Why Sex Addicts are so Afraid
Our fears exert tremendous power in our lives if we let them. Through my own spiritual battles, I’ve learned that fear does indeed paralyze us and keep us in bondage. (Hebrews 2:15) Conversely, fear animates the enemy of our souls—Satan aims to incite fear; he feeds off of fear and thrives in an atmosphere permeated by fear.
Jesus once instructed His disciples to sail across the sea while He spent some time alone in prayer. (Matthew 14:22-33) The weather was cooperative when they started out, but their little boat soon encountered a violent storm that threatened to sink them. Out of the raging storm, Jesus appeared, walking on the waters. When the disciples saw the apparition coming toward them, they cried out in fear. “Be of good cheer,” Jesus called to them. “It is I; do not be afraid.” Impetuous Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” “Come,” Jesus invited him.
Undoubtedly you remember the story: Peter climbs from the boat and begins to miraculously walk toward Jesus on the surface of the stormy seas. As he takes a few steps, Peter makes a decisive mistake. He takes his eyes off his Lord and focuses instead on the boisterous waves. He begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cries. As Jesus reaches out His hand and catches His fear-filled disciple, He asks a simple question, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Jesus’ question reveals a serious problem most of us face: our fears tend to drown our faith. Often, we find ourselves stuck in unbelief, feeling powerless to cease from the behaviors we know are sinful, and powerless to put into practice the steps Jesus has invited us to take toward freedom from our sins. Truthfully, we aren’t just stuck; we’re paralyzed by fear.
Fear Is a Natural Consequence of Sexual Sin
For the person caught up in the cycle of sexual sin, fear has likely played a huge role in his life. Fear of intimacy, fear of emotional pain or rejection, and fear of failure or inadequacy may well have been significant factors that prodded someone toward sexual addiction in his teenage or young adult years. Even when he begins to experience the negative consequences of his sinful behavior, fear of losing his reputation, fear of getting caught or being exposed, and fear of consequences tend to keep him in bondage.
At the root of it all, there is almost certainly a fear of the truth about who I really am. As sex addicts, we have (directly or by proxy) manipulated, deceived or taken advantage of others for our sexual pleasure. We are more selfish, vile, perverted, and predatory than we ever want to see or admit, let alone take responsibility for.
Proverbs 10:24 tells us, “The fear of the wicked will come upon him...” And that’s exactly what happens to most sex addicts. Sadly, it often takes being caught or exposed before the addict becomes willing to face his fears. For others, it may be the lengthening list of consequences that finally forces them to get past these paralyzing fears. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There is ultimately only one way to escape this fear-based prison. We must face our fears head on. We must take stock of the various fears at work in our lives and begin to consciously confront them with biblical truth. Jesus told his disciples in the encounter mentioned above, “Do not be afraid,” and in one form or another, this is probably the most repeated command in all of Scripture. Unfortunately, it’s probably also the most violated.
Fear is the Antithesis of Faith
Coming to grips with our fears is not complicated. It requires truly believing in my heart two key principles the Bible teaches us about God. One is that He is in control, and He is bigger than my fears. Secondly, I must know in my heart that God is good, and His mercy endures forever.
When our heart is open to truth, even a cursory reading of the Scriptures reveals God’s sovereignty and His goodness. The Scriptures are chock-full of examples, promises and proclamations which are meant to serve as anchors for our faith. Read through the life of Christ and you’ll see Him exercising sovereignty over all manner of physical diseases and ailments, over storms and forces of nature, and even over demons in the unseen spiritual realm around us. Everything is under the Lord’s dominion, and He always uses His power for good purposes.
“And we know,” wrote the apostle Paul, “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This is the same apostle Paul who also reluctantly mentioned in another epistle that “five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:24-28) Paul could endure these fearsome circumstances because he clearly understood that our lives are in God’s hands.
Nothing happens that God cannot turn out for our good, even if Satan or other people intended it for evil. (Genesis 50:20) Please hear the heart of the Father beckoning you through the words of His Son: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) He is trustworthy, and He is so much bigger than our earth-bound fears.
As I said earlier, overcoming fear is not complicated, but it is not easy either. That’s why it is seldom accomplished acting alone. Replacing fear with faith invariably requires a body of believers, or at least a few mature believers to come alongside you and pray you through. They need to exercise faith for you, and with you, until your own faith matures.
Spiritual maturity involves letting Scripture get into your heart and make a permanent change in your conception of the Almighty Father. You must learn that He is genuinely for you and that His most passionate desire is to give mercy to you and, just as importantly, to do mercy to others through you. This takes time. In the Pure Life Ministries Residential Program, we do our very best to totally immerse men in an atmosphere of faith and hope and love, and still we allow 7-9 months for the change to take root sufficiently so that a man is able to endure victoriously when he returns home.
Jesus Heals Us of Fear
Perhaps I can offer you this biblical account as an anchor for your faith. Luke’s Gospel tells us of someone who was bound by fear and uncleanness but found healing and freedom in an encounter with Jesus. (Luke 8:43-48) The woman with the issue of blood had suffered for twelve years, finding no help from the various doctors and treatments she had tried.
With her last hope, she sought out Jesus.
In the grip of her fear and uncleanness, she dared only to come near enough to reach out and touch the tassels of His robe. Knowing immediately that healing power had gone out from Him, Jesus stopped and demanded to know who had touched Him. Now in even greater fear, the woman realizes that she cannot be hidden. She comes trembling, kneels before the Lord, and confesses all to Him.
You see, Jesus might have let the matter pass, but that would have left the woman healed of her uncleanness while her fear remained. Because He loved her perfectly, Jesus also insisted on dealing with her fear. (I John 4:18) “Daughter,” He said to her, “Be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
I believe Jesus is waiting to say these same words to every son or daughter whose fear is keeping them bound in sexual addiction or any life-controlling sin. Where will you turn with your last hope?
Ed Buch is Director of Counseling for Pure Life Ministries. He previously worked as a counselor in a nationally known drug & alcohol addiction ministry, and holds a Master’s in Religion from Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has served at the Ministry since 2005.
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