Hello to you dear Blaine,
I reply to this as a lady because you included sisters in your farewell. I’m only speaking in general terms about all temptations and struggle with any kinds of addictions. It doesn’t really matter what they are, they are all issues of our fallen nature, this corrupted and fallen world, and we do all drag more or less of these issues with us into our Christian walk, often for quite a long time because renewing our minds and learning new habits takes a long time.
I honour your openness about this sensitive and often tabooed issue. Know that you’re not alone. This is a huge issue, of course in the world, but increasingly in the Church too. It’s just not talked about as much and dealt with by pastors as it should. They should teach about it and exhort the (mostly) brothers that it concerns. They should unite together and support one another to overcome, to help brothers grow and renew their minds and keep together, guarding one another. There is huge power in gathering together, living our lives together, being involved in the lives of one another. Not the kind of a life we usually live in this modern age where we hardly even know anything about the private lives of others. It shouldn’t be like that in the Church. Isolation is a big enemy. Isolated people also have far too much idle time, even if just mind time, allowing the mind to wander astray and having nobody to help it to refocus in the more fruitful thoughts. We more or less all suffer from this if left alone and isolated.
One thing that has helped me a lot in the past when I struggled with addictions, and while I was still in the early Christian journey, very broken, very immature and having a huge and dark baggage from my past still affecting my whole being in many ways, was to keep myself busy. And for this, choosing things, if not always just the Bible and studying it, then other things that glorify the Lord, that keep my thoughts occupied in the things of the Lord, even if just His amazing creation. It is to worship Him to marvel at His creation, to thank Him for all that He has made. Bird watching, feeding birds, photographing the nature, hiking in the nature, searching for different species of insects, photographing them and marveling at their phenomenal design, reading about them, reading and watching videos about the nature, and so on. I didn’t have the time to have so many unholy thoughts, or thoughts of the flesh, falling back into the past addictions, but instead I filled my mind with the stunning creation of our Lord and kept myself busy.
Slowly the intensity and the pull of those past things faded away as the Lord kept helping me grow in Him. This keeping myself busy was transitory and helped me past the hardest times.
And all that, taking it a day at a time. Each day with less unholy thoughts and desires is a victory. Each setback is just that, a setback, a bump in the road, as long as your heart is right; seeking the Lord, and even if a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise up again. Proverbs 24:16. We won’t be complete instantly, we won’t be complete at all during this life in the flesh. So be merciful to yourself also, know that many brethren struggle too, in various ways, it’s a constant battle all our lives. This flesh is rotten and nothing good lives in it, as Paul said.
We don’t have control over our dreams, and if we still have a lot of dreams that have to do with our past life without Christ, it’s just the spiritual immaturity of us (not in a negative way, by the way! People use the word immature in either negative or positive connotation, I use it in the positive, immature Christians are all who have just come to Christ, haven’t walked with Him for long and who still need to grow and mature, it’s normal! Nothing to be ashamed of!), and the need to mature and renew our minds, it’s nothing to worry too much about, it’ll get cleaned up and fades away by time.
But progress will take place, assuredly, even if slowly. It will get easier each day. The new nature will take shape, our minds will be renewed, it is the guaranteed, firmly promised work of the Lord in us and He will bring it to completion. And one day you look back and find it astonishing how far along you’ve come and you will praise the Lord for that. It is His work in us.
I am praying for you. May the Lord have mercy on you and may He bring to completion the work that He has started in you. Fear not and trust in Him with all our heart! We love you here at the forum!