Often our worst shame comes from what grows out of the wounds in our past. We try to cut down every bad habit or embarrassing addiction that sprouts, but until we dig up the root, the damage will never completely heal. Today’s guest, Brittany Rust, talks about how God helped her uproot and heal from a history of abuse, sexual sin and depression.
Often our worst shame comes from what grows out of the wounds in our past. We try to cut down every bad habit or embarrassing addiction that sprouts, but until we dig up the root, the damage will never completely heal. Today’s guest, Brittany Rust, talks about how God helped her uproot and heal from a history of abuse, sexual sin and depression.
Gary Wilkerson: Hello again, welcome to the Gary Wilkerson Podcast, here at World Challenge. I'm here with somebody I'm going to introduce in just a moment and also I'm here with somebody you've met before if you watch the podcast. I'm here with the very lovely, very wonderful, the very patient. She's been married to me for over 40 years, so patience is one of her key virtues she's definitely learned to be patient. Kelly, thanks for [crosstalk].
Kelly Wilkerson: Yes, thank you for having me.
Gary: How are you doing?
Kelly: I'm doing good.
Gary: Brittany, we're so happy to have you here today. Brittany Rust, we're thrilled we've gotten to know you a little bit, being that you have joined the World Challenge ministry team, and so grateful. We're looking forward to hearing your story. You're also an author, this is one of your written two books. This is Untouchable and written another book. What's the other title?
Brittany: It's called, Here I am – Responding when God calls your name.
Gary: Okay. Writing has always been an interest of yours? Did you start when you were a little girl, or young?
Brittany: Well, I just started until after high school. I just started blogging on my own like one of those Blogspot websites, and I don't think anybody read it. I don't think anyone read it [laughter]. One day my pastor's wife, my mentor read something I had written and she said, "You should do this. You're really good at that," and that was the first time somebody had told me that's something I was passionate about could maybe even do. Just started writing and investing and God just started opening the doors from there.
Gary: You write books and you work full time for Christian ministry. You're happily married, your husband's name is Ryan, and you have a little boy named Roman. How old is Roman?
Brittany: Yes, he is two and he is feisty. If anybody has tips on what to do in a temper tantrum, send them my way. [laughter]
Gary: Your life sounds perfect, I mean, a lot of great things happening. Was it always perfect or did you come through some rougher stuff when you were younger?
Brittany: Yes. I came through some rougher stuff when I was younger. I'm a part of a large family, just your pretty average upbringing in the Midwest. I had three brothers but didn't grow up in a Christian home. Didn't know anything about God or Jesus but in exchange for that, there was a lot of anger, just a lot of tension--
Gary: In your home or in you?
Brittany: In our home. I was sexually abused at a very young age.
Gary: Do you remember how old you were?
Brittany: I was about three or four.
Gary: Just barely being beyond a baby.
Brittany: Yes and I don't remember much about it. There's just a memory that I have. Well, for a lot of people that might cause them to flee from anything sexual, for me it did the opposite. From a very young age I was masturbating and within junior high, I was addicted to pornography. Just already had at such a young age this heaviness, this weight of shame and just bondage. There was a lot of manifestation of anger as a result of having grown up in a home with anger. That was the response I adopted to my situation and my surrounding.
By the time I was 16, I was addicted to pornography, masturbation. I was depressed and I was put on medication for depression and an ulcer. I was just overwhelmed and so hopeless but I knew there has to be something more in life than this. This just can't be it. When I was 16, I found that hope that I was always looking for in Jesus.
Gary: Wow. That's incredible.
Kelly: It's amazing.
Gary: The time you started looking at pornography, how old were you then?
Brittany: I was in junior high--
Gary: That's 12, 13 or something?
Brittany: Yes, I think it was about 13 years old and I found a stash of pornography and just couldn't stop honestly looking after that point.
Gary: Being that you personally involved in this before you met Christ, have you studied this, because the question a lot of people might ask is you think pornography more as an issue with men. Have you heard a lot of other women saying like, "Thank you for sharing your story because as a woman I'm involved in pornography as well"? Is that common? I guess I'm asking in your experience is it common to find many women addicted to pornography?
Brittany: Not at first, when I was struggling through with it, I was told this is a man's problem and women don't struggle with this. I didn't tell anybody about it, I didn't feel I could talk to anybody about it, that anyone would understand me. I kept it to myself and the Lord delivered me, thank goodness, from that. For years I still didn't even feel like I could talk about it. I was so ashamed because I shouldn't have had that problem. I didn't tell anybody until my husband, when I got married. It wasn't until I wrote Untouchable, and I sat down to write the first chapter. I felt God told me, "I want you to talk about this," and literally with tears streaming down my face for the first time I communicated, I had an addiction to pornography and masturbation.
It was like that final weight came off of me and, no joke, the next day, someone I barely knew but someone I had met a couple of times, a female, messaged me on Facebook the next day and she said, "God has seen how hard it was for you to share that, but he wants you to know that he's going to use your freedom from pornography and masturbation to help women." I was just like, "Oh my word," she had no idea.
Brittany: Yes and honestly, it wasn't until that book came out a year ago that people have started hearing me talk about it. I'm starting to talk more and more about it because I'm seeing that more and more women are wrestling with this in silence because they don't feel they have anybody to talk to about. Certainly, within the church, we haven't been great about talking about it. I'm having women starting to reach out to me as I'm writing articles about it and on my blog and talking about it, women are starting to reach out more and more about it.
Gary: It's pretty rare for there to be an open, honest conversation about it even with men in the church. I was thinking even more difficult for women because that sense of it's a man's problem like you said. I'm so glad you're doing that for women to be able to-- I think we need forerunners of somebody who openly and honestly can talk about tough issues. Here on this podcast we've had Nate Larkin, has come we've done a couple of episodes with him. He's talking more about a men and then I had another episode we did on pornography as well, it's about a men. This is really interesting to have from a woman's perspective. Kelly being a woman, any questions come in your mind for Brittany about, I don't know?
Kelly: Yes. I'm thinking that women we can tend to be really hard on ourselves and isolate ourselves just because women are so hard on women. To have the wherewithal and the courage and to take that authentic step to say, "Hey. This is a place where I've struggled, and this is a place where I've suffered, and this is a place that Jesus has redeemed," that is amazing. I'm thankful that you're giving voice to it, and to make a connection to women so that they can be healed. Your love for women is very evident and very genuine. I just so appreciate that.
Brittany: Thank you. For me, it was a lot of grace of the Lord because I didn't have anybody to talk to about it, or I didn't feel I had. I feel the Lord was really gracious to deliver me from that stronghold when I became a Christian.
Gary: Right away when you became Christian, you--
Brittany: No it wasn’t right away, honestly it took about two years. It was just me starting to get scripture inside of me.
Gary: All this time for those two years you still had not talked to anybody it was not until you got married and started writing the book?
Gary: Would you say that's normal or rare that somebody fights this battle alone?
Brittany: I think it's very normal to fight pornography alone. Again, because there's this stigma that we shouldn't be wrestling with it or it feels dirty. We want to portray this purity about us, but for me I'm finding that freedom from really any addiction is being able to talk about it, finding accountability. I strongly encourage, when I meet with a woman who's struggling with, whether it's pornography or anything, find someone to talk about. That's what I do. If I find myself wrestling with a situation, or a temptation or just something a stronghold, the first thing I will do is find a trusted girlfriend that I can talk to about it.
I feel like that's really a beautiful gateway, but I didn't have that. For me it was just getting scripture in me. I didn't know God until I was 16, just memorized scripture about just purity and sexual morality. God used His word to pull that out of me.
Kelly: I guess it's like in forming questions, thinking about your extraordinary story and how much not only do you love women, but you want them to be free. What would you say should be the first step? Is it that connection with a friend, or is it getting the scripture inside of you or a combination of both? I'm sure everyone's journey is different, and God is taking steps and leading them.
He leads all of us, but I'm just saying, what would you say could be the first step that if someone is struggling with pornography, a woman that's struggling with pornography. What would you suggest would be the first thing that they should do?
Brittany: I think repentance is the first step. A repentant heart is so important to the life of a believer. First, bring that to the Lord because God wants to carry that with you. Sometimes we feel like in those dirty things, maybe I need to clean myself up before I come to God. Really bring it to God and repent before Him and say, "God I don't want this anymore. Help me, free me."
You may make mistakes down the road but keep going back in repentance to the Father. The other two steps would be, get scripture in you. We fight temptation with the word of God. Jesus did it in the desert. He fought with the word of God, so get scripture in you. Third is, find that accountability, find someone to talk to about it. When you're able to have someone that loves the Lord, call you out on that stuff or ask you about those things, you just have that support system. That person in your corner practically to help you walk that journey.
Gary: That's powerful. I think I'm agreeing with you 100% repentance. That's biblical, that's godly. My personal struggle with that only comes- is truth and I'm not denying it. My own personal experience as young man, getting addicted to pornography was, I would look at pornography and then I'd go into this, "I'm a terrible person, I hate myself, I'll never do it again."
It was like I don't know if it was repentance or just more like feeling self-loathing or something like that. For me I think I saw two things that I needed. One was the repentance and the other was to realize I was wounded as well. Not to excuse that, but it was almost like somebody who is trying to go on a diet and they keep opening refrigerator and eating more and more.
It's like, that's a sin to be gluttonous and they need to repent of the sin but also there's a wound inside of them. I think for some, it's all about healing of the wounds and like, "You're a victim poor person." That's not sufficient. For others it's, "Just repent of your sin." That's not sufficient either. I think that because Jesus, by His stripes we are healed and He took all of our sin on. Isaiah 53 speaks very clearly about the woundedness of our souls and our minds and our bodies and our history. It speaks of Him taking the wounds upon Himself and our sin, our transgressions upon Himself too. Did you see in your life both, would you say you saw a need for repentance but also a need for healing?
Brittany: Certainly, but honestly that didn't come till a couple of years later, as I talk about my book is, I had a moral failure at 25. Even though porn and the masturbation had disappeared from my life, I still hadn't fully dealt with the root of the sexual addiction that I had been locked into for so long. I thought I was free because the manifestations were gone, but then I was put into a new situation where I started dating somebody. I was in leadership and ministry at a church at 25.
Gary: You weren't married?
Brittany: No, I was not married. I was dating a guy and we ended up having sex outside of marriage. I had never really dealt with that root. I still had that wounds that I had just been covering up. I thought I was okay and in reality, it manifested again a couple of years later. I had to go, I had to deal with the root of it then.
Gary: Can you explain a little bit about dealing with the root of it? What does that mean to you?
Brittany: Yes. Mine was a long journey to work through that because, when I had sex outside of marriage being a leader in ministry I had to step out of ministry. I confessed to my pastors and knowing full well I'd lose my job. I had to step out of ministry. There was trust hurt with my mentor and with friends through that process. The guy and I broke up. I literally hit rock bottom and it took me a while to want to accept the grace and the healing to move on.
I just sat there for a while and, I know God can forgive me, but why would He want to? He had already redeemed my life and given me this incredible ministry and blessed me and then I had ruined it. Look what I had done with it. Even though I knew God could forgive me and would want to, I almost thought I didn't want it at first because I didn't think I deserved it.
It took me a while to- there were some bumps along the way, but God started working that healing in my heart. When I was… Finally, I was like, "Lord, I want your healing, I want your healing." What I found was, at first, I just wanted to get through this situation as quickly as possible. I was like, "God please make all this go away, just get me through it as fast as possible."
Nothing was really happening, but then I broke in a new way and I realized that I had to stop praying, "God get me through this as quickly as possible." I had to start praying, "God as long as it will take, I will sit in this pain, I will face the storm no matter how long it takes. I just want genuine healing." I found that when my prayers changed from a me focused prayer of, "Just get me through this." To, "God I just want you and I just want your healing." That's when the healing really started taking place in my life.
That redemption process started and for me it was just sitting with Jesus and getting His word in me and being surrounded in community. Just really being like, "I'm not going to run away from the past anymore. I'm not going to run away from the bad decisions that I've made anymore. I'm going to face it all head on so that I can walk through it." I think that's an important element to healing, is being willing to face it and work through it.
Kelly: Brittany, are you saying- excuse me Gary - are you saying that you were having a hard time forgiving yourself?
Brittany: Yes because, again, I didn't feel like I deserved it. I knew God was good and gracious, but I was withholding it for myself because I just didn't think I deserved. I was so ashamed and felt so guilty that I just put it aside for a while. Then, God kept leaning in and pressing and think, "I have this grace for you, I love you. This isn't the end of your story. This is just a chapter in your story but there's so much more I want to do in you and through you." I sort of had to let my guard down.
Gary: I love how you changed from, a me centered and your prayer became almost like, "For your glory Lord, do this." I think that goes back to a little bit what I was saying about the difference between repentance and woundedness is. Some of our repentance, if you look at pornography again or masturbation or get involved in sexual immorality. The repentance is not real repentance. It's almost like, I'm sorry I got caught or I'm sorry that I thought I was stronger than this.
It's a very self-focused thing and so you came out of that. That really brought more transition when you do something for the glory of God there's a greater power because He's all about that. He really wants you to be free for His namesake, as much as for your own sake. He loves us and wants us to be free buddies. He's done that. You're 26 or something like that, then after this, you've been out of it for about a year. You're seeing some healing and recovery. What's happening then, because obviously something happened to restore you to- you started writing. Can you explain a bit about that?
Brittany: Yes. After the moral failure, my boyfriend and I broke up. Within a couple of months we got right back together. I wish I could say that we didn't have sex again, but we did it again. We were in something really toxic at that point and so we broke up again but this time it was for good. We thought we're never getting back together. That's when I really got it because I loved this person and so I really went through a season of just sadness and mourning.
That's where I was praying, "God get me through this." I wasn't seeing the progress I thought I should see. The relief from pain that I thought I should see. After a couple of months, I was like, "You know what? I'm just going to try the world's way of healing." I still loved God, but I thought, "Man, I just need some relief and so I started dating guys I knew weren't believers. I got drunk one night and even contemplated suicide. I did that for about a month.
I was just so again, broken. I knew those things wouldn't bring me healing I was looking for, but I was just so lost in the sadness and I allowed the enemy to tell me there's other ways to deal with the pain. I tried that for about a month and it wasn't working. That's when I say I broke again but that was the right kind of breaking, I needed to really break. It was at that point where I thought, "Now, I'm fully committing this to you, Jesus, this process, I've been trying to do it my own way, it hasn't worked, obviously. I'm going to recommit the process to you." That's when I started leaning into it and that's when I started finding the healing that I was seeking.
Gary: Powerful. From the time you got back with this guy and had sex again, then started dating other guys not in a healthy way. I don't know if you remember what was going on in your heart at that time, but was there, would you say any anger at God because you probably had asked him like, "Set me free from this, I don't want to do this." It didn't seem to be happening. Maybe a lot of people doesn't happen that way, but I'm just curious, do you remember any anger at God at the time?
Brittany: Yes. After the second breakup, so I was worshiping and praying and I was doing all the right things and I wasn't seeing the relief. I got angry. I remember one time I was cleaning on a Saturday afternoon and I was hurting so bad and I just remembered falling to my knees and literally curling up in a ball and just crying and then I started verbally crying out like, "God, where are you? I keep seeking you. I keep praying, I keep worshiping." Yes, there was some anger associated with that and I think it was that anger that separated me to go try the world's way for a little bit.
Gary: I think it's a weapon of the enemy is when we're dabbling in sin to try everything he has in his arsenal to keep us from being free from sin so that we begin to be-- Ultimately, Satan is after not just our failure but to get us to believe God's a failure or that he doesn't have power. He's not going to come through or he doesn't love us or care for us because that usually then leads us towards like what you went through and almost more rebellion and more, "Okay, God, if you're going to treat me like this, then I might as well just go out and live like the world." I think a lot of people do that.
Kelly: Yes. Brittany, can you describe what was going on? Obviously, what I hear it sounding like it was a heart issue because you're reading scripture, you were worshiping, you were praying, but you didn't have that breakthrough that you so desperately were seeking and so what was that shift that you had? There was something that brought a true connection to God, can you tell us about that?
Brittany: Yes. It goes back to just when I looked back, my prayers were, "God get me through this as fast as possible. Take away the pain." It was all about bypassing proper healing and it wasn't until I truly broke and then my prayer shifted to, "God, however long it takes, whatever I need to face, I just want the healing. I want you in this." I actually had read a story not long after I sort of shift my focus about bison and bison are the only animals that when the storm is coming, they will actually turn and they will face the storm and they will go through it.
Whereas most animals will run from it but by turning and facing it and going through it, through actually in the storm less than maybe the animals running from it. For me, I was like, "No, I need to turn it and I need to face the storm and I need to walk through it in order to get to the other side." That shift was taking the focus off of me and putting it on just whatever you have, God, whatever this looks like, whatever you envision, that's what I want." That was the shift.
Kelly: It was just surrender of yourself and saying no to pride like I can fix this, or God is here to help me get out instead of here to take me through.
Brittany: Yes. I think for me a big part of what I have to wrestle with is control and I've found through life, like when I get angry it's because I feel like I'm out of control. In that process I was trying to control my healing and I wasn't seeing the results that I wanted. I think part of that it was me showing the Lord that I was releasing control to him, to what his vision of the healing looked like. I was letting go of it and putting him at truly in control of the process.
Kelly: Surrender is really hard, isn't it?
Brittany: It is but good when you're there.
Gary: It's all good. It is the only way to live. I was going to take a step back a little bit because you were talking about when you were 25, you sleeping with somebody and then repeating it and then others that's again, because now you're ministering to others who are facing those same storms. It seems there's two types of churches- this going to be a long question, but I want you to answer it. There's two types of churches. One, they just berate and beat sinners and don't look at a guy and that make them feel shame and guilt. Then the other kinds of seem to be excusing it like, "We don't really want to talk about sexual morality."
It seems like there's a lot of churches, I don't know a lot, but there's some that, and I don't want to be judgmental here, but it seems like they preach about literally how to become successful and how to be happy and how to find a mate. I'm just wondering in both those churches because one's driving them away with guilt and the other is excusing it, I guess then my question is in your ministry, because you're writing about this and blogging about this, are you finding a lot of young people that are Christians that they're trying to live a good Christian life but they're sleeping around and it's normal and then common that having sex outside of marriage? Would you say is happening a lot in the church? Is it prevalent or is it an anomaly, just occasionally you meet somebody that's facing this problem?
Brittany: For me, when it happened, I thought like, "I'm the only Christian who's ever done this." After that, God just started bringing people and I met so many people. People I knew that I had never had guessed it had struggled with that as well. They had slept with a boyfriend or girlfriend. The more longer I'm in ministry, the more I see it and the more I work with younger people, the more I see it. It's a real problem and you're right. We don't really talk about it I think as openly as we should. We shouldn't be casting down judgment and this fire and brimstone about it. Because that's again going to push people away, but we do need to have honest conversations about it.
I'm very open about talking about masturbation. That's not what God has planned for you. I'll bring up the tough topics but also just doing that in grace. Because I'm so grateful that when I had my moral failure, my church, they did not brush it under the rug. They said this is a sin and you're going to have to step out of ministry. They were very clear about that, but they did it in such love in grace that they walked through the healing with me. I continued to go to that church. There's definitely a balance of that. I think we're seeing a real wrestle with this of young people, especially as generally we're waiting until we're older, till we're getting married. We're testing the waters and we're living life inappropriately in the meantime.
I don't think people realize until they get older what damage that causes to them. Just emotionally, spiritually, mentally. You will bring into your marriage whether you think you will or not, there will be pieces of that that you bring into your marriage. We have to talk about it openly, but it can also be done in a very gracious way.
Gary: Yes. I made a connoisseur of sermons I've been preaching since I was 16, and I love studying. I love studying the word and preparing sermons and being around my brothers and sisters in Christ who preach the word but I also listen to people online and I'm listening to a lot of young, really good pastor teachers, they're very motivational and positive thinking. I'm just concerned for this generation-
Brittany: I am too.
Gary: -that they're just not hearing, there's some things that God just says, "Just don't do that. I'll help you and I'll be with you." You're feeling that same way?
Brittany: Certainly. There's a Christian influencer. I've been following on Instagram, very well known, and you would know their name and she recently promoted a book written by a Christian, but the book talks about sex and very openly about how sex outside of marriage is okay and these different elements. For me, just to even see that where she was recommending this book, my heart literally hurt in that moment thinking, "This is what we're serving people. This is what we're offering to people as a biblical way of dating." I was just like in awe that this was even acceptable.
Gary: A Christian was-
Gary: -advocating to read this book and the book was saying it's okay to have sex outside of marriage. The author was saying-
Brittany: She's someone in ministry-
Gary: -saying he's a Christian as well.
Brittany: -divorced and she was very open about having sexual relations with her boyfriend.
Gary: It was okay?
Brittany: Yes. For me, but that’s just one instance where I've seen that in some form, especially through social media being as popular as it is now and there's this, "God will forgive us no matter what." People are just like, "I make bad decisions but Jesus will forgive me." It's like, yes, He will but that doesn't mean that it's okay. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. We're seeing that more and more in our culture and honestly, it really makes me nervous for my generation and the generation coming up behind us.
Gary: From being like your parents' or maybe your grandparents' age. We look at your generation and with great hope and expectation of amazing things but also that concern of-- Please I will not get too critical here but there's this, church is a cool place and a hipster pastors lead us and they talk about these cool issues of life and we can all be cool but not dealing with sin.
Brittany: Right. We leave church motivated. There's these great motivational talks in the church today and we leave, "Yes. God's got a plan for my life." We don't really go much deeper than that and we really need to be talking about the wrestles that we have and that we shouldn't be getting as close to sin as...yeah.
Gary: Speaking of sin, I think all of a sudden the table was certainly clearly and most of us people listening would say, "Yes, we know." Even though it's difficult at times not to disobey God, we know having sex outside of marriage is sin. You're talking here today about masturbation as well and I think there's a lesser clarity on that. Can you give us your biblical view and your personal view on masturbation as a sin? Do you see it as a sin and always a sin? Is there ever a time where it's not a sin?
Brittany: Yes, this is a delicate question. I will say I think in most cases it is because if we're honest people who have masturbated, you can't arouse yourself without an image. There's generally an image associated with that act. For me, I say a definition of lust is when you take God and respect for others out of the equation. When you're picturing this sexual image of somebody, you're taking God and you're taking respect for that person out of the equation and so that is lust. The Bible's very clear that lust is a sin and we should stay away from lust.
My general, biggest feedback towards that is you likely won't be arousing yourself in that act without a visual image of somebody. Then you might say, "I'm married and it's my husband or my wife." I think in those cases you might have a little bit of gray area but that's very rare where that's the case. That would be my first piece of advice is that's a lust issue at its heart. Then there's also verses your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God resides in you and you're to honor that. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. There's also these, does it say very clear in the Bible do not masturbate? No. There are these verses that lend to it not being God's design for your life and God's best for your life.
Gary: Yes. You know, I think it’s interesting that science usually catches up with the Bible and there are starting to be some articles written now from non-Christians point of view about masturbation and they're saying particularly in a marriage how that if one of the partners is engaging in masturbation, they've studied it and they found that it affects the sex life of the couple.
Kelly: I think so too.
Gary: Yes, if somebody's imagining somebody else and they've masturbated and then they come into the time for it and the wife asks for like, "Hey, this is a great time for us to be together right now." The husband he may not say anything but just like, "I don't need to because just something just happened." I think that it radically diminishes the purity and intimacy of a marriage relationship. Then just to speak about the lust, the imagination, I can't speak for women but for men, that's the only way to-- We're very visual and that's not the only way to go down that route. [crosstalk]
Brittany: For women too, we may not be as, some women are very physical but even if it may not be that you're reading books like Fifty Shades of Gray and there might be an emotional arousal, there is still something there that you are envisioning or you're playing in your mind to get to that arousal.
Gary: If somebody's listening today and they say, "I knew sleeping around was sinful and I've really tried to avoid that but now you're really narrowing my sexual life. What would you say to them? How would you stop that if you're habitually lusting and going down that route? I know you've addressed that a little bit about getting honest and things like that but-- You would encourage them to say, "This is something to deal with, right? It's not something-
Brittany: Yes. Even before I was a believer, I knew that I was engaging something that made me feel shameful and dirty. Not even as a believer. There was just something that didn't feel right about it but then certainly as a Christian, it's hard to tell people not to do something that they really want to do. They put on their earmuffs and they don't want to hear you. Like, "No, I'm just going to keep masturbating. It's not a big deal." Here's the thing is that's again, not God's best for you. It's not like it's just another rule to limit you. Really God's design is so that we live in freedom from the temptation and the sin.
As far as you can get away from that sin boundary, the more just at peace you're going to be, the more freedom you will find. For that person that's saying, "I'm doing it and I don't want to stop." I just want to be like, don't you want God's best for your life? Do you think that that includes that? Yes, you can keep doing that and, yes, God loves you but if you really want God's best for your life, you're going to have to give up things that just play with temptation and boundaries and sin.
Gary: Yes. You got to stop before you get started.
Brittany: I always tell, especially young people, I'm like, "Just stay. It's not about getting as close as you can to the sin boundary. Stay as far away as you can from it. That way you're not even tempted to go in that direction."
Gary: I think somebody who's dealing with either addiction or a habitual practice of pornography, masturbation, sleeping around before marriage and particularly because like we said, we know clearly that this one is a sin. We're less clear about this other one so it's easier as a Christian, I think to go that route, "I'm going to relieve some of my sexual tension by masturbation and pornography." Not seeing that as a sin. Let's say now that they're listening to us today and somebody says, "I agree that it is a sin but I've been trying for 10 years to stop doing this and I can't stop."
I would just say, and I would want to hear your comments on this too after you hear what I had to say, that sometimes there's a cycle of shame that somebody falls into masturbation or pornography, then they feel so bad about themselves and they repent and they’re trying but there's more self-hatred comes in and therefore they're not-- It causes them to say, "I feel so bad about myself. I need to feel good." Every addiction, whether it be a drug or alcohol or sexual addiction, it comes from a sense of inside. It's a sin and is a rebellion against God but it's also, as I said earlier, there's woundedness inside of us. Then when we fall into it again, there's more shame which enhances the cycle.
One of the things I would say is make sure that we don't-- You mentioned the word freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. He's not just wanting us to stop doing that, he wants us to live victorious, He wants us to live life. Satan knows that that's going to hinder you from living life so he's going to keep you in shame, he's going to keep you in fear and then you get angry at God because you're never going to get set free.
I would say we need to tell people if this is a habit that you're not able to break right now, don't beat yourself up, don't live in condemnation and shame. There is guilt because sin has guilt but Jesus dealt with our guilt on the cross. See yourself as someone who Christ has set free and claim your inheritance and begin to believe who you are rather than believing what Satan says about you that, "You're a failure" that, "You're no good, you'll never get over that," that's just going to increase the need for that.
At the core of it, the answer to me has nothing to do with actually whether it's an alcohol or drug or sexual immorality. It has to do with this issue of God's love. The fear of the Lord and the love of God. The holiness of God and the love of God, that these two things are married together. They kiss and when they do they come into our heart in our life and that's where real healing comes from.
That it's not just trying bootstrapping it I call it, digging your heels in, making a promise, "Lord, I'll never do that again." That does not work. In my experience, it does not work. It makes things worse. For me, I had to come to this point of saying like," Okay, when I go to that," It was just G.K. Chesterton said that, "Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” Looking for love, looking for life.
To realize that and then say, "Okay, wait, there's a God-given emotion in me, for intimacy, for affection for love. I'm just going to the wrong place for it." Instead of saying, "I'm just going to stop going to that place," you have to have something stronger. That's where the love of God, the power of God, the presence of God, worship, community, all those things you're talking about. Would you say you experienced not just, "I'm going to stop doing this," but something stronger replaced it?
Brittany: Yes. I was in that cycle for two years after becoming Christian where I resolved not to do it, and I would do it I feel guilty and then I would repent and resolve not to do that again. It was a constant cycle. I found myself that honestly, the shift took place for me when I did start surrounding myself with community, and truly living in God's plan and best for me. Those two years I was still living at home. There was a lot of the pressure of living in that kind of household.
When I got out from underneath the pressure, I was in community with other believers. I was living in the design that God had for us, to be in community and to serve Him and to just- there's this verse and I feel so bad I can't remember what it is, but it's becoming a pure and blameless child of God. For it's not about becoming but we are a child of God now. It's today living as a child of God. That means living in the grace and the redemption that has already been won on the cross for you. I think, it goes back to not living in the shame but living in God's plan for you and so you're a child of God. Walk in that.
Gary: Walk in that.
Brittany: Hope in that, just knowing that you are loved and you are redeemed and you are pure and you're blameless. You may not feel that way but the truth is you are. That's how Christ sees you.
Gary: When you do start believing that, the power of sin is canceled.
Gary: That's where the power of sin breaks. Without knowing who you are in Christ, there's the confusion, the security is not there and so you're going to addictions to try to feel better about yourself. When you have Paul telling the church saying, "You are washed, you are cleansed, you are justified, you are sanctified." Which is a crazy a statement. You are sanctified because somebody who is living in addiction to pornography that does not feel very sanctified. Obviously, theologically we know there's the process of sanctification. Then there's the link between justification and sanctified. You are sanctified and now you're working it out like you said, that's a powerful feeling.
Brittany: It's really hard to get out of the mindset that we have to act a certain way to live out God's desire for us or to have that favor and that grace but we have to get out of that works-based mindset and really just live in the grace of, "This is who I am. I am redeemed. I am chosen." Choosing to live in that as opposed to what the enemy wants for us and that's to stay locked in our works-based, " I'm not good enough," mentality.
Kelly: You made mentioned that you're living in a place that was pressurized. Can you describe that pressure? What was causing the conflict?
Brittany: Yes. I got saved at 16 and I still lived in my parents' house that still had the anger. It genuinely felt like heavy blanket that was constantly on me. I just wanted to shake it off but I didn't know how. I was going to that porn and that masturbation. I was very much caught up in my mind living in this feeling. This world of, "There's got to be something better than this. This can't be it." It was until I gave my heart to Jesus. I felt that blanket came off of me for the first time and there was this freedom and this deliverance and this hope that I'd always wanted. At the end of the day, I still had to go back into that home every day for two years until I moved out. There was a certain relief just even getting out of that situation.
I love my parents. They're amazing. I have so much respect for them. They just had a very difficult childhood and something that was projected onto us and then my prayer now is that, "I don't project that onto my child," is breaking the generational sin. That's why I would say for people like, "If you're wrestling with something or do you have peer pressure friends that you maybe you shouldn't be hanging out with or situations you shouldn't be in. Get out of those situations that aren't edifying you and building you up. Get into community of other believers and you're going to even sense such a difference and just the presence that you're putting yourself into."
Gary: The community is such a part of healing. One of the statements I say, and that's what I'm teaching is that all wounds are relational. Then the sin that we pursue is relational. You take drugs. You go to the bar with others. Even an image of pornography on the screen is an attempt in relational. All wounds, all sin is relational and therefore, I believe also all healing is relational. That's what I was asking earlier about you would have a bizarre story if you got healed all by yourself and you’d probably be the anomaly.
I wanted my healing to be, "I'm going to be in my prayer closet alone and I'm going to wrestle with God and get rid of this sin issue or maybe I'll go to the altar at church and when the pastor gives an invitation for prayer, not telling anybody, but just pray for my unspoken prayer request." It wasn't until I actually started talking to some friends and talking to my wife and saying, "Hey. This is the problem I have, can you pray with me." Then there was something about the light and the darkness, the shame is broken. The power of this thing that's hidden in us. I'm glad you're advocating for the community as well as dealing with it personally, both are important.
Brittany: Yes. It's purely grace that some of those manifestations I found deliverance from just because I didn't feel like I had someone to talk to about it but I still had the root sin of that sexual addiction, right?
Brittany: It wasn't until I walked through after the moral failures, able to walk through that with the community that I was able to deal with that root. There was still always the root. That community and of them walking through that healing process with me. Help me to pull that root out.
Gary: That's what you want to get to, the root. Otherwise, if the root is still there it's always going to grow back up. You can resist it for 5, 10, 15 years, but it'll still be there and Jesus is much more interested in getting to the root or He calls it the inside of the cup. Clean the inside of the cup and outside will become clean. That's a powerful testimony. This is the book you write most about this? Your other book as well, do you touch on that in your book or it's only a testimony?
Brittany: No. In my second book. That was my first book. It came out last year, and it talks about my moral failure. The core of it is this after I had walked through healing, I asked God, like, "But where did it all go wrong? Because I loved You. I was in the Ministry. I was serving You. I was committed to not having sex outside of marriage. Where did it all go wrong?" That's where He showed me the Untouchable myth, and that's what the book is based off.
Most believers if they're genuinely honest with themselves, they will say, "I would never do that." There are certain sins that they say, "I will never do," like, "Of course, I'll never have sex outside of marriage. Of course, I'll never have an affair. Of course, I'll never steal or murder or whatever." There's just those sins that seems so obviously wrong to us that we assume we'll never do, and I call that, "Our untouchable list."
What happens was sex outside of marriage was on my list. I assumed I'm good. I'm in ministry. I've committed not to do it. What happened was I wasn't really guarding myself in that area. What happens is if we have sins that we say we will never do, then we actually become vulnerable in those areas because we're not guarding ourselves from those areas of sin. I have known genuinely godly people who have done things they thought that they would never do. It's why we see pastors in the news who fall into affairs or stealing or alcoholism.
They never went into ministry saying, "I'm going to do that eventually." It's that they just assumed that they would never do that, and they didn't guard themselves, and so they fell into that sin. The book is about shattering that untouchable myth that I believe most believers have. We're going to shatter that myth, and then I give them the tools on how to stand against temptation, and so that's what that book is about.
Gary: Cool, so powerful.
Kelly: Brittany, do you see or can you share with us maybe some guidepost or things, flags, that you didn't know at the time? They were like just little subtleties of the enemy drawing you in, and drawing you closer to a place that you could fail. You looked back on it now, and you can see it's like, "Oh, that was definitely a snare or I should have backed up." Can you share that with us?
Brittany: Yes, there's a couple that I talk about in the book. One of them being exhaustion. I identified that as an area that the enemy can really get in because in our exhaustion, so I was in ministry, and at the time I was doing about 60 hours a week at the church. I think I was burnt out, but I didn't really quite know it because I still loved what I was doing, but I was burnt out and I was exhausted. For me, I was unguarded because I was so tired.
When we're exhausted right, we barely have enough strength to just do the things that we know that we need to do in a day, but let alone are we just putting up those boundaries, are we being diligent? One of those is exhaustion. I believe the enemy loves a tired person because he can get into that weariness, and he can't start putting his foot in, and he can start getting us to compromise, that's one. Another is a lack of boundaries, and one of the things that I mention in the book to guard against temptation is firm boundaries. Spoiler alert, the guy ended up months after healing, we actually did end up getting back together, and he's now my husband and God totally redeemed our story.
Gary: That's beautiful.
Brittany: We had some loose boundaries, right, like, "We'll never be in the house alone together," or the standard Christian, "I won't do that," but we really didn't stick to them, we found ways to get around them. For me, looking back because I had very loose boundaries. As a believer, you have to have those firm boundaries, and it might have to be a super tight boundary, but if that's what you need, then do it and then stick with it.
That's the key, is we can say, "I won't do this," but you have to have firm boundaries, and you have to stick to them. That's another thing I look back, and I say, "Technically there is somebody in the house," but we were in the bedroom with a closed door. I was playing in my mind these like, "Well, technically, we're not alone," but your mind plays that game when you're tempted. Those are a couple I look back at.
Gary: That's a good question. Yes, I'm glad that's a good place to wrap things up here because just giving people that practical, not be exhausted, make sure you set clear boundaries, and stay in community. Maybe even a part of community could be having somebody like Paul, Timothy had Paul, and of course, they didn't have cell phones then, but when you're in that situation where your boundaries are being challenged or that phone call, okay. I have a mentor in my life, somebody that I could trust. I think those are some really practical areas. Your book, do you have a way of we getting in touch with you? We'd love too. Like a website or blog or anything like that or-
Brittany: Yes, so I have a website. It's www.brittanyrust.com, and you can find Untouchable and then also my newest book, Here I Am on the website, and I also have a podcast. I blog there on a regular basis, have a ministry for women and moms, so you can find me there just to connect.
Gary: That's good. Thank you so much.
Brittany: Yes, awesome.
Gary: I love your honesty, and I think it going to help a lot of people.
Brittany: Thank you.
Gary: Not only here at this podcast, but whenever you're teaching or writing, and keep up the good work.
Brittany: Thank you.
Gary: Real blessed.
Brittany: Thank you for having me.
Kelly: Yes, thank you
Gary: Yes, thanks, Kel.
I found that when my prayers changed from a me-focused prayer of, "Just get me through this," to, "God, I just want you and I just want your healing," that's when the healing really started taking place in my life. – Brittany Rust
I'm starting to talk more and more about my addiction to pornography and masturbation because I'm seeing that more and more women are wrestling with this in silence because they don't feel they have anybody to talk to about it. Certainly, within the church, we haven't been great about talking about it. – Brittany Rust
It's very normal to fight pornography alone. Again, because there's this stigma that we shouldn't be wrestling with it or it feels dirty. We want to portray this purity about us, but for me I'm finding that freedom from really any addiction is being able to talk about it, finding accountability. – Brittany Rust
We fight temptation with the word of God. Jesus did it in the desert. He fought with the word of God, so get scripture in you. – Brittany Rust
Satan is after not just our failure but to get us to believe God is a failure or that he doesn't have power, he's not going to come through, or he doesn't love us or care for us because that usually then leads us towards rebellion and thinking, "Okay, God, if you're going to treat me like this, then I might as well just go out and live like the world." – Gary Wilkerson
Brittany Rust is an author, speaker, podcast host, and founder of For the Mama Heart and Truth x Grace Women. She is also a regular contributor for Crosswalk, YouVersion, Propel Women, Focus on the Family, and have contributed resources to Single Christianity Magazine, iBelieve, ForEveryMom, Assemblies of God National Women’s Ministries, and many more.
Brittany also founded and leads Truth x Grace Ministries, a ministry dedicated to strengthening believers through the power of God’s Word and pointing to His abundant grace. Prior to leading this ministry, she served on staff at James River Church, Convoy of Hope, Red Rocks Church, and the Assemblies of God National Women’s Ministries.
Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.