Titles for books aren’t always helpful. Given this reality it’s possible that you pick up a book thinking it’s going to be really bad, but once you start reading you find out it’s really good. This is what happened to me when I worked my way through Harry Schaumburg’s book False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction.
The book was required reading for my pastoral counseling class. As soon as I saw the title for the book I thought to myself, “This probably won’t help me at all.” How wrong I was! I took eleven pages of notes. Page after page of my copy is filled with highlights, along with underlined sentences, brackets around paragraphs, etc.
Even if you don’t struggle with sexual addiction, you should read this book. In fact, if you’re put-off by the title, forget about it. Think of it as a book on addiction in general. That’s basically what it is. I found it to be incredibly helpful in understanding how God works in our lives, what God wants to do in our lives, as well as how to cope with struggles, disappointments, and unmet expectations. In what follows, you’ll find twenty-five quotes that stood out to me. Trust me, you’ll find these convicting and enlightening:
“[I]n every relationship there is a feeling of inadequacy or shame. . . . We want to feel confident and in control, acting like people we really aren’t. We hope to impress people sufficiently so they will accept us in the way we deeply desire. We fear being ‘found out’ and losing relationships with others. We conclude that the people we interact with determine our personal value. We trust in the false gods of people who can let us down rather than recognizing that only God can give us ultimate value, experiencing legitimate shame because we don’t trust Him as Father, and choosing to depend on Him to meet our deepest needs for intimacy” (32).
“Either the deceitful heart can change, or Christian faith is just a lot of fanfare” (54).
“The essence of sin is autonomy from God, a failure to be dependent on Him” (60).
“Natural human desire becomes an evil desire when the desire has the objective of self-interest. . . . It is hard to see self-interest, especially in ourselves, when we hurt so much and just want what seems so legitimate—relief. But when we turn our own unmet legitimate desires into justifications to take matters into our own hands, we cross the line into evil desire” (63).
“God doesn’t promise to fulfill all our desires in this life. Only when we acknowledge our helplessness and our inability to meet our deepest needs can He pick us up, enable us see ourselves as we really are, and provide eternal restoration and healing” (68).
“The popular way of understanding what life is all about is to look at the human condition as defined by our own understanding rather than by God’s wisdom communicated through the Bible” (73).
“Frequently we do not see God being in the circumstance unless He is doing something that prevents the situation from happening or changing the circumstances” (86). . . We even go as far as expecting divine protection as an inalienable right” (144).
Many of us believe “that difficult situations place an obligation on God to respond according to what we define as necessary to our well-being” (86).
“To taste what we desire and don’t have is to know the level of helplessness that either moves us toward God or drives us toward insanity” (105).
“Most of us will discover that when we relate to others, even to a spouse we have promised to love and cherish, we do so with self-centeredness or self-protection. We don’t want to face the fact that we’ve failed to love our spouse in significant ways. That feels as if we’re beginning to crawl on our bellies into a dark cave. So we tend to believe in our own goodness” (106).
As you examine yourself and your motives, you’ll head in one of two directions. Either you will harden yourself to shore up your own defenses while you try to rely even more on yourself, or you will soften, allowing your self-reliance to seep away as you know God more intimately. This latter process will be painful, but it is only through the fire of such self-examination that any of us can be refined” (108).
“Many people want to be able to sin with impunity and still have God’s blessing on their lives” (134).
“Whenever self-interest remains a priority, biblical faintheartedness is the result. It is easy to feel sorry for someone, easier to feel sorry for ourselves. When our lives, and particularly our relationships are in total chaos, self-interest (taking care of ourselves) comes naturally. Trusting in God seems insane. More often than not, we define faith as seeing God in circumstances. But in chaos we never see God. Faith should be defined as knowing that God sees us in the chaos. Self-interest leads to self-pity, which leads to faintheartedness, not godly courage” (138).
“The Bible never condemns us for admitting weakness. If anything, God condemns us for finding strength” (143).
Read the next three quotes carefully and perhaps pause to pray, asking God to search your own heart: “The deceitful heart comes to Jesus with preconceived notions of its own, which become fundamental heresies. The most common has to do with what Jesus will do. There is massive unlearning to be done at this point. Then, and only then, can we fix our eyes on Jesus, rather than on what He is doing in our lives” (144).
“Faith is very weak, if not impossible, when life is built on our own terms and conditions” (145).
“When we can unlearn our independence, we can learn to trust in God Himself, not in what He is doing or not doing. Such brokenness leads to humility, which sustains godly courage over the long haul” (145).
“Humility is a willingness to surrender our rights to our rights. If we are sorrowful and grateful and admit our utter dependence on God, then we become broken. Out of that weakness flows a humility of spirit that voluntarily gives up all the rights we have to ourselves. The choice comes down to finding our life and therefore losing it, or losing our life and therefore finding it. It takes godly courage to lose everything in order to gain everything” (146).
“The essence of sin is ‘I will never allow anyone to rule my life other than myself.’ That rebelliousness is alive in an outwardly good man or women, and in an outwardly bad man or woman. Remember, sin is not about behavior but about our defiant claim to the right to rule our own life” (159).
“Am I willing to trust God with my pain and disappointment, to allow Him to be the source of ultimate fulfillment in my life? Will I submit to Him all my desires and my needs for relationships?” (166).
O, how desperately we need to learn this! – “Obeying God is not a formula for God to provide you with everything you consider to be essential to your life” (192).
“Simply living by the rules, obeying, and doing what is right, doesn’t indicate a pure heart. Until we deal with our internal uncleanness, we shouldn’t be shocked at sexual misconduct within the church” (196).
We need to be able to answer the question seriously: “What has God really promised to do in your life?” – “When we begin to believe that God’s plan for our lives is to improve our relationships and circumstances now, churches quickly fill with people who focus on the primacy of personal need, evaluate God’s goodness in terms of meeting those needs, and subtly move to justify anything that feels like it’s from God” (198).
“Self-justification comes easily when we start with our needs and define God as the resource who will meet those needs. It’s easy to view God as the One who heals those needs rather than the One who deals with the sin that leads to eternal, spiritual death” (198).
“God’s primary purpose is not to offset the pain of living in this sinful world. He doesn’t exist simply to solve each and every problem we face in this life—or even the ones we perceive will crush us. He calls us to become absorbed in fulfilling His will and purpose, to deny ourselves for the good of others and to His glory. Our joy should be in serving and loving God” (199).
“In many ways, the church falsifies spiritual reality by pretending that people’s lives can be nearly perfect in this fallen world” (214).
Okay . . . take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Some of those are hard to take in. I’m convinced, however, that a lot of our struggles as Christians (and non-Christians) stems from a misperception of what God’s ultimate plan is for us. If you’re anything like me, you need to go and spend some time alone with God, searching your heart, and asking yourself this question: Do I love God? Or am I using God to get something else besides God?