“Lord, I Believe; Help Thou My Unbelief,” by Rod W. Jeppsen
Reviewed by Darla Isackson
I have been interested in the response to Meridian’s articles on betrayal. Betrayal can hurt and surprise us as it pounces from the least expected places in our lives. Yet betrayal seems to be another of those experiences – like grief – that it is difficult to live long without encountering.
This subject of betrayal made me ponder the fine message of a book I edited recently that I want Meridian readers to know about. Rod W. Jeppsen’s Christ-centered workbook, called “Lord I Believe; Help Thou My Unbelief” (Mark 9:24), was written for those who feel betrayed and injured by a loved one’s sexual addictions, such as pornography.
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Rod W. Jeppsen, who has his master’s degree in counseling, specializes in treating sexual addictions. He has interwoven his personal experiences with many clients into all three of his books. The first, Turn Yourselves and Live: Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?, is a workbook that is designed to help individuals involved in compulsive sexual behaviors get on the healing path. The extended workbook, “.Line Upon Line. Precept Upon Precept,” is to help such individuals stay on the healing path.
Brother Jeppsen’s most recent book, Lord, I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief, is aimed especially at wives who are attempting to heal from what many call “the ultimate betrayal” a spouse’s sexual involvement outside the marriage covenant. The spiritual recovery needs of the person whose life has become controlled by a compulsive-addictive behavior are obvious. Less obvious but just as pressing are the spiritual recovery needs of the loved one whose heart has been broken by choices that were not her own. That recovery is the focus of Rod’s new book.
To my knowledge, this is the first and only book in the LDS market to address this need, and the author does it well. Specific stories and examples of real-life people who have struggled with the issue of a loved one’s sexual addiction make this book so comforting and valuable to anyone in the same position. Readers say they no longer feel isolated and alone in their pain. The book is thick – 500 pages! However, a good percentage of those pages include blank spaces where the reader can write responses to workbook questions in order to internalize and clarify the concepts that are being taught.
As I was editing this book I was most impressed by the author’s solid Christ-centered approach. Because the principles he teaches are basic gospel truths, they apply to working through any loss or grief. They offer solid guidance to anyone who desires to turn to Christ and experience His healing power. In the aftermath of my son’s suicide, I found many of the exercises in Rod’s book applicable to my own emotional turmoil; they helped me process my feelings. Many of the quotes and scriptures offered comfort and hope. Regardless of the source of our loss and grief, we can all empathize, pray for each other, and seek the common solution faith in Christ and His atonement. I became convinced that these principles and exercises could help any grieving parent or spouse whose loved one had made hurtful choices.
When a Spouse Destroys Your Dreams
If a spouse engages in any sinful or self-destructive activity, there is grief. However, when a spouse turns to pornography or acts out any kind of sexual infidelity there is so much more. Rod’s book helps us understand that it is almost impossible not to take such sin personally, to feel somehow to blame, “not enough,” wounded and betrayed on a deep level. The betrayed spouse wants to help the loved one conquer the compulsive sexual behavior, but disclosure of it has likely shattered trust and the assurance of “happy ever after” here and hereafter.
Thoughts of the betrayal may consume all waking moments, creating wave after wave of embarrassment, shame, and fear. Angry, self-blaming, or resentful thoughts often come in random, alternating waves of questions “How can this really be happening to me?” or “How stupid could I have been not to see this coming?” or “How could my spouse do this to me?” or “Why do I have to pay such a price for someone else’s mistakes?”
Rod Jeppsen’s book addresses all of these typical questions. More importantly, he points out the only sure resolution – a Christ-centered pathway for healing the incredible hurt.
The Articles of Faith as a Structure
Each chapter discusses one of twelve principles for spiritual and emotional healing. These principles are based on the Articles of Faith (not in any particular order) and reinforced with salient quotations by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The Twelve Principles for Spiritual and Emotional Healing are:
- Agency – We Choose Our Behavior.
- We Are Responsible for Our Behavior.
- The Godhead Has Perfect Love for Us.
- With Faith, We Can Surrender Our Trials to the Lord Jesus Christ – He Invites Us To.
- Our Only Hope is Christ’s Atonement and Its Power to Heal – Spiritually, Emotionally, Mentally, Socially, and Physically.
- Your Bishop is Called of God: Work Hark to Build a Strong Support System with Him and Other Trusted Individuals.
- Personal Honesty with Ourselves and Others Is Essential to Learn How to Set and Keep Boundaries.
- God’s Words Have Healing Power; Search and Ponder His Words Daily.
- Personal Revelation Is Available through Prayer and Fasting; We Can Also Embrace Revelations from Our Prophets.
- Being Kind and Forgiving to Self and Others is Healing – So is Giving Service without Reward.
- We are Protected when We Obey the Laws of the Land and Seek that which is Good.
- Learning from the Past Will Help Us to Live Well in the Present, and Give us Hope for the Future.
Applications of these principles enable any sincere reader to avoid inappropriate guilt, endless self-blaming, and harmful attempts to control a loved one. Each chapter ends with messages of hope from General Authorities.
The Workbook Approach
Reading true principles is valuable, but applying them changes lives. The workbook questions and exercises aid us in making application of principles. Writing exercises can help us experience the principle, and change our thinking and attitudes. They give an opportunity to increase personal understanding, clarity, and direction regarding the issues surrounding a loved one’s compulsive behaviors. The exercises, accompanied by the healing power of the Spirit, can change our hearts. In reality, a change of heart is almost always the vital component of healing. When a heart full of resentment and anger is changed to a heart full of forgiveness and love, healing has happened.
Forgiveness doesn’t imply acceptance of sinful or abusive behaviors. The chapter on boundaries (7) is especially valuable to most readers. There is a great difference between charity in our heart for the sinner and allowing and enabling the sin to continue to encroach on our own or our children’s well-being or even safety. The author defines boundaries and explains how boundaries prevent becoming enmeshed in the problems and choices of loved ones. He explains why boundaries are hard to set and keep, but clearly paints the benefits of doing so. He discusses mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and sexual boundaries and helps us determine how to set our own appropriate boundaries in each area.
This workbook includes numerous enlightening and motivating examples, valuable exercises and poignant observations. Those who have been personally involved in helping loved ones overcome compulsive sexual behaviors understand on a whole new level that Jesus is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” He offers the only sure path to peace.
Moving Ahead with Hope
The author says, “Our hope and faith in the Atonement of Christ allows us to continue: ‘What is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.’
“Changing behaviors involves time, effort, faith, commitment, repentance, and maintaining a high degree of hope. In the process of changing, our loved ones may stay stuck for a while before they are able to move on. Again, we cannot force another person to change. We can only work on our own issues and learn on the Savior’s sure promise of hope, healing, and wholeness. Each step of progress draws us closer to our final goal – becoming one with Christ.
“We can know that God is watching over us in our hour of need. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave this encouragement: ‘Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fear. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed’ (Ensign, Nov. 1999, 36).” (Lord I Believe, pp x, xi)