Welcome! I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I invite you to share your responses with other readers. Comments that use abusive or vulgar language will be removed. Otherwise, you are free to agree or disagree. May God richly bless you today and always! ~ Dr. Susan
|Posted by mercycounseling on November 5, 2019 at 9:30 AM||comments (0)|
HOW TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD FOR YOU
Some years ago, a young Christian man came to counseling because he was trying to discern the will of God about whether he should marry a young woman with whom he was in love. His angst over the matter was truly gut-wrenching. The woman in question was also a Christian. They were both leaders in many activities of their church, very devoted to Jesus, and they were afraid to do the wrong thing. They wanted to know for sure if it was God’s will for them to marry. Their indecision had been going on for many months.
This couple was looking for an iron-clad sign from God. They were so intent on hearing His voice that they heard it in every Christian song on the radio, in every Christian message. Sometimes they heard “yes” and sometimes they heard “no.” Confusion reigned.
Maybe you have wondered about the will of God for you. Very few people today actually hear the audible voice of God. For most of us, it appears as an impression on the consciousness, and we must determine if it is our own will generating that impression or maybe even our imagination. There are even times when it may be demonic influence.
I believe discerning the will of God need not be so anxiety-producing when we fully engage both Christian faith and intellect. A prescriptive scripture for this is Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Following are some steps for you to consider.
Be willing to surrender your will. The first step in the process of discerning God’s will is to be willing to surrender your will to His. This means you must truly want to please God in the matter and be willing to surrender yourself to God’s leadership. This is what “walking in the Spirit” is all about. It is an attitude of wanting to align your desires and behaviors with God’s commands. Jesus sums this up in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10)
You must know the character of God and His relationship to His creation (you). God has provided the Bible for this purpose (the renewing of your mind), and He has called preachers to proclaim His Word. Read the Bible with purpose and plan. It is full of information God wants you to know, especially about Himself. Attend a church where the Bible is clearly explained and where the members are conversant in its truth. God’s will about how human beings are to conduct life are spelled out, and you can know God’s will—in a general sense—for what He wants from you. Reading and hearing the Word of God will increase your faith (Romans 10:17) and tune your mind to discern God’s will.
Ask God to reveal His will to you. When you need more specific guidance, do several things.
1) Seek counsel from godly people you know, who have the Biblical background needed. Sometimes God speaks to us through godly people (Proverbs 11:14).
2) Pray. Ask God to show you His will in a specific matter. Pray frequently until you feel sure of His answer ( 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ).
3) Wait. Sometimes God reveals an answer immediately, sometimes not. (Psalm 27:14)
Act on what you believe is God’s will, to the best of your ability. Our God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). If you have taken the steps previously mentioned and believe you know what you should do, validate your decision by asking this final question: Is what I want to do in alignment with the teachings of God as revealed in the Bible, and do I have a sense of peace?
Finally, remember these words from Galatians 5:19-25, for they reveal the context of the heart in all matters: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, [murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
As for that young couple—eventually they married and are now living happily and blessed with children. Thanks be to God
Walking in the Spirit, may you know God’s will today.
Dr. Susan Haberkorn is an ordained Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor
|Posted by mercycounseling on November 4, 2019 at 8:10 AM||comments (0)|
DEAR CHRISTIAN PARENTS:
Do you love Jesus? Do you teach your children to love Jesus?
I’ve heard it said that we are always just one generation away from Christianity disappearing from the earth. Thank God that can never be true! The Lord has promised the “the gates of hell” will never prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18.
Even so, many Christian parents are failing the Lord, the church, and their children in the matter of Christian child-rearing. They seem to have an attitude (and many say) that there is no need to bring up their children in the church; they think it’s ok to say that the child can decide later. So they don’t prioritize assembling with other believers and teaching their children Bible stories. They don’t pray with their children or spouse. How then, will their children develop a saving faith? This attitude specifically violates a powerful exhortation to “train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6).
Like it or not, children learn to value (or not value) what their parents demonstrate as valuable. This includes not just Christian education, but also parental authority. It’s shocking to me how many parents let the kids run the household, most specifically regarding whether the family attends church. A child indulged in this way is on the road to hell and it is the parents’ fault.
Dear Christian parents: you have a God-ordained responsibility to raise your children to love Jesus and to love His bride, the church. Please make it a priority.
Dr. Susan Haberkorn is an Ordained Minister of Pastoral Care and NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor.
|Posted by mercycounseling on July 9, 2019 at 7:15 AM||comments (0)|
The Prickliest Topic in Christianity
Part One: Than Came Grace
It came to me in the still of early morning darkness, as I roused from sleep. A question floated into my consciousness, a gentle whisper: Why are you willing to spend $20 on lunch with a friend, but you only put $10 in the offering plate at the church you are visiting? As I mused on this, I didn’t feel shamed or guilty, but I realized it was a valid question I needed to consider. Tithes, offerings, and gifts—they’re all relevant to the question—and these became the subject of my inquiry.
To tithe or not to tithe, that is the disputed question.
The concept of tithing belongs to Old Covenant law. When God brought the 12 tribes of the children of Israel into the promised land, he divided that land among 11 tribes; but for the tribe of Levi no land was given. Levi was the priestly tribe, and because there was no inheritance in the land for them (thus no way to make a living), the Lord commanded that all the other tribes contribute one-tenth (a tithe) of their increase to the Levites for their living and so that they could make the offerings mandated by law. The Levites, in turn, were commanded to give a tithe (one-tenth) of their income to God’s treasury. (Numbers 18:26)
The tithe was mandatory under the Mosaic law, but are Christians bound by it? The answer is “No,” as supported by New Covenant scripture.
With the New Covenant entered a new High Priest—Jesus. He is not of the tribe of Levi but was born into the tribe of Judah. No such commandment was ever given under the Old Covenant to give tithes to Judah. (Hebrews 7:14)
Under the New Covenant, giving is indeed encouraged; but when to give, to whom to give, and how much to give are left to the discretion of the giver. Most notable among these scriptures is Paul’s recounting of the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). In the early church the people were described as living a communal life, selling all their possessions and laying the proceeds at the Apostles’ feet (however, this was not mandatory). Then the wealth was distributed to each according to need. Ananias and his wife Sapphira colluded to sell their land and keep back part of the proceeds but pretended they were giving it all. Peter confronted them for lying to the Holy Spirit and they both were struck dead. Here are the words of Peter that punctuate the notion of free-will offering:
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)
In the New Testament, the word “tithes” is only used five times, and it appears only in the context of Old Covenant giving. The concept of mandatory tithing is converted to a system of voluntary giving, as the word is changed from “tithes” to “gifts and offerings.” This makes complete sense! Under the Old Covenant, there was no guarantee of eternal salvation. The people were shackled under a system of works that had to be repeated again and again. God demanded of them their tithes. But under the New Covenant, God guarantees eternal salvation by offering a gift—His Son, Jesus Christ—who died for our sins and rose from the dead to pave the way for us to live forever. It is through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we are saved. We no longer have to give, we only have to receive. This is grace!
Part Two: Substantive Realities
Being freed from the law in Christ, then, there is still much to consider about our pattern of giving. Note especially 2 Corinthians 9:7,
“Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.”
What Paul is saying is that no one should give because he feels coerced or because he “has to.” There is no “has to” anymore. Rather, we are free to give because we want to; and this is pleasing to God. As always, God is interested in your heart, not your pocketbook.
Coerced giving leads to many kinds of sin. If you give begrudgingly, your heart will not be in agreement with the action. You, however, may not feel free to express your disagreement. This leads to passive-aggressive behavior in which you allow anger or fear to fester, causing you to live a lie. The one(s) who coerce you are also sinning, because they have broken one of the great commandments: love your neighbor as yourself. Arm-twisting manipulation is always a sin.
Setting aside these negatives, let’s go on to consider a fact: it takes resources to support the church. Even if a few people meet in someone’s living room as a house church, there will be expenses. To my thinking, keeping a right conscience toward your church (and God) includes contributing to keeping the church going.
In closing, I want to encourage you to take time to meditate on this prickly, though important topic. Why do you give the amount you do? What are the emotions you feel concerning it? Are you able to give freely and joyfully? If not, why not? If not, how can this be resolved?
The decision to give and how much is yours alone. Whatever you do, just own it. Is not the money in your own hand? (2 Corinthians 9:7) God has blessed you with the right to choose how to spend your resources. I pray that you will honor Him not only with your hand, but also with your heart.
|Posted by mercycounseling on July 6, 2019 at 8:55 AM||comments (0)|
Stressing Out Doesn’t Make You a Bad Christian!
We’ve all been there. Feeling so stressed that we are practically paralyzed. Blowing our cork over things that normally wouldn’t merit much attention. Not sleeping. Rushing around. Not eating right. Crying jags. Wanting to run away or simply hide under the covers and not come out.
As Christians, this often leads to feelings of failure and guilt over the “ifs,” “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” After all, if we have faith, we should be able to overcome anything, right? We shouldn’t let the pressures of the world steal our joy, right?
Give yourself a break and stop beating yourself up. Even towering biblical characters had melt-downs from time to time. Moses, Elijah, even Jesus.
Overcoming stress means you must evaluate your situation and correct those things that you can. Are you doing too much? Step back from some responsibilities (i.e., learn to say no). Remove ungodly influences from your life, if any. Take time to eat healthy food, not junk food or fast food. Make room in your schedule to rest and sleep. Talk to a Christian counselor to help ground you in objective truth.
Take time to pray and believe your prayers are heard. The Lord will strengthen you just as He did Elijah, Moses, and Jesus. He will not judge your weakness. Rather, He will shine a light on a path to healing. He will send others into your life to help you get through it all. Trust Him. You were never meant to have all the answers and all the solutions. He does. Pray without ceasing.
Remember that Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He is the great carrier of burdens and light-bearer of truth.
In the midst of turmoil, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Even when your faith seems to fail you, He never will. Remind yourself of that when things get tough and keep reminding yourself. Victory is at hand.
|Posted by mercycounseling on January 11, 2019 at 9:20 AM||comments (0)|
IS YOUR MARRIAGE A COMPETITION?
Susan A. Haberkorn
NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor
Americans love a good competition. In fact, it seems to be central to our corporate identity. We compete for the best deals, for jobs, for the glamor of the spotlight. We root for our favorite individual and team athletes. We compete at home, at work, at school, and at play. Even our economy is based on competition.
The good promise of competition is high achievement, but the downside of competition is that whenever someone wins, someone else loses; and it isolates and leads to an excessive focus on self. No where is this downside more destructive than within marriage and family.
God has provided His framework for marriage and family that excludes competition and selfishness. He provides Himself as the sovereign authority, the husband/father as the head of the home, the wife/mother as partner to the husband/father, and the two of them together as authorities over the children. This is not a popular notion of family hierarchy today; but when it is executed in accordance with the instructions of mutual love, respect, and grace outlined in the Bible, it is a very elegant and orderly system that brings security and peace to all family members.
If your marriage and family are frequently mired in turmoil, could competition be the culprit? Husband, are you loving your wife as though she were part of your own body? Do you lead your family with gentleness and guide them in devotions and prayer? Wife, do you treat your husband with respect and allow him to lead? Do the two of you back one another up in all situations, or do you undermine one another’s authority and character? Do either of you side with a child or other person against the other parent? Do you make each other compete with someone or something else for your time, love and attention? If any of this rings true for you, your marriage is being destroyed by competition. If so, you can turn it around by returning to God’s original plan. You may need the help of a Christian counselor to guide you. Some pertinent scriptures are listed below.
1 Peter 3:1-7
Here is what marriage competition looks like:
And here is what God's plan looks like:
|Posted by mercycounseling on December 16, 2018 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Immune Health and Digestion 101: Ya Gotta Chew, and Ya Gotta Poo
by Susan A. Haberkorn, Ph.D., NHP
That’s right, friends; I did say poo. About 70-80 percent of your immune system operates between your lips and your anus. Your health, in large measure, depends on the trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in your alimentary canal, aka, digestive tract. The alimentary canal includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.
What, you may ask, do chewing and pooing have to do with it? Chewing and pooing are the Alpha and Omega of digestion: the beginning and end. Chewing your food properly provides mechanical breakdown of food into smaller particles. As you chew, saliva is secreted into your mouth. Saliva has a two-fold purpose: 1) to moisten food so you can swallow it; and 2) saliva contains several enzymes that begin the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, starches, and protein. It also contains an enzyme that destroys harmful bacteria by digesting the cell wall.
The mechanical and chemical actions involved in proper chewing prepare each bite to be converted into energy that your body can use. The probable outcome of wolfing down food without proper chewing is digestive upset, inefficient processing of nutrients, putrefaction of food further along in the digestive tract, gas, bloating and possible illness from the harmful bacteria that come with the food. Under these circumstances, your gut flora (beneficial bacteria) will also become out of balance. Thus, you will experience negative immune effects.
At the other end of the equation is elimination. When your digestion is upset by ineffective chewing, you will experience either diarrhea or constipation. Diarrhea occurs when food moves too quickly through the intestines (often caused by the harmful bacteria not destroyed by saliva); and constipation occurs when food moves too slowly. How you chew your food is only one aspect of the end result, however. Dehydration, poor dietary choices, “bad” microbes, and use of pharmaceutical drugs all play a role in your body’s digestion and elimination processes. They also can lead to reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut, resulting, once again, not only in inefficient digestion but also in negative immune effects. The bottom line—no pun intended: Failure to have at least one hearty bowel movement every three days (even though you are eating regularly), is generally considered abnormal and means you are likely toxic. A more frequent elimination (at least once per day) will help you feel better.
Partially digested and undigested food due to lack of proper chewing will make you sick. Recirculating toxins from a sluggish bowel will make you sick. If you seem to feel tired and listless frequently, look first to your digestive system. Are you chewing, and are you pooing? The answer to better health may lie therein.
1. “Your gut is the cornerstone of your immune system.” https://www.health24.com/Medical/Flu/Preventing-flu/your-gut-is-the-cornerstone-of-your-immune-system-20160318
2. Definition of alimentary canal: https://www.britannica.com/science/alimentary-canal
3. “Bowel Movements: What’s Considered Normal?” https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/guide-to-constipation-relief/bowel-movements-whats-normal/
|Posted by mercycounseling on October 22, 2018 at 1:25 PM||comments (0)|
Managing Your Emotions
According to the Collins online dictionary, “An emotion is a feeling such as happiness, love, fear, anger, or hatred, which can be caused by the situation that you are in or the people you are with. They are the part of a person's character that consists of their feelings, as opposed to their thoughts.”
Emotions are a way in which our unconscious mind interprets the world. They are prompted in response to stored memories. As the brain processes the continuous flow of external and internal stimuli, it compares that incoming information to the stored memories of previous experiences, which include what happened and how we responded. It also accesses memories related to personal values and beliefs. When the unconscious mind has finished evaluating and connecting these memories to the present situation, it sends a signal to your amygdala (a tiny organ in the brain that processes emotions), and the amygdala signals the emotional response to the conscious mind. In effect, your unconscious mind creates a simulation. This process happens so fast that we often think the emotion precedes the thought, but it doesn’t. The unconscious thought and value judgment happen before we become aware of a conscious emotional response. Emotions are, therefore, a product of our thinking.
Uncontrolled thinking leads to uncontrolled emotions. In her book, Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf addresses the value of disciplining the mind: “Getting your thoughts disciplined and under control is one of the first steps in freeing yourself of the burdens of the world and beginning to enjoy life despite the burdens of the world.”79 When we relive memories and their attendant emotions over and over in our mind (whether bad or good), we increase the likelihood that our unconscious mind will form a simulation from those memories and emotions whenever we are in a similar situation.
We all experience emotions and become physically aroused by them. Because they are formed from memories, values and perceptions, we need to check the validity of negative emotions by comparing them to our present situation before we translate them into action (except in the case of real, imminent danger—our fight or flight response).
Assuming you are not in a life-and-death situation, it is a good idea to re-evaluate on a conscious level what your mind has determined on an unconscious level. Remember, the unconscious mind only deals with past experiences, which may not be fully applicable to the situation at hand. In other words, you need to consider the current, objective truth. Objectivity will give you a healthy perspective on life and alleviate much of the pain caused by inappropriate or unresolved emotions. God’s Word is the most objective truth of all, and I encourage you to search the Scriptures for answers when emotions threaten to derail you.
It is interesting that the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the spirit” described in Scriptures correlate to negative and positive emotions, respectively:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; (Galatians 5:19-21)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
Sometimes people struggle to understand and describe the emotions they are feeling. There are many different shades of the same emotion. Below is a chart showing six major subdivisions designed to help you interpret your emotions. The list is not exhaustive, and some of the specific emotions fit into more than one category. You can decide how these relate to your experiences.
Anger: Annoyed, Bitter, Bored, Disdain, Disgust, Envious, Frustrated, Furious, Hurt, Irritated, Jealous,
Resentful, Suspicious, Tense
Fear: Anxious, Confused, Insecure, Nervous, Scared, Self-conscious, Tense, Terrified, Trapped,
Worried, Shocked, Uncomfortable
Shame: Embarassed, Foolish, Inadequate, Self-conscious, Silly, Stupid, Worthless
Joy: Comfortable, Content, Happy, Hopeful, Inspired, Loving, Peaceful, Proud, Satisfied, Relieved
Grief: Depressed, Despair, Heartache, Lonely, Lost, Miserable, Overwhelmed, Sad
Excitement: Amazed, Determined, Eager, Energetic, Motivated
Can you add any words to the lists?
Susan A. Haberkorn, Ph.D., NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor
|Posted by mercycounseling on October 12, 2018 at 8:10 AM||comments (0)|
Our Intimate Creation
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
There is an infinite and eternal bond between human beings and our creator God. If you are familiar with the Genesis account of creation, then you know that God spoke nearly all things into being—light, dark, sun, moon, stars, land, sky, sea, plants, land animals, insects, birds—all by His mighty words, “let there be.” And it was so.
The pinnacle of God’s creation, however, was made differently than all else. God said, “Let us make man in our image.” Imagine, if you will, God standing upon His newly created earth. He scoops together some dirt and forms it into the shape of a human being. Like a clay creation, it has no life. But then God does something extraordinary: He raises the lump of clay into His arms and with his mouth He breathed into its nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.
The creation of humankind is deeply personal with God—intimate.
God could have spoken us into being, as he did the animals, for example. But he didn't. When He created the other creatures, he gave them instincts for survival and let them go to live, reproduce, and die. They have no personal awareness of self or God; they are not sentient. He did not create them in His image, nor did he purpose to have fellowship with them. In fact, he gave their stewardship to the man he had just created: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Why, then, did God create us differently? To have fellowship with us. He wants to interact with us. He wants to be a Father to us. And so God took a personal approach to our creation, forming us and then cradling us with His own hands and breathing life into us with His own mouth.
In those times when you may feel alone in this world, cut off and distant from God, I hope you will remember your intimate beginnings in Him. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)
|Posted by mercycounseling on September 17, 2018 at 6:15 AM||comments (0)|
THE PROVERBS 31 HUSBAND
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Bible studies written about the “Proverbs 31 Woman.” What I want to write about today is the Proverbs 31 HUSBAND. Don’t get me wrong—the wife in this Scripture is an amazing, Godly woman and quite deserving of praise; however, the traits of her husband are not often discussed. He is an amazing man who, if you read between the lines, helps to provide an atmosphere within the marriage in which his wife is safe and free to be all she can be.
He is trusting. In 31:11, the scripture says “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.” Did you notice the word “so”? His trust begets this gain. He trusts before. He has an already trusting heart toward his wife, and she responds for his good.
He respects her. Verses 13 to the end are filled with her autonomy. She goes about her business of running both her household and her business enterprise unhindered. She makes numerous decisions about both small and large matters as a regular part of her routine. He does not interfere.
He is generous. He does not object to the time and money she spends operating her business, caring for the poor, and taking care of the family’s well-being (vv. 20-24).
He is not jealous. In the conduct of her business, she undoubtedly comes into contact with and has dealings with men other than her husband (v. 24).
He recognizes the benefits that accrue to him because of who she is. He is well-known among the elders because she is well-known and respected in the community (v.23). He doesn’t try to take credit for the good she does (v. 31).
He shows his appreciation for her. He doesn’t take her for granted; he praises her openly (v.29).
As you can see, Proverbs 31 has lessons for both men and women. It is a portrait of freedom and responsibility in marriage—a Godly marriage.
Susan A. Haberkorn, NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor
|Posted by mercycounseling on August 25, 2018 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
6 SCRIPTURES TO LEAD YOU OUT OF SEXUAL SIN
Sexual sin is everywhere around us, and no more so than in the form of pornography. Porn is ubiquitous across all digital platforms, because it is easy to access, private, and requires absolutely nothing of the user except the cost of purchasing it, if any. There are none of the complications associated with establishing and maintaining a romantic relationship. According to the Barna Group, among the younger generation, porn is now a widely accepted form of entertainment and self-gratification; and many consider failing to recycle a greater social problem than pornography.
“When asked to rank a series of “bad things” a person could do—things such as stealing, lying, having an affair, even overeating—teens and young adults placed all porn-related actions at the very bottom of the list. In fact, teens and young adults said “Not Recycling” is more immoral than viewing pornographic images. They also placed “thinking negatively about someone with a different point of view” as a much worse activity than viewing pornography.”
You need not think that this phenomenon is restricted to non-Christians. “Of the 10,000 calls, emails and letters Focus on the Family receives daily, this represents their number one incoming request for help overall.” Attitudes are similarly changing about all types of sexual sin: homosexuality, abortion, sex outside marriage, pornography, adultery, pedophilia, etc.
Apparently the church is doing a miserable job competing with popular culture, because even a large proportion of ministers, church leaders, and church members report struggling with sexual sin.
I am deeply concerned because more and more I am counseling couples who (one or the other) are engaged in various modes of hidden sexual sin and then wonder why their marriages are falling apart. Here’s an example of a recent counseling encounter with a Christian couple (both have a salvation testimony): The wife discovered porn on her husband’s cell phone and became very upset, traumatized, and overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. On the surface, I could truly understand that! This form of betrayal often has the same impact as a husband’s physical adulterous relationship. But wait! While trying to help this couple work through the aftermath, it was revealed that just a few years ago, when the couple was undergoing financial hardship, they decided it would be ok for the wife to earn money by writing for an online pornography site. I had to ask: In what universe is any of this behavior (his or hers) acceptable for a Christian?
Incidentally, the young husband mentioned above at first explained his use of porn in terms of some sort of compulsion or addiction. Baloney. In fact he was using it as a stress-coping mechanism. It’s very popular today to make everything conveniently a matter of one illness or another, which removes much of the need to take personal responsibility for one’s actions. I told him his only disease is sin-sickness, and proceeded to offer him several other types of stress-reducing activities that will not damage his relationship with his wife or God.
Our culture’s attitude toward sexuality certainly has changed (vastly) in the last 60 years, but has God changed His mind about the honorable use of our God-given sexuality? Scripture makes it clear that He has not. “I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Malachi 3:1-7) Christians need to refocus on what God values and reject the ways of the world.
If you are struggling with sexual sin, you need to hear God’s heart on this topic. He is a God of grace and mercy, but we are not to continue sinning just because we are under grace. (Romans 6:1-3) Following are six scriptures the Lord offers to you to help lead you back to the path of purity.
1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. In other words, there are other actions you can take to satisfy your needs without resorting to sin. These may include controls on electronic devices that restrict access to immoral sites; learning better communication skills to resolve disputes; using exercise and breathing techniques to control and reduce stress; and taking your concerns to a professional counselor for help. The point is, you have a choice to follow God or follow Satan.
James 1:12-15 - Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Part of the Christian life involves enduring the pain of temptation, but we are not alone in our struggle. The born-again believer has the Holy Spirit living within, alongside our carnal nature. One of the purposes of this indwelling is to help us be more like Jesus by strengthening our faith and convicting us of sin. Do you truly love Jesus more than the world? He said, “Follow me.”
Matthew 5:27-28 - You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Lusting in person and lusting at images are the same thing. It violates God’s moral law and is specified as the fifth of the 10 Commandments. (Exodus 20:14) The word “adultery” has the same implications as the word “contaminated.” When you commit adultery, you contaminate the holiness of your marriage. You become filthy, and you cause your mate to be filthy.
Matthew 5:29-30 - If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. This passage drives home the seriousness with which God sees sexual sin, and it covers the lust in both what you see and do. Your lustful eye and hand are an abomination to God and He will not allow it within His presence. It should be clear by this that your sexual sin separates you from God. Repent and be restored.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20 - Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. When you became saved, you gave up your right to live as if there is no God. When you got married, you gave up your right to live as though you are still single. Ungodly sexual behavior causes you to sin not only against your spouse and God, but against your own body; and it’s not yours to pollute. Is Jesus Christ your Lord? Or is your faith a lie?
2 Timothy 2:22 - Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Think of Joseph who was seduced by Potiphar’s wife, and who, rather than sin against God, fled her seductions, leaving his garment in her hands. (Genesis 39:6-15) This story is so relevant that I will repeat it here. Notice that her enticements were not a one-time thing, but Joseph endured this temptation many times:
6 Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.
11 But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. 13 And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, 14 that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to [f]mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.
Refer to 1 Corinthians 10:13 above, and determine to resist for the sake of the God who created you, loves you, and has set His boundaries for your well-being.
I pray that the Word of God will bring you to repentance and lead you back to the way of righteousness. He is waiting for you to return with open arms:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9-10)
Return to Me, and I will return to you, Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:7)
Susan A. Haberkorn
NCCA Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor