Sexual sin doesn’t need to end a marriage
Fred and Brenda Stoeker have attended First Assembly of God (John Palmer, pastor) in Des Moines, Iowa, since 1982, a year after they wed. The Stoekers, who have four children, have chaired the young couples’ activities committee, taught premarital classes and led an intercession group. But Fred has made a wider impact writing six books on sexual purity, including Every Man’s Battle, which has sold more than 500,000 copies. Fred, 48, teamed with Brenda, 44, to author the latest book in the series, Every Heart Restored: A Wife’s Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband’s Sexual Sin. The Stoekers recently chatted with Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
PE: Why did you write this book?
FRED: After Every Man’s Battle we received e-mails from women wondering what they were supposed to do. They would say, “My husband is starting to win this battle, but I just can’t get my emotions right and I can’t seem to recover from the betrayal and anger and the pain.” So Brenda and I thought it was time to write a book for the wives so they would be able to recover and help restore the marriage that is shattered.
PE: Are you surprised that no one in Christian publishing has tackled this subject?
FRED: It doesn’t surprise me. A deacon at the church asked, “What do you do, Fred? Go to the drawer of all the topics nobody wants to write about and just pull the top one out?”
PE: This book contains frank language.
BRENDA: We are extremely careful because it’s a real fine line. Fred has to be real enough with those problems that when people read it they believe he knows what he’s talking about. But we don’t want anything to look vulgar or coarse. We just want to be as plainspoken as we can. We reworded manuscripts over and over.
PE: How have Christians’ views of sex been colored by the world?
BRENDA: As Christians, we’ve become accustomed to crass humor and sexual innuendos. TV and Hollywood have been the primary causes. We don’t even realize what we’re soaking in and it’s very dangerous.
FRED: It really begins to reshape the way we look at women and the way we look at sexuality in general. And it’s not just young people; it’s seniors. We’re seeing people in their 60s and 70s who have been saying for years, “Don’t watch this,” now watching the same shows and talking the same way as 19- and 20-year-olds.
PE: How widespread a problem is sexual sin in the church at large?
FRED: Statistics show that sexual sin among Christian men is on par with the sexual sin percentages among non-Christian men. Around 65 percent of men today are looking at porn more than once a week. Now, for the first time in history, women are becoming hooked on computer porn.
PE: How can a man open up his home to Satan’s attacks by what he watches?
FRED: When we’re sinning against our wives there’s a division between us in the spirit realm and our prayers are hindered. It’s a great spot for Satan to enter because he hates marriage. The moment a man sins sexually he begins to compromise the umbrella of security and safety as the spiritual leader of the home.
As a man I have to make right choices, led by the Holy Spirit. A wife must also submit to the Lord and learn to begin to trust her husband again. Forgiveness is key. God is right there to help those who stumble if they really repent. If husbands and wives can talk about sexual sin together they can talk about anything.
PE: How can the average Christian man be less carnal, and more loving to his wife?
FRED: First he needs to recognize that sensual lusting is sin. It changes the way he views his wife. It changes the way he views all women. He needs to get right before God so that his spiritual life isn’t tainted by sin. Then it becomes easier to openly share his emotions with his wife.
The most important thing for a man to guard is what enters his eye gates: the women jogging by in the park, the sexually suggestive billboards, the bikini-wearing women in the beer commercials during football games. Anyone who cuts those images off finds a dramatic increase in his ability to pray. The battle to guard the eye gate can be as short as six weeks. But even if we have our eyes guarded we can still think up some pretty lustful thoughts in our hearts on our own. We must learn to take our thoughts captive. It may take three years to figure out what all your mental triggers are. Each thought needs to be crushed as it comes up.
PE: Should a man have his wife as an accountability partner?
BRENDA: There’s no pat answer because there are so many variables. I was glad I didn’t know anything about Fred’s struggles until he was nearly over it. I didn’t want to know every fall along the way. It’s painful. If I had heard about every slip it might have been more difficult for me to be trusting and forgiving. But some women consider it a real honor that their husband wants to talk to them about it.
PE: How detailed should sharing be about sexual sin?
BRENDA: The wife should feel free to ask whatever she wants to ask and the husband should be honest in answering. Men don’t understand that for women a husband looking at porn is the same as committing adultery. Women feel looking at porn is a deep betrayal and they are damaged to the core of their being.
FRED: The Bible is on the side of women on this. Jesus said lust is the same as adultery. Once sexual sin is out in the open, it’s important for the wife to know that whenever she asks a question her husband won’t be lying.
PE: Do Christian men want to be real with each other?
FRED: Sexual sin has a lot of shame attached to it, but that doesn’t need to be the case. The big question for me is are you going to integrate your sexuality with your Christianity? That is, are you going to move from adolescence to manhood? When guys discover they aren’t the only ones struggling with these issues they quickly form groups to talk about it.
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