When I was 22, I remember walking alone across my college campus late at night, ashamed and angry. I looked up at the stars and prayed out loud, “God, I know you love me, and I love you. I also know you hate what I’m doing and I hate it too. So why won’t you change me!?”
I’d been viewing pornography again, and sexual sin in my life was something I both hated and loved. I’d read books, tried prayer, confession, accountability, Scripture memory, resolutions and more resolutions, and nothing seemed to make a difference.
I felt like a man in a tiny canoe trying to paddle upstream in a powerful rushing river. I was exhausted.
How does God restore sexuality? Said differently, how do we change?
After nearly 20 years walking with people seeking sexual restoration, I think of five different categories worth paying attention to if you want to see changes in some area of your sexuality. (I’ll address these as they relate to sexuality, but I think they are components of change in nearly any life-dominating area.) Here they are:
To know what is true is to know what is real. When we buy ideas that are false, we attempt to live outside of reality, and living outside of reality can never lead to real health, freedom, or intimacy.
As a parallel, gravity does not change whether you know about it or not. But it’s best if you know about it because it will pull you with the same force whether you’re stepping on a path or stepping off a building. Likewise, reality is unmoved by what you think it is. It can always and only be what it is. Jesus taught his disciples, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31, 32).
As important as truth is, it isn’t enough to make you whole, anymore than gravity is enough to make you run. If your leg is broken, it needs to be physically healed. The unseen inner wounds people carry are no less debilitating in the areas of sexuality and relationships—wounds related to sense of worth, identity, belonging, security, agency, etc. I’m convinced this is why when three of the gospel writers recorded that Jesus healed a man covered with leprosy (see Mt. 8:2ff, Mk. 1:40ff, and Luke 5:12ff), they all pointed out that before He healed the man, He first touched him. Jesus was concerned with healing the man’s spirit, not just his body.
Sometimes our unwanted sexual behaviors have a demonic component to them. The enemy is after dominion, and one of the pieces of real estate he most desires to control (or at least influence) is the human person—that’s you and me.
One of the enemy’s assignments is to tempt us to sin. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan (cf. Mt. 4:3ff), and Paul refers to the enemy as the “tempter” (1 Thes. 3:5). Beyond temptation, the enemy accuses, confuses, depresses, oppresses, and possesses whenever he can. And he doesn’t fight fair. He’ll use our wounds (see above) and sins as entry points into our lives.
And so, Paul wrote, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:11-12).
Just as every single one of us has to grow up physically, each of us must also grow up relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and yes, sexually. Growth is God’s path out of all manner of immaturity. You cannot be healed of immaturity nor be delivered from it. You must grow. At the same time, growth is not a passive activity, it requires our participation.
What’s more, where a person can be delivered from demonic oppression or supernaturally healed, growth is a different bird. It requires time and participation. A young man may desire to be a good husband one day, but nothing will grow him up as a husband more than being a husband.
Human beings are relational creatures. In a very real sense, it’s in our genes. Who we are and how we thrive is all intimately connected to relationships. Likewise, sexuality is relational. Even for lifelong celibates who remain chaste, their capacity for sexual wholeness is directly correlated with their relational wholeness—their intimacy with God and with others. Want to become more sexually whole? Seek to become more relationally whole.
I put relationships as the last of these five categories, but if you look closely, you’ll see it’s actually a part of all the other four. Just as lies, wounds, demonization, and immaturity usually take root and grow in our lives through harmful, unhealthy, or unholy relationships; so truth, healing, deliverance, and growth all take root and grow in our lives through deepening intimacy (relationship) with God and His people.
In all these: Truth, Healing, Deliverance, Growth, and Relationships, God’s heart toward you is good and loving, always willing and working toward transforming you more and more into the man or woman He created you to be.
If we can help, let us know!
Question: Which of these five categories do you have the most experience with, and which of these may need more attention as you journey toward wholeness?