Into the Valley

Posted: Feb 09, 2024

We live in a time when, as Jesus predicted, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Many are coping by shutting down their heart and emotions. Then there is the porn and sexual sin that many are in bondage to, which poisons and cauterizes the heart. Allow your heart to harden long enough, and you risk it turning to stone. The way to healing and joy is through the valley of the heart. The following is a chapter from my first book, The Road to Grace, Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction that offers the way through for those who are struggling to restore their heart.

Into the Valley

“Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness, and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness and grace to other people.”
– David Seamands

So far, our focus has been on how to deal with lust and sexual sin; we’ve cut off the top of the weed, now it’s time to dig deep into the roots, and pull. Then, we’ll replace it with something pure, powerful, and wonderful; a new “plant” that gives life instead of draining it. As Bruce Marshall wrote, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”2 If we do not find the God we’re looking for, eventually we’ll go back to the brothel.

In the eighth chapter of John, we find one of the most powerful and controversial stories in all of Scripture:

“Early in the morning He came again into the temple,
and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one
condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said,
“I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
John 8:2–11

For those who live in the condemning and damning world of sexual lust, the words “from now on, sin no more” hit hard and are often discouraging. No matter how hard I tried or what I did, I could not “sin no more.”

For years I was disheartened, but today, I know that my problem was that I was trying to put icing on a cake that hadn’t been made. Before He said “go and sin no more,” Jesus said “I do not condemn you”… to an adulteress… who’d been caught having sex with a married man not her husband, a crime punishable by death.

Why did He do this? Shouldn’t He at least have waited until she’d confessed her sin? Perhaps she did. When her accusers said “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act” she didn’t deny it, nor did she defend her actions. Her silence alone was an admission of guilt. In addition, she might have already been convicted in her heart, something that only Jesus could see and know. Perhaps a look passed between Jesus and this woman—eye to eye—in which she knew that He knew the truth about her.

During those seconds with the Son of God, I believe she came to know Him, and received the power to live free from sexual sin. Why? First, her response of “No one, Lord” indicated a realization of who Jesus was. Second, those who don’t know Christ have neither the power nor the desire to “go and sin no more” (Ephesians 2:1); they’re enjoying their roll in the mud of sin and depravity, not looking for a way out. Since the Lord had told the disciples not to “give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine” in Matthew 7:6, I doubt if He would have wasted His kindness on her if she had no interest in turning to God.

When Jesus said “I do not condemn you,” He was bestowing grace, kindness, and forgiveness on her; the choice was hers as to whether she received or rejected it. She was forgiven of a sin that should have cost her life, and the normal response for someone who’s been forgiven such an enormous debt is overwhelming gratitude and love for God.

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many,
have been forgiven, for she loved much;
but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Luke 7:47

A man or woman whose heart is filled with the love of God has little desire for the counterfeits of God’s grace like porn or lust. Before we can “go and sin no more,” we must receive “I do not condemn you;” the power to overcome and live free from sexual sin comes from receiving the love of God in the heart.A Christian sex addict is someone who hasn’t received God’s love in their heart. I have yet to talk to a man or woman who struggles with sexual sin who understands and has received God’s grace. Often, they’re just as lost and confused as I was. In my search for freedom from sexual sin, I spent nearly 13 years in counseling (seeing five psychologists and two psychiatrists along the way), more than eight years in the 12-step groups, and read plenty of books. Although I learned a lot, today I wish someone would have sat me down in the beginning, and said something like this, “Mike, in spite of all your knowledge and time in church, you’ve never received God’s love; you’re starved for it. You’ve spent years trying to find it in sex, work, drugs, people, and trying to ‘be good enough’ for God. The truth is that you don’t really believe that God loves you in your heart. If you did, you wouldn’t be a sex addict.”

“Just as the Father has loved Me,
I have also loved you; abide in My love.”
John 15:9

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on
your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously
for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
Jude 1:20–21

The word “abide” means to “remain in a place.” We are to live in the love of God every moment of our life, regardless of failure or success. When we sin, we confess it (1 John 1:9), accept His forgiveness and grace, and move on, centered and secure in His love. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

Let’s revisit the first part of David Seamands’ statement: “Many years ago, I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness….”

For many, the breakdown comes when they try to receive grace. They can’t receive it, because they don’t feel; they don’t feel because they don’t want to experience the pain and emptiness within. Since they don’t want to experience what’s really going on inside, they shut down, stuff, or avoid their emotions. They’re so afraid of feeling that they wall off their heart, which keeps them empty; devoid of love, life, peace or joy.

God’s Word gives us a picture of an empty Christian:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
1 Corinthians 13:1

I spent the first 36 years of my life in “gong mode.” I didn’t know how to receive love, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have wanted to. Whenever someone would compliment me, show non-sexual affection, or give me a gift I would push it away; if I didn’t decline it verbally, it was rejected internally. Love was a threat to my defenses; it stirred up feelings of hurt, yearning and anger, which I didn’t want to deal with.

To keep others at arm’s length, I carefully crafted a mask of success and wisdom so others would think I was self-sufficient. I was terrified that they might perceive me as weak or needy and might want to reach out and comfort me.

I tried to outrun my feelings by living at hyper-speed, but life is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’d eventually burn out. I couldn’t stand silence; when I’d go on a business trip and would be faced with the roaring silence of a hotel room, alone with nothing but my emotions, I’d turn to the TV for medication and recreation, hoping it would numb me. Watching TV led to porn and masturbation, which led to intense feelings of shame, and then more porn and masturbation, which hollowed out my love-starved soul even more.

When we shut our emotions down, all of them go, which means we forget how to lighten up and have fun. I stopped laughing and couldn’t enjoy the simple things of life, such as sunsets at the beach, talking with my wife, or rocking my kids to sleep. My passion for basketball fell away, and porn became my only hobby.

My involvement in ministry was just as empty and loveless as I was, done for the approval and attention of God and men. My relationship with the Lord wasn’t much better; I kept Him at a distance, just as I did with everyone else. My times in the morning with the Lord were a rushed ritual where I did most of the talking. I was afraid to listen for Him because I didn’t want to hear what He might say; which I assumed would be anger, frustration or disappointment with my inability to “sin no more.” A lot of my prayers were saturated with groveling and self-absorption; I was focused on my sin and how miserable I was, rather than on the Lord and what He wanted to give me. Grace is a gift that must be received, and I did everything I could to push it away.

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned
through the one, much more those who receive the abundance
of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign
in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:17

The pure water of “neither do I condemn you” has a hard time flowing through to a heart that’s clogged with the silt of pain, lies, trauma, anger, fear, and/or rejection. If we want to experience all of the love, joy, peace, and love God has for us, we must descend into the dark valley of our heart and deal with the sin, lies, wounds, and distorted perceptions that keep us from receiving grace. The walls of deception and fear must be faced and torn down so the raw, tender places in the heart can be exposed to the light and healed. The process involves hard work and can be painful, but the end result is worth it.

Today, after having traveled through my own valley, I know there is no better way to live life. When sorrow and trials come, I hurt, grieve and sometimes cry, instead of attempting to run from, stuff, or spiritualize away what I’m going through. When I blow it or need help, I turn to God, ask for help or grace, and receive it, rather than turn to porn or some other counterfeit like lust. I’ve learned that silence is a blessing where I can receive blessings, love, direction, and even correction from the Lord. Living in God’s love is infinitely better than wallowing in the lonely mud pit of porn, shame, self-absorption and emptiness.

“But I know you, that you do not have the
love of God in yourselves.”
John 5:42

If we don’t travel through the valley, temporary relief from sexual sin is the best we can hope for. Knowing what the Bible says about grace isn’t enough; otherwise, none of those who attend Bible college or seminary would struggle with lust or any other type of sin. We must receive God’s love from the heart; those who have allowed the surging river of His grace to flood the deepest recesses of their heart overflow in love for Him, in fulfillment of the greatest commandment:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment.”
Matthew 22:36–38

We cannot give what we have not received. As Seamands wrote, when Christians fail to receive God’s love, they don’t give that same unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to others. A graceless and loveless church is cold, empty, and powerless; devoid of life or light.

The last thing Satan wants is to see a bunch of Christians fall in love with God; this is where they catch fire and become willing to live or die for Him, no matter what the cost. God’s church shines like a blazing lighthouse of grace when it’s filled with men and women who are passionate about the Lord, and it’s this light that attracts the lost to Christ. I have yet to hear of a man, woman, or child who came to Christ because they were excited about being good, or spending hours studying the Bible. The deepest ache of man’s heart is for God; to be filled with a life and love so powerful, bright, and holy that his heart glows with joy and peace.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
so my soul pants for You, O God.”
Psalms 42:1

The oasis you’re thirsty for is at the top of a mountain, across from the ridge we now stand. You can get there, if you’re willing to descend into the valley that lies in between. To get to the mountain we must go through the valley; there are no shortcuts, nor is there is a helicopter that can shoot us over to the other side. The valley is neither pleasant nor easy to travel; there are dark places within that cause even the strongest man to cower in fear.

The valley is not a place for those who want to fake it, or spiritualize their problems away. It’s not for the legalistic, or the proud, or those who would pretend they have it all together. The valley is for men and women who are tired of playing church, and want the Real Thing. It’s for those who aren’t content with wading in the shallow end of the pool of life; they want every hindrance to receiving God’s love and grace removed from their heart so they can live life to the fullest, experiencing everything the Lord has for them.

“Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.”
Psalms 26:2

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
2 Corinthians 13:5

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10

For more information on The Road to Grace and to purchase visit