Hope, Encouragement, Love, and Direction for Women and marriages wounded by sexual sin.

I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.~ Isaiah 41:10

Friday, August 21, 2015

Falling into Love- What Christians should remember about Josh Duggar

Falling in love is a wonderful, thrilling, adventure. It easily leaves us breathless, broken, elated, or even blinded. The smartest people on this earth cannot fully explain the powerful emotions associated with falling in love. Yes, we understand that endorphins and hormones attribute to these emotions, yet this phenomenon remains a mystery to those who have not experienced the thrill of it.

It has recently occurred to me that there is another form of “falling in love” that holds equal mystery and power. This powerful phenomenon is simply found when the body of Christ, follows Jesus’s example of grace and becomes a safe place for people to Fall into Love.
This week my phone, tv, and newsfeed have been plastered with the actions of a prominent Christian figure. His hypocrisy has been labeled, his family has been exposed, and his fate has been argued by Christians and the rest of the world. And the judgment has been a harsh one and most would say, he deserves every harsh criticism. He has humiliated his family, injured his wife, and led Americans down a road which he was unwilling to faithfully travel himself. However, when I look at this man, I see something different. I see my husband. I remember years ago in his early 20’s when he too struggled with a sin that had him by the throat and threatened his very eternity along with his marriage. I remember the nights where he would cry and tell me how he begged God on a daily basis to take this temptation away, to rescue him from himself, and to save me from the hurt that his sexual addiction was inflicting. 
Falling in love with Ray as a teenager was a powerful thing, but the only thing that trumped it in my life, was when together we found a safe place where we could experience the thrill of falling into the love of the body of Christ. Yes, we fell….I struggled with fear, and I punished my husband regularly. Ray struggled with pornography, prostitution, and the like. But even though we fell over and over again, the Lord had lovingly blessed us with Christians who said, “It’s ok, you can fall here. We love you enough to hold you up when you do.We will walk with you through the pain and the dysfunction, to help you reach your hand to the Father who wants to help you take the next step.”
Ray and I could fall and we were caught by love…every time. It is a mystery even to me how God empowered those people He entrusted us to, all I know is that through the Holy Spirit, He gave them the strength to minister to us time and time again, even when we let them down. What a picture of Christ that was in my life.
Ray and I have both been believers since childhood, yet we made some whopper mistakes. Ray’s sexual addiction started in his teen years, as a result of the belief that he wasn’t valuable. He was looking for something to cover the pain he felt day in and day out. And like so many other young men, the enemy prayed on a vulnerable boy and told him that this woman undressing for him, was doing it because she thought he was worth taking her clothes off for. Josh is no different. His choices, while wrong, are most likely the result of deep pain, which has been coped with unhealthily. Almost all addicts in the church, act out of the need to cope for pain, often unconscious pain. It isn't fair to their families, and it is incredibly hard for them to fight alone. It also, does not disqualify that person forever, it isn't impossible to overcome, and there is hope for those who look to Jesus for help and actually follow him. 
Here is what the Church needs to understand, sexual sin is everything that the Lord says it is in scripture. He detests and despises it. It ruins families and it breaks homes. BUT it does not change the identity of the one who falls into it. My husband was still a child of the King, dearly loved, wanted, and valuable, even though he broke my heart and God's heart every time he forgot who he was and turned to the world for comfort instead of God. We write words on Facebook, we judge, we speak harshly, but God looks at us and says, "That is my son you are talking about."
It is a miracle that I can type these words. I of all people should be throwing stones at Josh Duggar. It should rattle me to the core that another man would destroy his family by turning to sex for comfort instead of turning to God. I have had the sleepless nights that I imagine his wife, Anna, has had this week. I have felt the pain of finding letters to prostitutes in my husbands email. I have searched for God in the middle of my pain, and found Him faithful even when my husband wouldn’t be. It should enrage me that Josh Duggar would stand on a platform that God gave him one minute and then sin the next. But then I would have to point that finger right back at my own face. How often have I stood on the platform God has trusted me with and turned around and done exactly what I tell people not to? I preach about fear and how to overcome it, and then there are days that I am so afraid that my husband will cheat again that I can barely move. How often have I forgotten my identity and given way to insecurity, even though I mentor women about that very thing. We all, and I do mean all, have platforms…somewhere that God wants to use our stories to Glorify him, and we all have a target on our back while we stand there.
A friend of mine always says “Show me your greatest struggle, and I will show you your calling.” Men and Women of God- we should be mature enough to know that the place where God asks you to minister is the first place the enemy tries to take you out. I have seen it in my own life.  One of my greatest struggles has been with my identity- BECAUSE God has called me to teach people how to find their identity in Him. Josh is no exception to this rule. I have no doubt that God gave him a platform years ago to speak about moral and family issues because God wanted to get glory out of Josh’s life. Well- what a shocker that Satan got upset and took him out with the very thing that God had asked Josh to speak about.
This is why the Lord tells us in 1st Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Yes, Josh let his guard down, he lost that battle. So did my husband, so did King David with Bathsheba, so have I, so have you….
An astoundingly high number of the people who sit in our churches in America have sexual addictions. It may be pornography, it may be more extreme, but even the extreme is becoming more and more prevalent because pornography is a gateway drug that leaves it’s viewer soon hungry for more of a high.  Porn isn’t enough to satisfy the pain, the need to be valued, the need to be wanted, and so men peruse more.  I believe God wants Josh to remind the Church that there is a problem plaguing the men and women of our churches that has gone ignored for too long. If we don’t start understanding our identity and value as God’s children, we won't be able to stand under the pressure the enemy brings. 
I don’t presume to know Josh’s heart. I hope he is repentant, and if he is, I pray God uses him and his family in a new, mighty way. I don’t believe God is done with them. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Josh’s struggles have been real, and he has fallen, but falling and failing are two different things. This will not be a failure unless Josh is unrepentant. It is never failure if God gets to use it to redeem and restore.
People of God, lets not sit here and quote scripture about the judgment of God and how he hates sexual sin. Those things are biblical and true, but let me tell you as someone who has lived watching a Godly man fight for freedom that seemed unreachable, it wasn’t the judgmental ones who had no idea what we were going through or the ones who corrected harshly that led my husband to get the help he needed. It was the kindness of God in giving him a body of believers that would be a safe place to work out his faith with, that led Ray to find radical freedom through the power of Jesus Christ. Having a place to fall, and land in love will bring restoration. Falling into judgment and criticism only breeds self loathing, offense, self pity, and other ineffective things. "God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” Romans 2:4b.
I will close with this final thought. When I was 21 and found out that Ray had spent our savings on prostitutes, I fled in pain to my family home. There I was welcomed in love by my parents and brother, Brent. Brent was only 15 at the time and Ray had been his hero for years. He became so angry at Ray and a mixture of sobbing a rage were on his face. I was in so much pain, but seeing Brent in pain was almost worse. I found myself making one simple request of my family in that moment. “If you really love me, pray for Ray. I want my marriage to succeed, but more than that, I am worried for his eternity. Ray is in a moment of deciding what kind of man he will be. Please pray for him instead of getting angry at him. Your anger does me no good at all.”
My family stopped and for the next 2 hours all five of us (including my sister who was out of state at the time) interceded for Ray.
During that same 2 hour span, the people who were ministering to Ray at that moment, saw a change come over him.
There is such great power in prayer. We believe it, we teach it, but do we live it? If you know an addict, and you say you care for their family, pray for the addict and the family will reap the benefits. Pray for the family and the addict will reap the benefits, and in all of it, God will move on their behalf.  I have seen so many posts crucifying Josh, while in the same breath agreeing to pray for Anna and the kids. If you really care about them at all, pray for Josh. Pray for real and complete life change. Sexual addiction is just like any other addiction. It can be a long process, it can be hard for all parties.  BUT our God is big enough to complete a miracle. He can restore a man to his wife and children and protect this home from being one that the enemy gets to take credit for breaking up. God’s plans are always, always for his children to move up…Josh has a window where he gets to choose to move up, to become the man God called him to be a long time ago. He can choose, like my husband did, to do the hard work, while totally depending on God. God is able to heal and transform him to walk in freedom.  I believe in this family, BECAUSE I believe in God. If they turn to him, and if we the church will catch them in love and pray for them, I know we will see amazing things to come.~

~For those of you who have been stirred by the Duggar story because it hits a little too close to home,  take hope in the two things that the Lord has been reminding me of through this story. 
1)   God exposes every hidden thing.
2)   God only exposes for the purpose of His Glory.
This story reminds us that God exposes all, in his perfect timing, by whatever means necessary. So you never have to live in fear that you will be unprotected or ignored by God, when your spouse is overcoming addiction. It also reminds us that our story is never over. God didn't have to expose Josh's sin, it would have probably been less drama if He hadn't. But God is out to reveal his faithfulness and transforming power through every hurt. He will most definitely use this story as He will most definitely use yours.