I find myself in another season of constant temptation. Maybe it’s because of COVID-19 or the other chaos in our country; maybe it’s due to stressful seasons at work or the changing weather. Maybe it’s just cyclical, and it’s time for another round of apathy and struggle with sin.
Whatever the reason, this is where I find myself: apathetic toward the Church, God, and disciplines like reading Scripture and prayer. I’m not angry at the Church — just apathetic.
And in that apathy I feel ordinarily strong convictions weaken. Not that they’ve changed; I still believe firmly that porn, masturbation, and hooking up are all wrong. I still find myself strongly convinced that celibacy is my personal path forward.
But in the apathy it just feels a little less important to live into those things; that’s all.
It’s odd to me how fickle humans can be. I’ve gone an entire year without masturbating before, gone years without looking at porn.
But then almost without noticing, those gains are eroded and I’m back in a season of sin and temptation.
I used to find myself in a spiritual crisis when I entered a period of struggle and sin like this. I feel I am losing more battles with sin than I win right now, and the temptation is to immediately drown in shame and question my faith and salvation.
But I’ve been through enough valleys now to know that sometimes this is just where we find ourselves in our faith walks, and the only thing we can do is try to cling to Christ. The only way out is forward, and despair and doubt only prolong my time in the valley.
Each time I sin, I repent. Each time I’m tempted by porn, I fight it and delight in the time sin is delayed. I don’t fall for the lie that I’m going to give in eventually, so it might as well be right now.
I fight for every inch, even if that fight looks a little pathetic sometimes due to my general apathy.
The little losses have added up over time, bringing me into this valley. I’ve become lazy in my spiritual disciplines, letting longstanding agreements of mutual accountability with friends become hit-or-miss instead of daily, not leaning into times of worship to renew my sense of awe for God.
None of the decisions to skip out on these things feels like a big deal, but they all add up.
As C.S. Lewis says in his book, The Screwtape Letters:
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Seldom do we find ourselves rapidly falling from a mountaintop season of faith and endurance into a valley of sin. We ourselves are usually the ones to slowly work our way down a gradual path into the valley below — sometimes so gradually we don’t realize we are descending. Not until we finally pause to take measure of where we are and where we’ve been.
Be it journaling, talking to a friend, or just sitting in silence — all of these things give us an opportunity to notice how we are doing emotionally and spiritually. There are no signposts on this gradual decline, and so moments of self-reflection become incredibly important in this faith of ours.
Now here I find myself, finally reflecting. I don’t love what I’ve found: regular masturbation, struggles with porn, temptation to find a boyfriend or a guy to have “the real deal” with.
I won’t despair, though. I know this isn’t where I want to be, but I also accept that just like the decline was gradual, so is the journey out of the valley.
The small victories add up, too.
A little prayer here and there can fast become a regular discipline again; reading Scripture, attending church, rekindling mutual accountability as well. Fighting temptation until I go weeks and months between stumbling with lust, instead of days.
I finally see the valley I’m in, and so with the help of God, my friends, and whatever apathetic fight against sin I can muster, I have faith I will make it forward and out, one day at a time.
What do you do when you feel spiritually apathetic? How are you handling temptation and struggle during this current season of COVID-19?
Writing helps, but really just any other distraction to take my mind away.
Distractions are big for me. Sometimes I try to distract myself from sin, and other times I find myself getting distracted instead of doing what needs to be done. A blessing and a curse I guess. Escapism only goes so far though, so somewhere along the line all the troubles are still there waiting to break through the distractions to remind you of their continued existence.
Aaron, this is so raw, real, scary. Thanks for your extreme vulnerability. I believe what you wrote is common to all men, not just the SSA plagued. It is such a fight everyday sometimes to hold our heads above water.
To wake up one day and realize we slowly migrated down that path to the valley where our purity and desires collide. Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me? Thanks for sharing…I feel your pain deeply.
Absolutely! The beauty of much of what we post is it applies to much more than SSA, even if it is discussed through an SSA lens. Struggles with apathy and lust are common to all! Thanks for reading.
It’s definitely been a valley for me! Actually, at what point does a valley become a chasm?
In any case, I feel you Aaron. I’ve been in a similar season of giving into temptation, again and again, and wondering where those days of spiritual vitality went. Like you, I know they’ll be back, one step at a time. But right now the steps feel longer and more rigorous for whatever reason. Even if that reason is entirely made up or in my head.
Prayers for you, brother. Thank you for being raw with us.
haha a chasm indeed. The new norm it feels like at times. I’m starting to see a light at the end of covid, even if it is a way off still. Grateful for any good news these days!
I’m gonna bet that your post resonates with a whole lotta guys. Spiritual valleys cover so much territory, apathy is just one of the trails I can get lost on and find myself in one of the valleys my flesh long ago carved into my soul. Something about valleys take the life outta you and make the mountaintops seem more distant. But valleys teach better than mountaintops that not only are we not alone, but we’re not meant to be.
I find it helpful in those spiritual valleys recognizing again that I’ve become poor in spirit on my own, but also that Jesus said that in that is the kingdom of heaven. One other thing that I find really practical is doing what it takes to get the eyes of my heart fixed on Jesus. That can be a battle with all the distractions, but when I do I find the Spirit doing what he’s here to do, show Jesus and glorify him, and in that my heart is energized to love Jesus with the love that’s from God. It’s that real thing from God that gives so much hope on this narrow road we’re called to walk.
Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, for the valleys too.
And Happy Thanksgiving to you, Alan!
That’s kind of you, thanks John
Thank you for that encouragement! Its true that the valley has purpose. And there are lots of reasons we find ourselves in one, not just apathy. Good thing we’ve got brothers to help us out!
What am I doing? Honestly, I keep trying to go through the same practices before – and since there’s no success it might be time to try something new.
I definitel6 have become more apathetic to temptation throughout 2020 being in a physical place I did not expect to come back to and dealing with chronic physical pain through most of this year. But recently I have started to explore more resources to find victory over these battles. I appreciate your reminder that every small win is valuable. With that I hope to go from days between temptation, to weeks, and then to months. Thanks, Aaron!
Amen! Every bit adds up. Doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with trying new things, but its a day at a time.
Oh gosh this blog is ridiculously relatable. Yeah, I go through a lot of seasons of apathy too. Work stress, boredom, being stuck at home, emotional turmoil in relationships, these all send me straight into apathy. In those cases I just don’t feel like praying, going to church feels like a chore, and porn runs rampant. This year has definitely been a cause for these things, just the lack of social life kills me.
For real. Its been a really tough year. Lord willing 2021 can be a year of healing for many.
Super relatable post Aaron. What has led most to my apathy is that I can’t see the end of this whole pandemic mess we are in right now. Hope has definitely been more frail in these recent months.
I appreciate you sharing where you are. And grateful for a God that will always reach down when I am in the valleys and carry me on His shoulders to the mountaintops.
Amen. Great thing about God is He isn’t beholden to our emotions. He moves in our apathy even though we have a harder time feeling that than normal. Lord willing we will be out of this pandemic soon!
The last few years have been a cycle of contentment and apathy, joy and anger, so I related so much to what you wrote here. I wonder if there are people who genuinely are perpetually satisfied in God and don’t drift into seasons of apathy. Are there people who don’t have to “fight for every inch”? What must that be like? And those valleys can even seep into the good times, too. I know I’ve been in seasons of contentment and found myself mentally preparing for its eventual end and a return to temptation and apathy.
But I loved that you didn’t end your blog in apathy – “I won’t despair, though”. The last bit of your blog reminded me of this quote: “The actual path for sanctification seems almost boring – a life immersed in Scripture and the practices of the Church is the only reliable bulwark against infidelity.” Maybe I’m expecting some grand, glorious break in the clouds when I’m exiting a time of apathy, but more often than not, it’s just being more consistent with prayer, reading, and fellowship.
Appreciate the encouragement, Aaron. Thanks for sharing.
I love this, thanks for commenting. I think we are all in the same boat. Faith is a daily struggle- we have seasons where that struggle is stronger or weaker, but I don’t think anyone genuinely goes through life without moments of doubt or struggle.
Great quotation. Its true that most of the Christian walk is mundane, with the occasional moments on the mountaintop. We must run with endurance as Paul says. It’s a lifelong race, rather than a sprint. Thanks again for reading and commenting 🙂
This felt like it was right out of one of my journals my brother. I’ve been in my current valley for about four months now. I made a painting during my last valley about it. It’s this tall lanky man who has a scar where his heart is and a heart where his head is supposed to be. That’s how it feels for me, like my head knows exactly what my heart should be feeling, but try as I might my heart won’t make the slightest movement.
It was just really encouraging to hear you explain the small steps and the slippery slopes in the same way I do. I feel like just today God has been reminding me of all the little gradual steps that got me to where I am, now I’m finally ready to start taking those small steps back up. And brother, covid has been SUCH a big part of it at least for me. Everyone is upset about everything, fighting, frustrated no matter what side you’re on regarding anything, and so many are still cooped up. Whenever I’m tempted to despair, I have to keep reminding myself that this too shall pass. I have to remember that it really has been a YEAR. We’ve all been thrown confusion like never before. Every turn there has been something new… and it’s ok to not be ok during that. We just gotta keep taking those steps.
Thanks for sharing Aaron, this blessed me tremendously today.
Grateful this post was a blessing 🙂 It’s been great to see that many people can relate. And the longer this pandemic goes on, the more clearly I can see it’s hand in all of this. One day at a time! Thankful for the little victories I’ve had along the way.
I am so glad to have found YOB this week! Brand-new here, and glad to have found a community with so many other Christ-followers walking through this journey of faith and sexuality. Aaron, this post on a season of apathy is exactly where I feel I have been for the last couple of months. Allow me to briefly introduce myself (I’m happy to share a more thorough introduction at some point too).
I’m Matt, a follower of Christ, husband to a very patient wife, and father of two crazy-high-energy boys. I’ve also been attracted primarily to guys for a very long time, and recently admitted that I have an addiction to chats with guys, gay hookup apps, and occasional (ok may not so occasional at times) hookups from those apps. Porn has been there sometimes, though I think it is the relational aspect (chatting and such) that I mostly long for. While my wife has known about my attraction to guys and about some my issues from the time we began dating, I haven’t been fully honest with her nor anyone else in my life about the true depths of my addiction. I have been living a double-life, externally presenting myself as the perfect Christian husband, while internally having this secret life and relationships with guys. Our marriage has been tough – that we actually have two kids is kind-of a miracle, given the number of times in 12 years we have actually had sex. Fortunately (I think) God wasn’t content with me living this double life, and he spoke to me this summer.
At the end of this past summer (2020), I had one of the most clear God-moments I have ever had. Driving home one night, almost audibly I heard God say “Matt, it is time. Time to do something drastic.” And, to top that off, He said I needed to tell my parents. I got home, found my wife, and said 4 words that I don’t think I had ever said to her before (and, frankly the words that I always dreaded when she would say them to me…”we need to talk.”
Thus, I began a process that has led us moving the family halfway across the country to a place where we can safely have true community and be honest and more open with others. I have a great CSAT counselor helping me process and understand my addiction, my wife is in counseling dealing with the pain and hurt from my unfaithfulness, and I had a moment in August where I was finally able to both admit and accept that I am an LGBT person (my chosen label for now) and my attraction is unlikely to change, and I have come out to many of my friends and important people in my life. I obeyed God’s prompting to tell my parents (which as a nearly 40 year old was not something I ever wanted to do) and I am seeing that God needed me to take this step in order to be prepared to deal with issues and events in my childhood and my family of origin that previously I didn’t want to admit were unhealthy (or even emotionally manipulative). I wish I had received a broad feeling of unconditional love from my dad especially, but, I know they are broken people too.
Most significantly, I was able to take off the backpack of shame that I had been carrying for well over 20 years of my life, and for the first time in my life I actually understood and believed that God not only loves all people….he also loves ME!
I am very much a work in progress, and up until this weekend and finding YOB I feel like I’ve fallen into a period of apathy. After having a good season of sobriety in early fall, I stumbled, and have not been able to get out of the cycle now for about 2 months. This next season will be filled with lots of pain and hard work. My marriage may or may not survive (that is essentially my wife’s decision for now). Our therapists will be facilitating a full disclosure process where I will finally be able to come clean with EVERYTHING which completely freaks me out – I had always assumed some of these secrets I would carry to my grave. I will be leaving my current job where I am working remotely since the move, and finding new employment near our new home. I desperately long for intimate male friendships, physical touch, and fear that I will not be successful at not returning to hookup apps or other forms of sexual acting out. I may have binged on the YOB blog over the weekend, and am truly grateful to have found this site. I’m forming some good relationships with the guys in my sex addiction 12-step group, and am grateful this group of straight guys are willing to accept and befriend me, but, there are parts of my struggle that they just can’t fully relate to at times – so I’m really grateful for this site!
Thanks for letting me share (I know – it was long), and I hope to find some community here!
Glad to have you here, Matt! Got your email and will hope to respond more fully within a few days. In the meantime, thanks for sharing some of your story with us. You’re certainly welcome here. Hope our blogs and podcasts can continue to be a blessing for you in this journey. Prayers for you and your wife during this time. Merry Christmas to you!
Thanks Tom! Glad to be here, and appreciate the prayer. If our marriage survives this season, figuring out how to do a mixed-orientation marriage will be quite the adventure.
Thank you so much for sharing all that! Welcome to the brotherhood. Its a struggle for sure, but better done in community than isolation. I would have never broken out of my typical cycles of sin if I hadn’t started opening up to people. It’s terrible to have to first go through all those steps of opening up, but I’ve always found tremendous healing in it. Hope you do too. Thanks for reading
Hey Matt, welcome to YOB! Thank you for sharing your story so candidly right off the bat. Thanks in part to the COVID season, I also feel like most of 2020 was a year of apathy on the faith front for me too. All the new stresses and pressures that arose (fears of catching the virus as I am in the high risk category on account of my age and high blood pressure, my wife lost her job, my business lost half its clients, resultant financial pressures coupled with the added challenges of supervising the virtual learning programmes of my four teenage children, the claustrophobia of remaining indoors for so long thanks to the curfew, etc). Life seemed so belak and devoid of hope that as a form of escapist relief, I would indulge in watching and masturbating to gay porn from time to time as well as watch gay themed movies and listen to secular music (interestingly, I also started listening to a number of LGBT and side A leaning podcast episodes!). I would be filled with guilt and shame after the event and feel unworthy and more distant from God as a result. My previously regular quiet time and prayer regimen degenerated to a sporadic event at best and if it weren’t for the daily after dinner devotional routine that my wife instituted at the onset of the pandemic season, I would be seriously spiritually starved by now, possibly even classifying myself as a backslidden Christian. I am so thankful, however, that God’s grace covers us even during these valley times so like Aaron says, the only option sometimes is to cling to Christ (literally by the coattails!) which is what has kept me connected to Him. I thank God that things appear to be looking up in 2021. I am trusting Him to work in my heart and mind to help me abhor sin the way He does and to fill me with an inner desire to please and obey Him as I hope and trust that I am entering a season where He leads me out of the valley I have been in for longer than I expected…
May God’s grace and ever present love be what keeps you going and imbue with hope for a better tomorrow, Matt whatever that looks like.