by Russell Willingham
When David and Amy (not their real names) came to NCM they were in deep distress. They came because David’s decades-long porn addiction had been exposed. Like so many who come to us, his childhood was a nightmare, and he’d turned to porn at an early age to find comfort. But despite the many obstacles in his life he had worked hard, gone to college, and gotten a degree in business. As an adult, he became well-known and respected in the business community.
Porn was not his only struggle, though, David also fought with debilitating mental illness. When Amy married him ten years earlier she knew he had issues, but had no idea how deep they were. Being Christians enabled them to persevere through the challenges. But when Covid hit their business and personal life, things began to unravel. As a result, the deeper issues in David’s life came roaring to the surface.
Through counseling, we were able to help David experience healing. His acting out with porn totally stopped, Jesus began touching his life-long trauma, and he finally went back to his psychiatrist and got the medication he needed. But Amy was another story. As David got better she got worse.
Trying to be strong over the years for her husband had taken its toll. She had plenty of unresolved trauma from her own childhood to deal with (but she had put all that aside to care for David). Now that the marriage was more stable she actually had some breathing room. That’s when the pain from her first forty years came back with a vengeance (as well as the marital pain).
Though I always met with them as a couple it didn’t feel like marriage counseling. It felt like I was an EMT helping two people recover from a catastrophic car wreck (each with their own unique and devastating injuries). We dealt with lots of practical issues, but our conversations always came back to spiritual things. I shared with them (like I do with everyone) that solving every problem will only get them so far unless they learn intimacy with Christ.
So many believers struggle with sexual, emotional, or mental issues. Some Christians face this head-on. Others seem content to live a “normal” life, do their devotions and only bring God in for the big stuff. This second approach hasn’t worked for me. And I haven’t seen it work for anyone else either. This is where Amy struggled. Her relationship with the Lord was real, but it only went so far.
With my encouragement, she began taking her disappointments, confusion, and pain to Jesus in an unfiltered way. So many questions—but she kept bringing them. And she also learned to submit instead of taking matters into her own hands (as she’d done most of her life). I began seeing Amy shift from hopelessness and cynicism to a place of peace and confidence. Amy and her husband still have pretty big obstacles to overcome, but they are learning to trust in Jesus like never before.
During a recent session, I commented on how different they both seemed. David, who formerly saw only the negative side of life, was smiling more. And Amy’s face was luminous and bright.
Amy said, “We are changing, Russell. You have helped both of us in so many ways. But the thing I am most grateful for is…,” her voice cracked and tears welled up in her eyes. (I sensed something big was coming.)
And it did.
“The thing I am most grateful for is you have helped me gain Christ.”
For many Christians, Jesus is an important part of their lives, but he may not be the foundation of their being. He may not be their dearest friend (even dearer than husband or wife). And he may not be the only person they can’t live without.
At that moment, I knew Amy had come to know Jesus in this way. She was beginning to experience relational wholeness and the good things God has for her.
This is what I live for: helping the hopeless to find hope, and helping independent, self-sufficient disciples to abandon all confidence in themselves and trust solely in Jesus. When men and women experience this it can be hard—but it always leads to freedom.
Your support of NCM enables us to be there for the Amys and the Davids. Thank you for partnering with us in this hugely important work!