Hello world! My name is Sam, and I’d like to share a piece of my story of freedom. I’m a teenage guy, and I am a Christian. I have grown up in a good Christian family. I realized my desperate need for Jesus and He saved me at a young age. I didn’t do the bad stuff that even my Christian peers did. I was sort of one of those “perfect” kids, as some people would say.
But I was far from perfect.
Yeah, yeah, the Bible says that all have sinned (except Jesus), so obviously I’m not perfect. What I’m trying to say here is that I wasn’t nearly as perfect as I appeared. At the age of twelve, I started struggling with a secret sin that did its best to ruin my life. It was pornography.
I can remember that while I was younger, I really struggled with impure thoughts. Long before I understood anything about sex, my thought life was dominated by thoughts that I would now consider to be sexually immoral. I know that God was not pleased with the way I used my mind. Even though I was quite young, there was a definite change in my thought life when I got saved. I lost my desire to think about these sinful things. Slowly, however, these desires crept back into my life. This is probably a big part of what drew me into porn.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was already doing something else I should not have been doing when this all started one day. That’s another story, but the key is that I was already living in disobedience. Well anyway, I suddenly had an urge to find out what this “porn” stuff was. I knew it was something very bad, but I was very curious, very foolish, and already doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. (I think part of that curiosity was an unfortunate side effect of being sheltered all my life.) That’s when I looked up porn online. It may very well be the worst thing I have ever done. At that point, I wasn’t looking for just a dictionary definition. I started looking for more of this stuff.
That’s not where the story ends, thankfully; but my story doesn’t get any better until it gets a whole lot worse. I became a regular user of porn. It was absolutely terrible. It messed up my mind so much. After probably a few months, I discovered masturbation. (Don’t know what that is? My suggestion: keep it that way.) Yep, that’s what I said. I know we don’t really like to talk about that, but I think we need to. It became a huge struggle for me. I started doing it a lot. This struggle, in addition to the porn, basically took over my life.
I knew it was all wrong and that God hated my sin. Whenever I did something, I asked God to forgive me and help me stop. This sin left me so depressed. I felt utterly hopeless. Even though I really did want to live free from this stuff, my requests for forgiveness lacked true repentance. Nothing ever changed. My life simply became more of a lie. I felt so ashamed. I thought a church kid like me should not have any struggles like this. I had no intention of telling anyone about these struggles, and I did my best to make sure no one found out.
God had not forgotten me. He was already preparing something that would be a big first step in the right direction for me. After about eight months of living in this sin, I had the opportunity to go to a Christian summer camp for a week. This was the first time I had ever done anything like that, and this week still holds a very special place in my heart and my story.
On Monday night, my counselor shared his story with us. He told us about his own struggles with porn and how he was so grateful for what God had done in his life to set him free from it. This must have been the first time I had really heard anyone talk about this stuff since I had gotten into it. On Thursday, the guys did something called “man night”. It was basically a discussion about purity and stuff. So that made me rather uncomfortable. (Feel the awkwardness….)
When it was over, we were told that our counselors would be available to talk one-on-one with us about this stuff if we needed to. Many of the guys in my cabin took turns talking to him. One guy who had just gotten saved told us that he was giving up porn. I was impressed by his courage to just say that in front of everyone. God used his testimony in a way he never even found out about.
God brought so many things into my life to help me that week, and that night I decided I just couldn’t stay silent about this any longer. So I went outside, and with much shaking, crying, and searching for words, I told my counselor about my struggle with porn. (Hallelujah!)
He was wise and helpful, having walked a similar road. I’m very thankful for being able to talk to him. God knew who I needed as my counselor. What was even better than his words though, was the fact that I wasn’t hiding anymore…at least, not from one person. There was still much more that needed to happen. Nevertheless, that night and that week changed everything for me.
When I got home, I fought temptation and did really well for maybe two months. After that, I started living about the same way I had been living before I went to camp. This went on for quite a long time. I went back to that summer camp the next year and pretended that everything was okay. After all, I had already told someone about it. I just lived life and hoped that somehow things would get better. I must have either thought that I was hopeless or that I could beat this on my own. My story here today proves that neither of those were true of me.
Fast forward to the beginning of the next year. I decided that it was time for me to follow God’s leading by being baptized. I met with my youth pastor a couple times to discuss this with him. At the end of one of those meetings, I totally cracked. I knew that I couldn’t just go on living in this sin while pretending to be following Jesus with all my heart. So at the end of one meeting, I broke down crying and told him what I had told my camp counselor.
Both of these men highly recommended that I talk to my dad about this stuff; so I finally did. I told him about my struggle with porn. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was so worth it. It helped me feel just a little more free, and the joy I felt that night was immeasurable!
Since then, I think I can say that I’ve been doing better on average. Yes, there have been many terrible seasons, but I have grown a lot in these past two-and-a-half years. I’ve had some fairly long periods of time living basically porn-free.
It’s been amazing. For a long time I wasn’t sure how I’d ever make it to this point, but God did what I believed to be impossible in my life. That’s what God does all the time.
The struggle still isn’t over though. The temptation to masturbate or to look at stuff I know I shouldn’t is still very strong. It pains me to see how often I still give in to this stuff, but I still have hope: the same God who has brought me this far says He will finish what He starts. He makes beauty from ashes. He says that He loves me and will never leave me. What more could I ever ask for? I can rejoice in what God has done for me.
Because of what Jesus Christ did for me in His life, death, and resurrection, I have the opportunity to live free indeed. Dear people, if you have never been set free by Jesus, what are you waiting for? This is joy and freedom! If you’re not sure what exactly this means or you just need to talk to someone about it, please, contact BFI. I know my friends here would love to talk to you about the One who has set them free! There’s nothing to be scared of. Please, if that’s you, don’t wait another day to do something about it!
So what? What should this story of my freedom through Christ mean to you? Well, here’s a few lessons I’ve learned that I think can help others who are struggling:
You are never too far. No matter how terrible you are, Jesus still loves you and desperately wants to show you the way of freedom. We are all terrible. You are no worse (or better) than anyone else. It is only by God’s grace (that’s undeserved favor) that we can be made righteous. There is hope for you because of Jesus.
You can’t fool God. Even though some people might think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, God still knows the real you. It’s relatively easily to look good in front of others and still be rotten on the inside. When you pretend that you’re perfect, you’re just living a lie.
Staying silent about these struggles, as I did for a while, is probably a bad idea. Look, I don’t know about you, but one of the best (and scariest) things I have ever done is tell someone that I wasn’t all I was pretending to be. That’s what some of us call “taking off the mask”. The Bible talks about (figuratively) exposing sin to light to kill it. That’s what this is. Admitting to someone that the struggle is real is a good start to fighting sin. Make sure you admit it to God first though, because you are accountable to Him. Remember, you can’t hide anything from Him anyway.
My personal recommendation is to find someone (preferably an older, more mature Christian) whom you can trust and then tell them everything. Don’t try to hide. Yes, it’s scary. I know that from experience. My advice is to pray a lot. God will help you do scary things. He loves a lot. So yeah, find someone to talk to. Have them pray with you. It would probably be helpful for you to have them check up on you every so often, as it can help motivate you to do what’s right. Be completely honest with them. It won’t help you to hide anything.
Another lesson to learn is patience. Becoming pure takes a while. It takes so much longer than you want it to. The good news is that it can happen at a rate you’d think is impossible. Praise God for that!
Fighting sin starts with loving Jesus more. Until you find something more attractive, sin is terribly hard to fight! You need Jesus. See, a starving person will eat just about anything, but what will a person eat after they are convinced that they are stuffed with a Thanksgiving dinner? Most of you probably wouldn’t be interested in a bologna sandwich right then! I think the same principle can be applied here. Do you understand what I’m saying? Jesus can fulfill every need we have just like a big dinner can fill us. When we are full of good things like that, other stuff just isn’t very attractive. (Unless, maybe, it’s your favorite apple pie…but that really ruins my analogy….) We will lose our desire to sin when our desires are fulfilled in Jesus. He is all we need.
Similarly, hating sin is key to fighting it. When you’re messing around with sin, you’re going to get hurt. It’s not really good enough to simply want to hate sin. You have to actually hate it or it will be very difficult to destroy. It starts by admitting to yourself and to God that you enjoy the sin. It feels pleasurable for a while, and that’s what gives it its power. Then you need to focus on its destructive results and see how much bigger the destruction is than the pleasure, and you will begin to hate it.
Don’t say it isn’t a big deal. Peeps, this is a very big deal. This stuff doesn’t just affect you. It changes the way you think, and that definitely affects the way you treat others, even if it isn’t obvious to anyone. For me, that meant I mistreated a lot of girls by the thoughts I had about them. All sin is serious. Sin doesn’t stay “small”. Either you control your sin, or your sin controls you. Don’t think that means you can handle it. You can’t. The only way to control sin is to kill it. You need it gone. Don’t mess around with this stuff.
Lust, pornography, and masturbation may be topics we don’t like to discuss (and for good reasons too), but sometimes, they just need to be talked about. I’ve heard way too many stories of teens and preteens who didn’t ask others for help, just because they felt that their struggles would be too awkward to admit to. Imagine how much easier the fight could be if it wasn’t so awkward to ask our friends and parents for support!
I hope God has used His story of my freedom to speak to you today. It really isn’t my story. It’s just the one I’m living. I wouldn’t trade it for anything now. God is using this story to show His power and to humble me. That’s exciting! I’m not sharing this because it’s fun, or because it’s a cool story. My goal is not to tell everyone where I’ve been. What I want to communicate is how far Jesus has carried me. I’m sharing this because I have seen God use it in the lives of my friends. I’m sharing this because I know what it’s like to feel trapped and too scared to ask for help. I’m sharing this because I have found hope in Jesus. I’m sharing this because I want you to see Jesus through what He has done for me.
If any of you would like to talk to me personally and privately, feel free to contact BFI, and they would be happy to get us in contact with each other. I’d love to talk to you. Keep fighting the good fight!
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
Forgiven and Free Indeed,