When my husband, Sam, was in grade school, he heard some words around the lunch table he didn’t understand. But from the way the big kids chuckled and leered, he knew these weren’t words he could ask his parents about.
So he waited until the house was empty and sat down at the family’s new iMac. And at age 10, he typed his first Google search.
That afternoon began a lifelong struggle with pornography and same-sex attraction—one that might have ended our marriage if we’d mishandled it in these four ways:
1. Ignore Sexual Sin
According to the CDC, nearly one in five women in the United States is a rape victim. According to Barna, 41 percent of young Christian men regularly seek out porn, and a staggering 72 percent of non-Christian young men do likewise. It’s a statistical impossibility that your family, friendships, church, and marriage aren’t in some way haunted by sexual sin.
It’s a statistical impossibility that your family, friendships, church, and marriage aren’t in some way haunted by sexual sin.
This state of affairs is nothing new. A cursory jaunt through Leviticus 18 is enough to take even the most hardened porn user aback. Paul made a point to tell the Corinthians to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) because he knew their culture, like ours, was drowning in it. But while it’s true that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13), it’s equally true that, like the ancient Israelites and the early church, we ignore sexual sin to our peril.
Sexual sin is an epidemic, but it doesn’t have to be terminal. Sexual sin that remains secret is dangerous and deadly. Our spouses need to know what we’ve done and had done to us. And our churches need to be places where sexual sin can be brought to light with grace and fought in community.
2. Underestimate Non-Sexual Sin
On our wedding day, I’d kissed a grand total of two boys. I’d waited for true love like a good Christian girl should, while my new husband was a sober porn addict who struggled with same-sex attraction. And I wasn’t one bit more righteous than he was.
Without Christ, I was dead in my sins (Eph. 2:1). I was corrupt (Ps. 14:3). I was worthless (Rom. 3:12). My righteous acts were repulsive rags to a holy God (Isa. 64:6). I’m just as sinful as my husband was during the worst years of his addiction.
For our marriage to survive, my husband must daily choose to deny himself the things his flesh desires. But so must I. I’m just as capable of unraveling our marriage as he is. I don’t get to look down on him just because I never got around to committing the sins he did, and to do so would drain the life and joy from our marriage just as effectively as adultery would.
3. Cheapen Christ’s Redemption
I had many reasons to marry Sam. He’s kind. He’s brave. He’s godly, gentle, and I love him. But those aren’t the things that outweighed my fear that he might betray me on the other side of the altar. The only reason I’m able to trust my husband is because I trust Christ.
When we write off people like my husband as irredeemable and unworthy of fellowship, we’re sneering in the face of the beaten, mocked, and crucified Christ and saying, “No. I’m sorry. This isn’t enough.” And if Christ’s sacrifice can’t redeem porn addiction and same-sex attraction, then it can’t redeem anything, our faith is futile, and we’re to be pitied for our delusions (1 Cor. 15:12–19).
God isn’t good because our marriage survives. Our marriage survives because God is good.
Yes, it’s absolutely true that “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10). But let us never forget that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
4. Demand Perfection
Even so, I know that marrying Sam was risky. He might fall back into porn. He might cheat on me. He could leave me and Jesus. And if he does, God will still be good, God will still be sovereign, and God will still be faithful.
This isn’t incredible faith—it’s the same faith every Christian is called to. We all live on the ragged edge of any number of disasters: a cancer diagnosis, the death of a child, a senseless attack, a fire, a flood. And we stand before a cloud of witnesses who’ve stared down all these and worse and said, in faith, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Even if he doesn’t rescue us, we won’t bend the knee to the gods of this world (Dan. 3).
My husband can’t bear the weight of my ultimate faith. To place that burden of expectation on my husband’s shoulders would crush him and our marriage both. God isn’t good because our marriage survives. Our marriage survives because God is good.