While completing my MABC at the Master’s University, I was given the following case study and asked to respond.
Erik is a 20-year-old Believer who has been struggling with pornography for the last three years. Before that time he knew that pornography existed, but had never seen it because his parents carefully monitored all the technology in their home. Erik discovered porn on a trip out of town when some of his friends from High School showed it to him on their phones. Since then Erik has frequently looked at pornography. The problem became worse when he moved to college and had unfettered access to the Internet on his laptop computer. Several weeks ago, Erik became convinced that as a Christian he must begin to deal aggressively with this sin. He did the hardest thing he had ever done and told his dad about the problem. Erik’s dad loves his son and wants to help him, but has no idea what to do about a problem like this. They came together to meet you for counsel.
Erik has hope. While we don’t yet know the degree or magnitude of his hope, he wouldn’t have come to counseling if he were hopeless. Yet while we know there is some level of hope, we have no idea how much. Certainly Eric is discouraged and disgusted by his sin. He is under conviction and desires relief. This desire in and of itself may be an example of worldly hope, but we won’t know that right away. Every counselee needs hope. Eric’s sin has defeating and disheartening effects in his life. Jay Adams talks about two different kinds of hope,1) the hope for the future resurrection of the body and crowning hope in the presence of Jesus. This is the great hope of all believers. But there is a second hope. There is hope for a new abundant life right now. The misery that comes from living sinfully can be alleviated. In times of trouble, then, when our sin has brought misery into our lives, all of us need to be reminded of the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:5).
Eric needs biblical hope, not worldly hope. Worldly hope is based on human wisdom instead of the wisdom from above (James 3:13-18). Worldly hope uses phrases such as, “If I only had…”, “If people would just…”, and “ I would be happy if…” Worldly hope receives its expectations from society, the unregenerate. When we focus on ourselves and we focus on what the world expects, we lose biblical hope because we are not focusing on God’s agenda, we are focusing on our own. “All these perspectives have one thing in common: they are all based on things that God never promised. There is no surety that these things will happen. Worldly hope is just that, worldly. Our minds are consumed with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. We are not focused on the hope that is to come through Jesus Christ our Lord. Instead we are consumed with the things that Jesus said wood rust and that moths will destroy.”
Erik is involved in a gripping sin. It will be easy for Erik to become discouraged and lose hope. Healthy emotions like contentment and peace are replaced with the toxic emotions of confusion, shame, worry, and disappointment. It is nearly impossible to be spiritually, emotionally, or relationally healthy when we’re gripped by discouragement. “When people lose hope, they lose their ability to dream for the future. Despair replaces joy. Fear replaces faith. Anxiety replaces prayer. Insecurity replaces confidence. Tomorrow’s dreams are replaced by nightmares.”
Biblical hope gives life. Biblical hope is an expectation based on the promises of God (Psalm 31:24; Romans 8:28). When we think biblically about life and faith, we can have hope amidst our circumstances. Without biblical hope, we tend to not believe and not obey God. So how can we put this into practice? We must understand the relationship between faith and hope.
According to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While this verse does not give us a full understanding, it does indicate that our faith is somehow dependent on hope, and more specifically, on our hope of future reward. When we hope, we impose certain expectations on the future. Whether or not these expectations come to pass determines if we receive what we have hoped for. At some point, however, Erik’s eternal hope must in some way intersect his life now, because Erik lives in the “already” and “not yet.” Because it exists independently of time and circumstance, our eternal hope does not always seem relevant.
There is “temporal” hope for Erik. Erik can have hope for spiritual transformation from pornography because of God’s character. We know God to be gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. We know that God, “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.” (Psalm 113:7).
What can we do if Erik has lost hope? Where is hope found? It is found in the Word of God. “Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word” (Psalm 119:74), “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:81), “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Psalm 130:5).
Faith produces hope. Hope looks forward with the confidence and expectation that God’s promises and precepts are true. While Erik may be suffering through the tight grasp of sin, even the goal of his suffering is hope. Erik needs to be reminded not to lose hope during his time of trouble because God intends for trouble to produce hope, through faith. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 5:4). Throughout Erik’s situation, God is still sovereign, good, and wise.
Another way for the counselor to raise hope is to take Erik’s sin seriously.
” Several weeks ago, Erik became convinced that as a Christian he must begin to deal aggressively with this sin. He did the hardest thing he had ever done and told his dad about the problem.”
Erik is taking his sin seriously. Counselors take all such comments quite seriously as well. They consider all self-deprecatory comments important and always investigate them fully. They refused to minimize or allow minimizing of a counselee’s negative self-evaluations. So when a counselee says something of this nature, the counselor almost immediately will bring the discussion to a halt and say, “That’s serious. A Christian should not be behaving like that.”
As I counsel Erik, there are a number of ways through discussion and homework to help Erik.
- I need to help Erik develop a vital relationship with God.
- I need to make sure and bring relevant Scripture to bear in Erik’s life and this specific sin.
- Erik needs to memorize Scripture, read God’s word daily, and be consistently in prayer.
- I need to continually point Erik to Christ, the cross, the gospel, because Jesus died for Erik’s sin. Erik must understand at a base level that someone actually died for his sin.
- I need to be compassionate, gentle, and loving in my attitude and my time with Erik
I will put a specific homework plan in place for Erik.
Read Deuteronomy chapter 8. The wilderness is a hard place and a testing place; but it is a transforming place. Through the situations of life, God’s providences are designed to give us opportunities to obey him from the heart or to expose a sinful heart.
Find the following and record, not only the answer, but how it applies to your situation.
- What were God’s providences in leading Israel? (v2)
- What was God’s purpose in the testing? (v2)
- What was God attempting to expose in them? (v2)
- In what ways did God provide for them through this testing? (v3-4)
- What principles did God use to guide them? (5-7ff)
Read the Booklet, Motives: Why Do I Do the Things I Do? by Edward Welch.
List 7 things from your reading that you found helpful to your specific sin and then list how you will apply them to your life immediately and over the next 4-weeks.
I also want you to list anything in the booklet that you disagree with.
Wednesdays will become Scripture memory and application days. Memorize the following verses over the next 4-weeks:
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
- 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Romans 8:28-29
- Ephesians 1:17
As we meet each week, I will be asking you not simply to repeat the verse for that week, but to Explain to me what change(s) you have made to your life based on the verse for the week.
It is not my role as a counselor to become a long term discipleship/accountability cohort. With that in mind, and thinking ahead, find someone in your church with whom you can become accountable. Having this person will give you hope that you are not alone and that the church is coming alongside as God intends.
Either tonight, or at least before we meet again, get together with that person and explain your need. The following are “qualifications” for this person.
- They must be more spiritually mature then you
- They cannot be family
- They must desire to help. Don’t coerce someone into doing this.
- They must be available to take phone calls when you begin to become tempted. I want you to call them early, not late (don’t make it a sin report after the fact).
There is hope for you in conquering your sin, because Jesus died for that sin.
Read Romans 6:1-23.
What 3-things are we to know in verses 1-10?
What are we to consider in verse 11?
How are we to respond in verses 12-23?
Meditate in the truth of verses 13-14: We must not let sin master us, because sin IS NOT GOING TO MASTER US!
List 5 ways that Romans 6 gives you hope that you can spiritually grow through your sin.
 Adams, Jay, The Christian Counselors Manual, (Zondervan, 1973), 41
 Ellen, Nicholas and Lelek, Jeremy,”Christ Centered Biblical Counseling” The Hope of Eternity, (Harvest House, 2013), 215
 Johnson, Ray, The Hope Quotient, (W Publishing Group, 2014), 5&6
 Adams, Jay, The Christian Counselors Manual, (Zondervan, 1973), 46