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How Imagination Helps Break the Grip of Porn

If you struggle with unwanted sexual behaviors, your imagination has played a role in keeping you trapped. But did you know it can also help set you free?

God has given us our imaginations as powerful tools, and they can be used either for good or for evil. If you’re wrestling with habitual unwanted behaviors, your imagination has been co-opted to drag you down. Consider pornography as one example. Porn is fiction. It’s actors and actresses are pretending in front of a camera. When we view porn, we’re using our imaginations to collude with the fiction pornographers are trying to sell by…

  1. Shutting out the realities of our real lives for a while, including the consequences of what we’re engaging in.
  2. Embracing that what we’re viewing is real and desirable.
  3. Ignoring everything that exposes the truth about what we’re doing and watching.

All these are ways we have learned to misuse our imaginations in order to only see a fiction or a fraction of the real human beings on the screen, the real lives they’re living off-screen, the real brokenness they bear, and the real situation we’re placing ourselves in by viewing porn. In a real way, we’re reflecting what Paul writes about to the Romans.

“They became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…” (Romans 1:21b – 23a ESV, emphasis added)

The images in pornography aren’t true images of real people. The real people are there, but they’re covered over with imaginary images—fakes, fictions, illusions created to resemble real people.

So how can we use our imaginations to see reality again, to move toward freedom?

We can begin by filling in the gaps between what we can see and what we can’t. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons God gave us our imaginations in the first place—to help move us toward truth, goodness, and beauty even when we cannot yet see them readily.

This means we choose to see some of what we do not see, and to “un-see” some of what we normally see without even realizing it.

Imagination, when used as God intended, points us from the illusions we see to the truths we don’t see. In this way, fantasy in its best form points us from unreality to real reality. And in our fallen, deceptive world, Jesus can sanctify our imagination to help lead us to truer truths, more beautiful beauty, and realer realities than our blurry, broken eyes can perceive in the natural.

Think about your earliest use of your imagination: You pretended to be teachers and fire fighters and pilots and knights and princesses and dragon slayers and moms and dads. The imagination is God’s gift to us. It stokes faith in what we cannot see, it fuels hope in what has not yet come, and it leads us to step out where all we see urges us to stay put. This is what true fantasy is about.

Your imagination wasn’t the enemy’s idea, it was God’s. Could it be that the reason the enemy wants to enslave your imagination in sexual fantasy is because he knows how powerful your imagination can become to lead you into the unseen realities God has for you?

J.R.R. Tolkien said it this way: “At its best, the fairy story or fantasy is far from being a flight from reality; it is, rather, a flight to reality.”

Imagination that holds you captive does so because it creates fictions that points away from reality.

Imagination that helps set you free does so because it takes hold of real realities and future possibilities that are unseen.

So if you struggle with unwanted sexual behavior, ask Jesus to enter into your imagination so you can dream about where your true Home is, smell the food God is preparing, watch the Father racing to you as you come stumbling along still filthy. Envision the real reality of Jesus on the Cross absorbing your sin into His body, and hear Him crying out, “Father, forgive him/her. They know not what they do!”

And in prayer, re-consecrate your imagination to Jesus, daily as needed. Ask Him to strengthen your imagination to help you conceive of that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).

Jesus, we’ve misused our imaginations and they have become enslaved to what’s not real. Forgive us! Redeem our imaginations and sanctify them that they might fuel our faith until it becomes a bright flame leading us homeward.

Question: How else do you think we can use our imaginations to move us toward God and the life He desires for us?

For you,
Josh


Make sure to check out the latest Becoming Whole Podcast, Beyond Your Imagination – that digs deeper into the above concepts.

8 thoughts on “How Imagination Helps Break the Grip of Porn”

  1. Colossians 1:21-22 seems to speak to this idea: reality (the death of Christs physical body) reconciles us from imaginations (enemies in your minds… accusations).

    1. Thanks, David. You got me to open Colossians and there is so much in that letter (and in Scripture in general) worth putting our imaginations behind. Colossians 3’s admonition to set our hearts on things above grabs my imagination if I’ll let it. So does putting off the old and putting on the new. Such good stuff. Thanks for reading, David. Keep on keeping on yourself!

  2. Praying yesterday I was asking God’s help with this very topic! Right after, my cell phone beeped and my Bible app dinged with a message “Love is near.” The Lord’s timing and tools are amazing to me. I am imagining the transformation to His likeness. Thank you Josh!

  3. Josh, this is the best summary and description of the use of imagination…that Satan fills our imaginations with the false and misleading and turns us captive to those unrealities–it’s the very embodiment of “the powers and principalities of darkness” and “the spiritual forces of evil” , yet imagination is truly God’s gift to us (intending for us to see “real realities and future possibilities” including our sexual wholeness). The Philippians 4:8 scripture and the prayer are “the truth”–thank you! John S.

    1. Well put, John. It really does take it up a notch for us to consider our imaginations as a part of sexual integrity — either working towards God’s purposes or the enemy’s in our life. Thanks for reading and commenting, John! Great to hear from you.

  4. When I wrote my testimony (for Celebrate Recovery) about the Lord Jesus giving me liberty from addiction to porn (and some other unwanted, unhealthy activities), I began with the role imagination played in my life, which was legitimate at first (In play), but later, in my teens, began to turn unhealthy, and then – just as you describe – in my addiction. A major part of my healing was the image, after a morning of porn, of the Lord showing me that I was now standing on top a cliff, my pathway down the road of porn having taken me there – and that if I continued any further, I would fall helplessly into things which would smash me to pieces and ruin everything in my life that I held dear. I turned to him and cried out, “Get me out!” He did, and my life is now far richer than I ever thought it could be. But it was a wrong use of imagination that led me down that path. It was a good use that gave me liberty.

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