July 11th 2023
#24: Pathways to Victory: Overcoming Addiction Through Faith
What if the key to breaking free from unwanted sexual behavior lies in the power of your thoughts?
Let’s journey together through this thought-provoking conversation as we explore the often overlooked significance of our mental pathways and how they can lead us to experiences of shame, isolation, and disappointment.
Yet, there’s hope. There’s a promise – and not just any promise, but one from Jesus, who is ready to guide us in creating new neural paths filled with freedom, victory, and community.
We’ll tackle the challenging topic of overcoming addiction by understanding the ‘why’ behind our behaviors.
We’ll grapple with the discomfort of change and resistance but also discover the liberation that comes with redirecting our thoughts towards truth, honor, purity, and love.
We’ll discuss practical ways to utilize tools like the pause app to build our mental strength, catching and transforming negative thoughts. Join us as we blaze a new path with Jesus, turning our minds and hearts towards the ultimate freedom He offers.
Let’s remember, we are not alone in this journey, and with Jesus, we can achieve more than we ever imagined.
Transcription: Pathways to Victory: Overcoming Addiction Through Faith
Your sexuality is good, holy and beautiful. If that doesn’t feel true, you’re in the right place. We believe Jesus knows your sexual brokenness and is inviting you to wholeness. We hope to bring you that invitation every week as we explore topics from friendship to fantasy, loneliness to lust and war. We are dedicated to helping you connect your struggle to your story and your story to God, because every bit of you is sacred by design. So often when we are praying on topics for this podcast, it can start with a word, and the word that kept coming up for this particular episode was path, and so, to start, i just want to begin with a story.
My family we used to have a little four by four garden, tiny, and my younger son was the master gardener And he had asked for a wheelbarrow to help him work his little farm. Every day he would grab the handles and lift a load of dirt or Capri Suns or rocks, whatever, to the gate, and after a while there was a clear path worn out from all the back and forth and back and forth to the same stop. This repetition cleared out a groove in the grass And he would every day steer that little wheel right onto that groove because it was an easy straight shot, with good momentum, right to the garden. Why am I telling you about a little kid pushing a wheelbarrow across the lawn to get to a garden? Well, consider this. What if your thoughts are a wheelbarrow and the groove in the lawn are the neuro pathways in your brain? Is it a big leap? It might sound that way. I’m not an neuroscientist, but the connection is pretty solid. So stick with me, because thoughts, how you think, have the same effect on your brain as that loaded up wheelbarrow on the grass.
Now, because this is regeneration ministries and you’re here first, very particular reason, let’s take it a step further and imagine that your addiction, the unwanted sexual behavior that you’re battling, is loading up your desire, and your triggers and pain are steering down the same path back and forth and back and forth, leading you to the same ending. Your thoughts are powerful. Loneliness has worn out a path. Anger may have worn out a path. Comparison can wear out a path. Your brain, and my brain, has bajillions of well-worn paths in them.
Do you know what the greatest enemy of your spiritual life is? Your thoughts, specifically your negative thoughts, the ones that contradict the sacred voice that calls you beloved. So let me ask you what do you think of you? What words come to mind? Do words like true, honorable, right, pure, lovely? Do those words make the list? Or do words like dirty, unlovable, unworthy steer your thoughts? Or how about these words? Never, always, can’t These words direct thoughts?
Dallas Willard says the ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon. It is in our thoughts that the first movements toward the renovation of the heart occur. That’s pretty heavy, so let me repeat it The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon. It is in our thoughts that the first movements toward the renovation of the heart occur. So what if, right now, Jesus is asking you, his beloved, to sit and think about how you end up masturbating Or how you show up at his house or her house again and again? Sure, it may have started out with a feeling, but how you think about that feeling, what you think about yourself, seems to be getting you to the same place, and it has created a path. Jesus wants to redirect your thoughts with you towards ultimate freedom.
The tricky thing about addiction and their neural pathways is those paths are easy to travel, right I mean? the path is worn, it’s comfortable, it’s predictable And it leads you to the same disappointment, same kind of relationship, same dosage, the same shame. My goodness, what if this were the end of the story, the end of this podcast? It isn’t. It’s not because what if? what if, now that we have a wheelbarrow and neuroscience and addiction in mind, we bring Jesus in to consider this passage? I wish you could see the pom poms, the virtual pom poms, in my hand.
I am the Lord who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves and they drowned their lives, snuffed out, like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that. It is nothing compared to what I’m going to do, for I am about to do something new. See, i’ve already begun, do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Yes, lord of armies, the Lord of armies is making a promise here based on a solid record of wins.
Emmanuel, god with us, sees the pathways and says forget that, there’s more. Is the Lord talking about neural pathways here? Well, why not? I bet your path to porn feels predictable. I bet your path to masturbation leads you to loneliness. God wants to do something new. What do you think about that? Here’s another, very I’m like jumping. Is it possible to create new neural pathways? Yes, it is. Is it easy? No, mm-mm, cause there’s this thing called resistance. And hey, if you know it up front and you can call it out, oh, this feels hard. This must be resistance. This feels weird. This must be resistance. Oh, i want to give up. Nope, this is resistance. You, you are hardwired by a good God for freedom and victory and love and movement and rest and community. You are hardwired by a good God for more than a predictable path that ends in lonely shame. Here’s another quote I loved by Dr William Struthers The process of sanctification is an addiction to holiness, a compulsive fixation on Christ and an impulsive pattern of compassion, virtue and love.
This is what we are wired for. This is what we are meant for. Scripture says that God knows the number of hairs on your head. Consider that he also knows the thoughts in your head. In John 5.6,. God says do you want to get well.
In Luke 1841,. What do you want me to do for you? In Mark 10.51,. What do you want me to do for you? Jesus wants to hear you, he wants to know your thoughts. Your thoughts are powerful and have led you down a predictable path with the same endpoint for so long. But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit that God gives us. It doesn’t make us timid, it gives us power, it gives us love and it gives us self-discipline. Paul told Timothy and is saying to you, girl, fan that gift into flame. You are wonderfully complex, isn’t it wonderful how complex you are. Ultimately, to change your behavior, you need to understand the why, the reason, the reason to change your behavior. You need to understand the why’s to your behavior. The actions you choose are connected to your emotions, to your thoughts, to your beliefs.
That resistance in going back to the wheelbarrow, when I noticed that Joseph was going kind of a long way to the garden, i was like why don’t you go this direction? If you just go to the right buddy, you can get there quicker And it’ll be easier to unload your rocks and Capri Suns. And sure enough, when he would go to put the wheel in the direction that I was showing him he’d bump right into the grass And he’d get so irritated because it just wasn’t easy. He was trying to get somewhere and it just wasn’t easy because the grass was this resistance. But then, when I showed him, like, oh, look at these steps, look how many steps it takes me to get to this side is 10 steps versus the 25, right. And so with time he kept going and I would keep encouraging him.
That same partnership, Joseph’s willingness to hear my idea, that same cooperation is what can build new neural pathways When we lean into Jesus for his direction. These thoughts lead to our emotions, lead to our behaviors. Jesus, who is the discerner of our hearts and our thoughts. He wants to blaze a new path with you, for you, but it’s going to be hard. Are you willing to cooperate? Are you willing to lean into what he has to say about a new path?
Exciting doesn’t mean easy. It can look impossible, but we’re talking about the God of the impossible, the Waymaker. Two things I want to leave you with. Can you pray that you allow Jesus to see what you’ve got loaded up in your wheelbarrow and ask him to help you push through the resistance and blaze a new path with him. Another idea is to try the pause app. John Eldridge offers a five-minute practice and it’s called Five Minutes to Mental Strength Super simple. Schedule it on your phone and start blazing a new path with the strength of Jesus’ word and Jesus’ hope. And in the whole process, because this is hard and this is work catch those thoughts with kindness. Catch those thoughts in authority.