Several years ago now, I came home late one night having spent a few hours counseling a couple in our church whose husband had fallen into pornography. My wife was waiting patiently for me knowing what I was doing. She asked how my time went with this couple. I responded with this statement:
“That was one of the most pleasant… unpleasant conversations I have had in quite sometime.”
Before convincing you why we as pastors should embrace this paradox we experience in ministry, I suppose I should define what I mean by a “pleasant…unpleasant” conversation.
Unpleasant. After numerous counseling sessions with both single men and married couples who have been harmed by the snare of pornography, I can’t recall any conversation about pornography that was enjoyable in itself. Writing my book on the subject affirmed there is nothing enjoyable about reflecting on this topic, even though it was written to serve and help others overcome it. This is why regardless who I am talking to about it, it is and will always remain an unpleasant topic and difficult conversation. There are many other sins and struggles our people battle that regardless how hard we may try or how lightly we try to bring it to the table, the nature of the way sin affects us almost always makes for an unpleasant conversation.
Pleasant. So what becomes pleasant when talking about something of a most unpleasant nature? Answer: The way the power of the gospel brings forgiveness, healing, grace, and victory in a dark sinful struggle. As I met with this couple, the power of the gospel was clearly at work in them both. There was genuine biblical repentance in the man and brokenness for hurting his wife. There was a sincere graciousness in the wife, despite the fact this wife learned a few days before of this recent struggle in her husband. There was an eagerness on the wife’s part to embrace her important role to help her husband battle this struggle.
Even by the time I met with them both, God had already begun to bring healing to the wife’s heart, cultivate increased intimacy between the husband and wife, and establish a radical plan of accountability in which the wife was eager to serve. I couldn’t have imagined a more encouraging meeting about something so harmful and potentially devastating to a marriage. God was truly kind and the power of the gospel was undeniably present.
Therefore, dear brothers and fellow pastors, we should embrace the moments in our ministries where we must tackle the issues of sin that plague our people. It is part of the burden in our joyful call to shepherd God’s people and it is inevitable to face. Yet we are ministers of the gospel and we must also grow to love seeing the power of the gospel shine in the midst of our people’s struggles. Why? Because this paradox captures the essence of why we do what we do and what we have been divinely called by God in His grace to see and experience.