind of amnesia where they forget the pain caused by their acting out and remember only the pleasure. This amnesia is itself a part of the addiction, a learned way of avoiding pain, even past pain.
Gaining lasting freedom from sexual sin requires we stop the cycle before it begins, and that requires gaining muscle in the realm of emotions—not muscle against emotions, but muscle in processing emotions. This includes acknowledging their presence, feeling them, identifying them, expressing them, and then responding to them constructively.
Dr. Paul Brand was a physician who specialized in treating men and women afflicted with leprosy. In his work, he discovered that, contrary to popular belief, leprosy is not directly responsible for the rotting tissue on those inflicted with the disease. Rather, leprosy attacks a person’s pain sensors, rendering them unable to feel pain. Brand’s pioneering discovery revealed that this inability to feel pain leaves leprosy victims vulnerable to other injuries that, in turn, cause the infections and tissue decay.
Consider a boy who steps on a rusty piece of metal. With healthy pain sensors, the boy would immediately pull his foot away and if the pain were intense, he’d go to his parents for help. If the problem were beyond their expertise, the parents would take the boy to the hospital where the wound would be properly cleaned, stitched, and bandaged. Then he’d be sent home with antibiotics and careful instructions on how to care for the wound until it would fully heal. In contrast, a boy with leprosy would experience no pain to alert him to the metal shard piercing his foot. He might drive the metal further into his foot, bleed without noticing, get an infection, etc.—all without realizing he has a problem that needs attention.
In Luke 5:12 and 13, we read of a man with leprosy who came to Jesus to be healed.
While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Among other things, Jesus was restoring this man’s capacity for pain. When He said, “I’m willing,” He was affirming the good of being able to feel pain! And He is willing to restore our capacity to feel a full array of painful emotions as well.