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Can you help "Toni"?

Our case study begins with “Toni”, a single person, 33 years old.  You might be able to fill in the rest of this story, because the pattern is so typical.  They came to Christ with a sincere profession of faith and a biblical conversion when they were a teenager.  At about the same time their 20 year struggle with lust began.  It involves episodic use of pornography and episodic masturbation, about which Toni is deeply discouraged.  Over the years they have experienced many ups of “victory” and just as many downs of “defeat”.

Toni comes to you for help:

They are deeply discouraged by recent failures, by the latest downturn in a seemingly endless cycle.  Over the years they have tried “all the right things”, the standard answers and techniques.   They have tried accountability - sincerely.  It helped some, but not decisively.  Accountability has a way of starting strong, but slipping to the side.  At a certain point, to tell others you failed yet again, and to receive either sympathy or exhortation, stops being helpful.

Toni had memorized scripture and wrestled to apply truth in moments of battle.  It often helped, but then in snow-blind moments, when they most needed help, they would forget everything they knew.  Sex filled their mind and scripture vanished from sight.  Other times they just overrode the truth in an act of “who cares?” rebellion.  Then they would feel terrible - their conscience would go snow-blind for only half an hour at a time!  They prayed.  They fasted.  They sought to discipline themselves.  They planned constructive things to do with their time, and to do with and for others.  They got involved in ministry.  They even tried things that aren’t in the Bible: vigorous exercise, cold showers, dietary regiments, etc.

Toni had tried it all.  Most things helped a bit. But in the end, success was always spotty and fragile.  Toni had gained no greater insight into their heart and into the inner workings of sin and grace.  For 20 years it was, “Sin is bad.  Don’t do it.  Just do _______ to help you not sin.”  Their entire Christian life was conceived and constructed around the struggle with episodic sexual sin.

Their pattern was as follows: seasons of relative purity might last for days, weeks, even for a few months.  They measured their success by “How long since I last fell?”  The longer they went, the more their hopes would rise: “Maybe now I finally broke the back of my besetting sin.”  Then they would fall again.  They would stumble through seasons of defeat, wandering back to the same old pigsty.  “Am I even a Christian?  Why bother?  What’s the point?  Nothing ever works.” They were plagued with guilt, discouragement, despair, and shame.  Sometimes Toni would even turn to pornography to dull the misery of their guilt over using pornography.  They would beg God’s forgiveness over and over and over, without any relief or any joy.  Then, for unaccountable reasons the season would change for the better they would get sick of sin or get inspired to fight again.

That’s when they contact you; they really want deliverance once and for all…

How would you help Toni?


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