Busted, With Benefits
The recent headlines about Willow Creek and the Catholic priests in Pennsylvania are terrible reminders of what happens when men in leadership give themselves permission to indulge what should never even be considered.
But in the midst of our legitimate outrage over all this, I’m reminded of the process God takes a man through when he’s exposed, broken, and hopefully repentant.
That’s when he experiences the best of times and the worst of times.
It’s the worst of times, of course, and there’s no point even trying to describe the humiliation — the agony, really — knowing you’re putting your family, your church, and your name through hell. Add to that the horror of facing the permanent damage you’ve done to whoever was the object of your indulgence, and the whole thing can seem unbearable.
But there’s a benefit to getting busted as well. Finally, when the problem can no longer be covered, denied, or minimized, it gets your full attention. That’s the beginning of true repentance, which is the beginning of all true change. That makes it the best of times as well.
You’re in Good Company
King David himself learned this in the hardest of ways. When he crossed the line during his notorious adultery with Bathsheba, followed by his heartless murder of her husband, he probably thought he’d gotten away with his secret sin. (II Samuel 11)
Months went by while he kept it hidden. He may have figured it was all behind him, until God jerked him to attention through a rebuke from the prophet Nathan.
Nathan began by telling David a story about a man who’d done something similar to what the King himself had done. (II Samuel 12:1-4) David, not recognizing himself in the story and hating the sin the man in the story committed, reacted strongly, commanding the guy be put to death. (verses 5-6)
Side note: Ever notice how horrible your sin looks when you see it on someone else, but how minor it looks when you see it on you?
That’s when Nathan sledgehammered David with those lethal words: “Thou art the man.” (verses 7-12) Then King David, a good man who’d done evil in secret which was now being published openly, crumpled under the weight of the truth. (verse 13)
Truth can produce a wound, a wound with purpose. Many men I’ve known haven’t been willing to abandon their secret sin until they got a good look at its consequences.
The secret use of porn is a good example. Facing the consequences of the porn habit can mean turning the spotlight on what you’ve avoided, like the damage your habit has been doing to your wife, your children, yourself. But when you finally face it, you experience one of three things that are, in my opinion, necessary for true repentance: Anger, Fear and Sadness.
I think David experienced all three. He was heartbroken over his behavior, angry with himself, and frightened over the possible consequences. That powerful combination of emotions helped bring him to humility, prayer, repentance, and necessary action.
In other words, his crises of truth was not an end, but the vital beginning of repentance which is, in turn, the beginning of restoration. Consider this — God didn’t send Nathan to rebuke David because his life was over, but because He wanted it to be better.
In his book David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, Charles Swindoll notes: “Why did such a major change take place in David’s life and attitude? First, because David hurt enough to admit his need.”
Shame, outrage, and fear seem like negative emotions, but they also produce enough discomfort and energy to shake a man out of his complacency and into redemptive action.
I want that for all the leaders we know of, and all the men and women we’ll never hear about, who are dealing with secret sin which is no longer secret. God grant them softened hearts, renewed hope, genuine brokenness, and most of all, healing for everyone impacted by their sin. Including, of course, themselves.
If by chance the private use of pornography is an unacknowledged sin in your own life, won’t you join me this Saturday August 18 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time for a 90-minute webinar called “Breaking the Habit.” We’ll discuss practical, Biblically-based tools you can start using immediately to free yourself once and for all. To register, click here.
Originally appeared at JoeDallas.com. Reprinted with permission.