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Intersection of Life and Faith

Switch Your Search from Porn to God

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2012 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
Switch Your Search from Porn to God

Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Michael John Cusick's new book, Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2012).

Many people, including lots of Christians, surf the Internet looking for pornography on a regular basis. If you’re one of them, you may feel caught in a cycle of desire and shame from which you don’t know how to break free.

The key to overcoming your struggle with pornography is realizing that whenever you search online for porn, you’re actually searching for God. Once you understand why and commit to changing how you seek to get your desires met, you truly can break free of a porn addiction.

Here’s how:

Recognize the dangers of porn. Focusing on using porn for your own pleasure rather than reaching out to a real person in marriage distorts God’s design for love. Porn is dangerous to all of your relationships – with God and other people – because it causes you to become isolated in self-absorption and shame and prevents you from growing into the loving person God intends for you to become.

Understand why you’re compulsively drawn to sex. God designed sex as a way to help human beings learn more about intimacy, since He wants to have a close, loving relationship with every person He has made. Sex acts as a powerful signpost pointing people toward God because God is the source of all love. In marriage (where God intended people’s sexuality to be lived out), sex draws spouses closer to God and each other, teaching them more about how to love. You’re drawn to sex because you naturally want to experience more of God’s love in your life. So your desire for sex isn’t the problem. The problem comes when you seek to get your desire met in the wrong ways – such as through porn – that promise to satisfy you but ultimately don’t.

Consider porn’s broken promises. Porn promises to meet many of your deep longings without costing you anything, but it never really delivers on those promises. Reflect on some of porn’s promises (such as sexual fulfillment without relationship, intimacy without risk and suffering, passion and life without connection to your soul, and comfort and care without depending on others) and consider how all point to legitimate, good desires that you can only truly get by following God’s design for sexuality.

Figure out what triggers your desire for porn. Pay attention to what experiences trigger you to want to use porn: seeing a sexually attractive person; being home alone; feeling anxious, angry, bored, or disappointed; or some other situation.

Identify how your cravings for porn are connected to different types of thirst in your soul. People have seven core needs that they may mistakenly try to meet through porn: attention (to be seen and valued), affection (to feel loved), affirmation (to know that they have what it takes to be successful), acceptance (to belong), satisfaction (to be fulfilled), significance (to exert a powerful impact on the world), and security (to know that they will be okay). How is your own soul thirsty right now? Pay attention to your desires. Rather than trying to deny or suppress your sexual desires (which will only be in vain), let those desires lead you to your heart truly longs for: a closer relationship with God.

Distinguish between guilt and shame. Guilt says that a person’s behavior is wrong, while shame says that something is wrong with who that person is. If you feel guilty about your porn addiction, that’s a good thing, because the guilt can motivate you to pursue healing from God. But if you feel ashamed, you can get stuck feeling sorry for yourself. So pray for the power you need to respond to guilt by seeking God, and to get rid of shame and see yourself the way God sees you: as a good person who simply needs to change wrong behavior.

Surrender your brokenness to God. Say “yes” to God’s invitation to grow closer to Him by deciding to trust Him to heal your broken soul. Confess your porn addiction and all of your sexual sins to God. Repent of each sin specifically, deciding to turn away from it and toward God. Accept the forgiveness that God offers you, and entrust your weaknesses and wounds to God’s redemptive purposes. Tell God that you’re ready to work on letting go of porn completely so can experience God’s best for you.

Discover your true identity. Your porn addiction doesn’t define you, and neither does any other kind of sin in your life. Your true identity is based on the fact that you’re one of God’s beloved children whom God loves unconditionally. And if you’re a Christian, the righteousness that Jesus gave you through His sacrifice on the Cross now covers all of your sins and makes it possible for you to connect with a holy God. Thanks to Jesus, there’s a passion for God inside you that’s greater than your sinful nature, so you can overcome any sin in this fallen world – including porn addiction.

Pray against evil to break sexual strongholds in your life. Spiritual warfare is a reality that’s happening in your life and the lives of others every day, and Satan and his forces of evil are working to try to keep you addicted to porn because of porn’s power to interfere with your relationship with God. So consecrate your sexuality to Jesus daily and pray for the power you need to resist temptations to sin sexually.

Understand how porn has wired your brain. Porn use triggers your brain to release a chemical called dopamine that’s linked to desire and excitement. The more you use porn, the more it changes the wiring in your brain, creating and strengthening neural pathways that encourage you to keep using porn so you can keep releasing more dopamine, which feels like a reward for the stimulation you’re giving your brain. But the stimulation that porn offers isn’t healthy.

Rewire your brain. Fortunately, you can rewire your brain to move from unhealthy, addictive patterns to healthy ones by intentionally thinking pure and positive thoughts that reflect biblical truth and pursuing alternate passions (other activities that you enjoy, and especially exercise, which has been shown to increase dopamine receptors in the brain).

Use spiritual disciplines to encounter God in profound ways. Take the time and energy you previously spent on porn and devote it to strengthening your relationship with God instead. Practice spiritual disciples such as silence, solitude, and contemplative prayer to learn how to listen to what God has to say to you throughout your healing process. Over time, your cravings for porn will become weaker and your cravings for God will become stronger!

Adapted from Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle,copyright 2012 by Michael John Cusick. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.

Michael John Cusick is an ordained minister, spiritual director, and Licensed Professional Counselor who has experienced firsthand the restoring touch of God in a deeply broken life and marriage. In 2001 he founded Restoring the Soul, a ministry whose mission is to provide life changing soul care to Christian leaders. Having served in ministry for more than 25 years – including youth and college ministry – his passion is to connect life’s broken realities with the healing power of the gospel. In addition to leading retreats and equipping Christian organizations around the world, Michael currently serves as an adjunct professor at Denver Seminary, where he has taught a variety of groups in spiritual formation. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Colorado Christian University and an MA from the College of Education at the University of Denver. Michael lives with his wife Julianne, and two children, in Littleton, Colorado.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.

Publication date: February 29, 2012