Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
One of my pastors frequently says that “feelings are real but they’re not reliable”. We need this truth because our emotions can really weigh us down. Our negative emotions, especially the ones resulting from addictions, drag us down and steal our strength.
We need to learn how to shrug off that weight in order to truly run the race of life.
Recently, I talked to a friend about the best part of getting free from pornography. I told him that my favorite part is losing the weights of shame and guilt. Those burdens used to greet me in the morning as I woke up each day and sat on my shoulders throughout every social interaction.
Most of my friends didn’t know that I struggled with porn, and that constantly made me wonder if they would accept me if they did. When it came to talking with single women, I didn’t even wonder; I just assumed they would flat our reject me if they knew about my addiction.
Thankfully, now I’m free from the weight of those feelings and I get to really experience the joys of a social life. Just having conversations with someone brings a smile to my face because I no longer feel the weights of shame and guilt. Those feelings didn’t go away when I stopped looking at porn though.
They only stopped when I learned to trust in the truth instead of my feelings.
Even after I stopped looking at porn for a solid period of time, I still felt afraid of people finding out about my addiction. The feelings of shame still lingered and I still felt that my addiction would define how people saw me. Those feelings didn’t go away until I focused on how God sees me instead of how others might see me.
The guys in my small group reflected the unconditional love of God to me and they continued to do that after I experienced freedom. These experiences of unconditional love taught me that I could be truly loved despite my feelings of shame and guilt. I realized that, when those feelings hit me, I had a choice between trusting in them or the truth that I had learned.
These choices couldn’t just be mental though. It’s one thing to know something mentally and something else entirely to place trust in it. In order to truly get free from those feelings, I had to let the rubber hit the road and bring my addiction into the light.
You might remember the first time you watched someone jump from the high dive or do something that was a little scary. If you tried it yourself, you might also remember that it was still scary even though you watched others do it.. We experience something similar when we go from knowing that God loves us to really trusting that He loves us.
To cross that gap we have to take a step of faith and open our hearts to God and confess our sins to Him and His children. When we do that, His unconditional love will wash over us. That unconditional love is the only thing powerful enough to help us shrug off those emotional weights.
Sadly, we don’t constantly experience God’s unconditional love and the weight of guilt and shame easily come back when we don’t. Taking one more step of faith and trusting in God’s unconditional love helps us keep those weights off even when we’re not experiencing God’s love.
For me, I trusted in God’s love by writing this blog and telling the world about my addiction. That decision caused me anxiety and yet it was one of the best ones I’ve ever made. Putting my story out there and talking publicly about my addiction made for one of the best opportunities to trust God and it helped me really shove off the weights of shame and guilt.
These days, I feel comfortable talking about my addiction with strangers. I’ve also told single women about my blog and given them the link to check it out. I can only do those things because I’m free from the feelings of shame and guilt.
It’s very possible to experience freedom from an addiction and still feel weighed down by feelings of shame and guilt. We must remind ourselves that those feelings aren’t reliable and trust in the truth of God’s love in order to shrug off those weights. If we don’t take those steps, our shame and guilt will continue to weigh us down and keep us from living the life God wants for us.
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