Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Friend who Sticks Closer than a Brother

In the classic hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." writer Joseph Scriven asked, "Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer." Jesus, the "friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24), is one with us in the battle against Satan. Jesus is particularly powerful when people despair, even to the point of thinking about suicide. Satan uses suicide as the ultimate strategy to stop someone from loving, serving, and knowing Christ. Indeed Jesus said this thief, Satan, comes "to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10). On numerous occasions I have sat up all night with someone who wanted to take his life. Typically, when a person reaches this point, he or she has lost all hope. To have real hope, one must believe that "help is coming even though I'm at a crisis point." When a person loses all hope, believing that no help is there, was there, or will ever be there, the individual considers suicide. To help such people realistically takes more than fine words or a list of things to do. The only real workable answer is to connect this person with the One who can give hope, our friend the Lord Jesus. When a Christian despairs of life, the only answer is to reconnect him with the great love of the Savior who laid down his life for his friends; (John 15:13), and to the truths of His Word-that He accepts us fully, as we are. That's how Anna found consolation. In the twenty-four hours before I met her, she tried to take her life twice. Her father had ridiculed her appearance as a teenager; she told me in our first session that her father, who loved to read lewd magazines, "would frequently walk into my room while I was getting dressed and make fun of my body. Often, he would hold up the centerfold from a pornographic magazine and say, 'this is what a real woman looks like. It's too bad you are not a real woman.'" As Anna wept about the things she was telling me, I could see the emotional pain from that abuse was overwhelming for her. She said, "I felt dirty, trapped, hopeless, and abandoned." Her father's obvious addiction to pornography affected her relationship with men. Anna ended up marrying a man who had the same addiction as her father; but in less than two years, this man left Anna for another woman. In time, Anna married second man who on the surface seemed different. He seemed to be living a victorious Christian life. He loved and accepted Anna and invested his time and energy in their children. All seemed to be going well until one day Anna found several pornographic magazines her husband had hidden in the basement. She said "My world was shattered. The feelings of rejection were devastating. I felt wretched and hopeless. Once again those awful feelings of extreme shame and inadequacy swept over me. My father's awful remarks about my body rang in my ears. I was tormented by the thought of my husband comparing me with the women in those magazines. I asked myself, 'Why does he need them? Why am I not enough?' I could not bear to look in the mirror. I loathed the person God had 'miscreated'. The only way out was to take my life. The mental torment was unbearable. I was desperate to die." It was at that point that the impulse to suicide began to take hold. She tried several times and failed, as is typical among women who face this type of abuse. She came to me with little hope of ever seeing the light of day again. But as we talked, my heart went out to her and after hearing more of her story, I began to talk her through some Scriptures about God's view of us as His people and as His personal creations. Anna had come to believe many lies of Satan, including: "I am worthless." "God made me ugly." "No one loves me or could ever love me." "The only way out is through killing myself." We talked in depth about these lies and what Scripture said about them. One day, Anna revealed major change had taken place in her heart. "I saw that the Lord totally accepts me as I am. He, by design, created me the way I am." After so many sessions trying to see God's truth, something had broken through! At that moment, I too felt joy in her discovery. She continued, "I am beginning to understand that my father's remarks were lies. The shape of my body does not determine my value and worth. His wicked comments were really slander against my Creator." I asked her about her husband's situation with pornography, and she said, "The Lord showed me that I was not the cause of my husband's problem with lust. It was a choice he was making. I always blamed myself for his sin. Sometimes in the past, I would repeat in my mind, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," as you told me. But sometime in the early morning hours, the Holy Spirit brought the truth of that verse to my heart. God enabled me to thank Him for my body. For the first time in my life I was able to accept myself as the Lord had made me." In a moment, Anna had come to a riveting truth. Christ had broken through the wall of lies Satan had built in Anna's mind, and light shone through like sun through the eye of a hurricane-only the hurricane was over. "Peace has replaced the torment in my soul," she told me later. "The enemy on occasion tries to bring back the old lies and feelings, but I have found that standing with Christ and resisting the enemy with truth causes him to make a hasty retreat. I know now I am truly a child of God and my identity is found in Christ." Anna is just one of many women I know who experienced the torment that results from deep feelings of inadequacy compounded by their husband's addiction to pornography. Without the Word of God and the power of Christ, I personally would have had no ability to help her. But Jesus truly is a "very present help in time of trouble" (Psalm 46:1). By the way, pornography is a monumental battle zone for many Christians; it's not just nonbelievers who struggle with his snare from Satan. I believe the problem begins with wrong attitudes of dissatisfaction with God's provision in their lives through their wives. Many men and even women enslaved to pornography and all the sins that go along with it begin to think there is no way out. Their marriages get worse and they may even end up divorced as Anna did. But as a counselor I can tell such people that our friend, the Lord Jesus, can cleanse us from all immorality. When we walk in Him and let Him live in us, we can begin day by day to live free of our lust and sin. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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