Posted 4 days ago
Yesterday my boyfriend and I had a very thorough, personal, and necessary conversation about our relationship and other personal issues. In the midst of this my boyfriend admitted he'd been struggling with pornography use for some time. He has sought help from close male friends and mentors and is apparently doing well. I love and respect him more than ever for admitting this as I know how hard it was to do, especially as he’s sought help, so I’m honestly not angry and have forgiven him. (pt 1)
Anonymous asked

(pt 2) However I am thinking about it a lot because I have always been vehemently against the porn industry and porn use and I’m anxious it may become an issue of unnecessary focus for me at some point in the future. As his girlfriend, how do I effectively deal with this in the long term, so it doesn’t become a problem? And also, I assume I should leave much/all of the accountability for the men in his life but should I have any role in this, particularly while we’re unmarried? THANK YOU!!

Hi Anon,

I’m glad to hear you guys had that conversation. It’s an important one to have before you commit to a long-term romantic relationship.

I asked my wife, Ashley, to give her input on this question as well, because we’ve been in your shoes before. I know what it is to overcome a porn addiction by God’s grace. And she knows what it is to support a man as he does so.

Your situation

It’s important you understand exactly where your boyfriend is in his healing process. Is porn addiction merely a part of his past? Is he actually making progress toward overcoming it? Or is it something he still struggles with on a regular basis?

If your boyfriend is still struggling, you’re better off ending the relationship—for both your sake and his. He needs to allow himself time and emotional space to get a grip on his addiction, because he won’t make progress without it. And you need to protect your heart from bonding to a guy who still lacks control over his mind and behavior, because you will get hurt if you don’t.

If your boyfriend is actually making progress, you should carefully support him. I say carefully because, if you discover down the road that he’s still struggling in a big way, you may need to end the relationship. But if he’s actually making progress, God could use your support to help him.

By progress I mean:

  • He’s going for longer and longer stretches without porn.
  • He’s got men in his life lovingly holding him accountable.
  • He’s figuring out what his triggers are and how to protect himself from them.
  • He’s looking to God to make the difference in his life.

From what you’ve said, this is the situation you’re currently facing.

But if porn addiction is merely a part of your boyfriend’s past …You need to get over it.

His situation 

Ashley says it’s also important for you to understand what porn addiction really is, because some of the tension porn causes in relationships is due to misunderstanding what’s actually going on.

Porn addiction is almost never about sex. Sex is the bait, but the hook is something else. This is what I mean about your boyfriend figuring out his triggers. 

For me, porn addiction was about emotionally escaping into a fantasy world I could control. It was about contriving wholeness within myself and harmony with the world around me. And it was about believing lies about my true identity.

The hook is whatever lie we believe about what porn can give us. So your boyfriend should prayerfully search his heart and challenge his assumptions about why he does what he does. For me, this was the hardest part of overcoming my addiction, but it was also where I experienced the most healing—and moved closest to God.

We overcome porn addiction by overcoming its lies.

Your perspective

You said you’re not angry and that you have forgiven your boyfriend. But you also said you’re thinking about it a lot and that it could become “an issue of unnecessary focus” for you in the future. 

…If that’s true, you haven’t really forgiven him. 

A guy who has overcome—or is overcoming—an addiction like porn has done no small thing. He is forgiven. He is cleansed. He is made new. And he deserves to be with someone who will recognize and affirm God’s work in his life. If you can’t do that, you might not be the girl for him.

If his addiction is in the past, leave it in the past and get over it. And if you can’t, give him a chance to find a girl who will. 

…That being said, I believe you can. And you already know how, because you’ve been forgiven too.

Your role

You’re right that you should leave accountability to the men in your boyfriend’s life. Any attempt on your part to hold him accountable will just be heartbreaking for you and unhelpful for him. Other men know better where he is and what he needs, so leave the accountability to them.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have a role to play however.

God brought Ashley into my life on the tail end of a years-long process of freedom and healing. Most of the work of overcoming porn had already been done, but God used her to really drive home the last nail in porn’s coffin.

And he did this by letting her speak truth to me:

Your role is to come alongside the work God is doing and support it.

You’ve asked some really good questions. I hope my answers have been helpful. Your boyfriend is lucky to have a girl in his life who cares enough to learn how to be there for him effectively.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 5 days ago

Job 18 - Bilge and Bildad

Big Idea:

  • Bildad responds to Job a second time.
  • He tells Job to stop talking and be sensible, “Why are we… considered stupid in your sight?
  • Bildad says that wicked men trap themselves in hardship, failure and danger (insinuating that Job is suffering for his own wickedness), “Such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who does not know God.

Jesus:

Posted 6 days ago
I just wanted to ask some words of advice, since you are married. I am going to be married soon, and I am thinking from time to time me and my husband will look at some Hollywood movies, romantic comedies or whatever, that have some small sexual scenes, not total nudity, but maybe partial. I don't exactly know how to view this, if it is ok, because you are practically looking at someone who gets ready for sex, or ends it but also not looking at any movies it's not a solution, or is it?
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Congrats on your upcoming marriage!

Interesting question. I’ve written before about using discernment with our media choices. But you’re asking about how these choices affect marriage specifically.

The answer depends a lot on each couple, so you and your fiancé should talk about your expectations and concerns. But here are a couple thoughts to guide you.

Examine how you think about sex.

Movies, songs and pop culture in general really put sex on a pedestal. They idolize it and try to convince us that sex is the pinnacle of human existence and the core of who we are as individuals. (It’s not.)

Some people in the church also put sex on a pedestal, but in different ways. Either they demonize it and try to convince us it’s a spiritual cancer that must be repressed. (It’s not.) Or they idolize it and try to convince us that our wedding night will be the pinnacle of our Christian experience and the core of our marriages. (It’s also not.)

The most appropriate response to these kinds of extreme messages about sex is to just roll our eyes. But they can sometimes be so subtle we start to believe them. Before we know it, we’re more sensitive to the topic of sex than we need to be.

So be sure you’re not making too much of this topic as you discuss it with your fiancé.

There’s nothing realistic about movie sex.

The way sex is portrayed in movies and TV is so fake, it’s ridiculous. I’m always aware that what I’m seeing is a production. People aren’t that coordinated, the lighting is never that good, and it’s definitely not in sync with background music.

That’s why Ashley and I enjoy making fun of these scenes when we encounter them.

You’re not really seeing a couple making love. You’re seeing actors awkwardly rub against each other in beige tights while a crowd of directors, camera men and lighting crew surround them.

It’s silly, and it deserves to be laughed at.

Your aim should be to serve each other with your choices.

Given all this, Ashley and I just roll our eyes and make jokes when we encounter sex scenes in movies. But that’s us.

You and your fiancé have different personalities and experiences which will influence how these scenes affect you personally. And that’s why you should talk about it with each other.

Because the potential for these kinds of scenes to have negative effects on your relationship is definitely there:

If any of these things is an issue for either one of you, you should protect each other. That might mean looking away until the scene is over. It might mean fast-forwarding through the scene. And it might mean turning it off and finding something else to watch.

On a practical note, you might check out Pluggedin.com before you make your media choices. That way you know exactly what you’re in for before you press play.

Anyway, sex isn’t something to fear, and it’s just silly when it’s on camera. But if sex scenes trigger a weakness in you or your husband, you should choose to protect each other from them. And you should feel empowered to do so in whatever way works for you.

But before you can do that, you have to talk honestly about it together.

I hope that helps. Enjoy your wedding!

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

Job 17 - Try Again

Big Idea:

  • Job continues his prayer.
  • He says his death is close and mockers surround him, “My spirit is broken.
  • Job says his friends lack understanding, “Who else will put up security for me?
  • He says that people are ashamed of him, “A man in whose face people spit.
  • Job concludes by giving his friends a second chance to encourage him because he’s got nothing to lose., “Come on, all of you, try again!

Jesus:

  • Though he is innocent, Job’s suffering makes him the object of ridicule.
  • Jesus was also innocent, and His suffering also made him the object of ridicule.
Posted 1 week ago

Ashley got her Green Card!

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us on this journey.

God is good.

Posted 2 weeks ago
Hi James! First off, I wanted to say your artwork is wonderful! Keep up the amazing work! Now to my question.. Besides a cousin on one part of my family, I am the oldest. My family always jokes about me getting married and such. I can't help but fuel with panic when they kid around. I know I shouldn't, but I still do. I'm not engaged, or have a serious relationship and have hardly dated. Any ideas or thoughts to clear the panic? Thank you so much for listening!
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Thanks for your kind words!

I’m sorry your family has been insensitive. And the way you feel about it makes perfect sense. But I do have a few ideas for you to consider:

There’s nothing wrong with you.

In a lot of ways, young people today have been dealt a bad hand. And it’s had an effect on our love lives:

  • Many of us come from broken homes and are legitimately scared by the examples of marriage we’ve seen.

  • College is more expected and more expensive than it has ever been, which makes other huge commitments—like marriage—less accessible.

  • Millennials in particular are still alarmingly unemployed and underemployed, and that makes it nearly impossible to pursue any next step in life—like marriage.

On top of these social and economic factors, Christian singles have also been scared away from dating. We’ve been told that dating is emotionally dangerous, because breakups hurt. We’ve been told that dating is sexually dangerous, because temptation is real. And we’ve been told to hold out for a “the one”, because marriage is sacred. The result is that many are so scared of “doing it wrong”, they aren’t pursuing romantic relationships at all.

All this just means that your singleness probably has a lot more to do with your generational context than it does with you personally.

The good news is that marriage is still possible, and I know several couples who have married despite these obstacles. Our generation as a whole is just getting there slower than previous generations have.

Your family probably means well.

I’m sure your family doesn’t mean to panic you with their jokes.

  • It may be that they aren’t fully aware of the obstacles our generation faces, so they’re baffled by our delayed marriages.

  • It may be that they don’t know how to interact naturally with younger people, so they tease as an indirect way of showing affection.

  • And it may be that they do know how marriage can change lives for the better, and they just want to see you happy.

Whatever’s going on, they’re probably trying to encourage you—They’re just being really clumsy about it.

You have every right to set boundaries.

The best thing for you to do is to respectfully communicate your feelings to your family.

Explain that dating is a lot more difficult now than it was when they were young, and you feel pretty insecure about it. Then tell them you would appreciate it if they stopped making jokes.

My guess is that, once they know their joking bothers you, they’ll stop. But they won’t know to stop until you talk to them. And they may even become a source of encouragement to you once they understand the situation.

But there’s also the chance they won’t stop. They may say you’re being over-sensitive and tease you even more.

If that’s the case, just get up and leave whenever they do. Eventually, they’ll have to decide whether they want to keep making jokes or actually have a relationship with you.

You can’t control other people’s behavior. But you can control whether or not you put up with it. And you’re under no obligation to protect others from the consequences of their bad behavior.

Your heart is a gift given to you by God, and protecting it is good stewardship. So if the people around you are hurting your heart, you have every right to leave.

I hope that helps.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

By the way, I’d recommend you read Boundaries by by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It’s got some great things to say about protecting yourself from negative behavior.

Posted 2 weeks ago

The interview went great! Thanks for all the prayers.

We were in and out before our scheduled time. It’s actually a little unsettling that it went so smoothly—definitely not what we’ve come to expect. But now we get to relax for a couple years.

God is good.

Posted 2 weeks ago

This morning Ashley and I are being interviewed by the government so we can prove we’re really married and get her a green card.

It should be the last step in her immigration for a long while.

Please pray it goes well!

Posted 3 weeks ago

Personal Update

Hello Bible people,

I won’t be posting sketches or answering questions this week, because I am in Portland for a work trip.

It’s my first ever writers’ conference. Yesterday I sat on a panel, today I taught a workshop, and I’ve been meeting one-on-one with authors in between. It was intimidating at first, but I’ve learned a lot and I think I’ve been helpful.

The worst part is that this is the longest Ashley and I have been apart since we’ve been married. I don’t like not being with her. It feels like I’m only half here.

But I’ll be home again on Thursday night. And in the meantime, I hope to find time to explore the land of the hipsters at least a little.

I know you’re the praying types, so please pray for Ashley while she’s alone in a foreign country—just that God protects her and takes care of her like He always does. And please pray that I will represent Him well here and come home safely.

Feel free to keep sending questions. I will reply to them eventually.

Love you guys.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 month ago

Job 16 - An Intercessor Friend

Big Idea:

  • Job responds to Eliphaz a second time.
  • He tells his friends that if they were in his place, he would encourage them instead of accusing them, “You are miserable comforters, all of you!
  • Job says that talking isn’t helping, so he turns his attention to God, “You have devastated my entire household.
  • He says that though he is mourning, he still hasn’t done wrong, “My prayer is pure.
  • He also says he has an advocate in Heaven pleading with God on his behalf, “My intercessor is my friend.
  • Job says he only has a few years of life left.

Jesus:

  • When Job says he has a witness in heaven, an advocate on high, an intercessor and a friend who pleads with God on his behalf, he is most likely acknowledging that God is his last hope for vindication.
  • But Job is more right than he knows. Jesus is our advocate and our intercessor before God.
Posted 1 month ago
So there's this girl. I met her earlier this year, and up until this point, we haven't really gotten to know each too well. Most of that has to do w/ the fact that I was pursuing another girl at the time, so I pushed this particular situation into the back of my mind. Long story short, things didn't work out w/ the other girl, so now I find myself thinking about THIS girl again. I just don't know how to go about this since we don't know each other THAT well, and I don't wanna seem creepy.
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Christians tend to over-think dating. But the truth is that it’s really simple. There’s dating. There’s pursuing a relationship …and there’s filling in a blank.

The big mistake a lot of guys make is that they try to figure out whether they want a relationship with a girl before even asking her out. But you won’t know her well enough to make that call until you ask her out. So don’t get ahead of yourself.

Dating

The best way to avoid being creepy is to be honest. If you’re interested in a girl, just tell her so.

Say: “You seem cool, and I would love to know you better. Would you like to get coffee with me tomorrow?” No pressure. No strings attached. No ulterior motives.

If she says yes, you go to coffee. (YOU pay for it.) You ask her about herself. You tell her about yourself. You get to know each other better.

That’s all a coffee date is: Getting to know each other.

If you’re still interested in each other after coffee, ask her out again. If you decide you aren’t as interested as you thought you were, don’t.

Pursuing a relationship

Once you’ve spent enough time together to actually know each other, you’re ready to make a decision about pursuing something more.

But again, it’s all about being honest. Tell her how you feel.

Say: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, and I really care about you. I’d like to pursue a romantic relationship with you if you’ll let me. Will you be my girlfriend?”

Will it awkward? Yes. But it will also be clear. And that’s more important.

If she says yes, you pursue a relationship with her. You date each other exclusively. You ask each other harder questions. You invest in a possible future together.

If you decide you definitely want to spend the rest of your life with this girl, ask her to marry you. If you decide you don’t, be honest and break up with her.

(Seriously, don’t be one of these guys who string girls along indefinitely. If you ask a girl to date you exclusively, you owe it to her to either commit or cut ties eventually.)

Filling in a blank

Of course, I’m generalizing. Your circumstances and timing may vary a bit. But my central point is this: You have to be honest.

That’s why I’m a little concerned about why you’re approaching this new girl now. It sounds like your Plan A didn’t work out so you’re moving on to Plan B—and that’s not cool.

You should only pursue someone because you value her for the person she is, not because she’s the best available option when you have a vacancy. No girl wants to be your consolation prize.

So ask yourself. Do you really like this girl? Or do you just dislike being single? Give it some thought before you make any move toward inserting yourself in this girl’s life.

Not trying to be hard on you, dude. Just trying to help you avoid being the jerk I sometimes was when I was dating.

Hope it helps.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 month ago

Job 15 - Emphatic Eliphaz

Big Idea:

  • Eliphaz speaks up for a second time.
  • He accuses Job of being both foolish and sinful, “Your sin prompts your mouth.
  • Eliphaz tells Job to stop questioning God, “Do you listen in on God’s council?
  • He says that, if even angels are imperfect, men must be especially corrupt, “What are mortals … that they could be righteous?
  • Again, Eliphaz insists that an evil person will suffer justly, “because he shakes his fist at God.
  • He concludes by indirectly comparing Job to an evil man, “like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes.

Jesus:

Posted 1 month ago
I am having trouble with something, maybe you can help. I was thinking about sin.We sin. We ask for forgiveness. He forgives. After that, we go back. It is like a cycle. Yes indeed, for your salvation, you only need to believe in His death and His resurrection. But where does the sin part go? Why are we asked to do that, and don't to that? The only reason I can think of is the relationship, because sin put's a wall between us and God and we risk in living a shallow life.But is this all? Thanks
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t just throw a switch in our brains to make us stop sinning once we’re saved. Wouldn’t that would be a lot easier?

But I think you nailed it: It’s about relationship. Ironically, God allows sin to remain an issue for us for the sake of our relationship with Him.

Relationship is a process.

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh
Matthew 19:5

Last November Ashley and I said our vows and got married. At that moment, we were “united.” A mere 10 months later, I’m already a better husband than I was on our wedding day. I’ve learned about Ashley. I’ve learned about myself. And I’ve learned about how we best live and work together. We’re “becoming one flesh.” We aren’t any more married now than we were when we said our vows, but we’re growing closer and stronger in our marriage.

Our relationship with Jesus is similar. The moment Jesus took control of my life, I was saved. Many years later, I’m a better Christian than I was when I first found faith. I’ve learned more about Him. I’ve learned about myself. And I’ve learned about how to serve and represent Him better. He is sanctifying me, making me more like Himself. I’m not any more saved than I was when I first found faith, but I’ve grown closer and stronger in my relationship with Him.

Salvation is central to our relationship with Jesus. It’s the marriage vow that unites us with Him. But sanctification is the process of strengthening that relationship with Jesus. It’s the years of marriage that follow the vow and grow us closer to Him.

Process helps us grow.

We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:3-4

Even in just 10 months of marriage, I’ve messed up. I’ve missed chances to serve Ashley. I’ve stressed her out. And I’ve hurt her feelings. It’s a drag, but it happens in every marriage. And in those instances, I’ve had to ask Ashley’s forgiveness, listen to understand her feelings and make adjustments for the future. But surprisingly, working through the hard stuff has brought us closer than any of the good stuff—because it’s forced us to grow.

Again, our relationship with Jesus is similar. When I mess up and sin, I ask His forgiveness, I listen to His guidance and I make adjustments for the future. There have been times, especially when I was struggling with addiction, when I wondered why it had to be such a process. Why didn’t God just flip a switch for me? But now that I’m free from addiction, I can see that working through the hard stuff with Jesus brought me so much closer to Him than flipping a switch ever could—because it forced me to grow in my relationship with Him.

I remember reading Stephen E. Ambrose’s book “Band of Brothers” about a group of soldiers in WWII. I was amazed by the intimacy and trust in their friendships. And I remember thinking, I’ve shared good times with great friends, but I’ve never known and trusted anyone in peace the way these soldiers knew and trusted each other in war.

Overcoming hardships strengthens relationships. It’s true for soldiers facing the dangers of battle together. It’s true for spouses working through the struggles of marriage together. And it’s true for Chrsitians as Jesus overcomes our sin to makes us more like Him.

I hope that answers your question.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 month ago

Job 14 - A Tree’s Hope

Big Idea:

  • Job waxes philosophical as he prays.
  • He wonders why God pays attention to us when our lives are so short, “…few days and full of trouble… do You fix Your eyes on them?
  • Job says that a tree has hope in life, because its stump can live on after the tree is cut. But when a person dies they are gone, “At least there is hope for a tree.
  • He asks God to renew him like a tree, “Call and I will answer you… cover my sin.
  • But then Job goes back to feeling abandoned by God, “You destroy a person’s hope.

Jesus:

Posted 1 month ago

The Anatomy of My Porn Recovery

jamesjourneys:

[A follow-up to my post, The Anatomy of My Porn Addiction]

I used to be a really anxious kid. Even in elementary school, I struggled with insomnia and sat awake at night wondering if I was going to be OK and if there would be a place for me out there in the world. But as I entered my teens, this anxiety seemed to fade.

Then, a couple years ago, it came back in full force. My obsessive tendencies seemed to worsen, and I even experienced a couple mild panic attacks. What had changed?

As I looked back, I noticed that my anxiety was indirectly correlated to my porn use. It seemed to have dissipated in my teen years, because that was when I started looking at porn. And the further I got from porn now, the more my anxiety returned.

That was when I realized that I had always been an anxious person, I had just been self-medicating by distracting myself with pornography. And now that porn was out of the way, my anxiety was returning.

In my previous post, I wrote about how porn offered me the lie of an escape into a fantasy world I could control. Writing that helped me to wrap my mind around how to recognize my triggers and stay away from them.

But I’ve also reflected on it since then, and I’ve realized that the lie of my porn addiction—and my anxiety—had its root in a perfectly legitimate desire:

I wanted wholeness within and harmony without.

If I could find a healthy way to feel OK with myself and right with the world around me, not only would I know how to stay away from porn, I would also know what to run toward instead

And I knew exactly where to look.

Read More