Saturday, March 23, 2013

What Do I Do With These Sexual Desires? - Part 1

No, love, love don't come easy
But I keep on waiting, anticipating
For that soft voice to talk to me at night
For some tender arms to hold me tight
I keep waiting, I keep on waiting
But it ain't easy, it ain’t easy…

-          “You Can’t Hurry Love”, The Supremes

Judging by how they describe singleness, I suspect many Christian writers and leaders liken the sexual desires of a single woman to a water faucet.  According to this reasoning, when such a woman is not married and has no biblical outlet for her sexual urges, the faucet can be easily turned to the “off” position and remain that way indefinitely.  The single woman is then free to enjoy her celibate life, skipping merrily through the pastures, helping the needy and oppressed, blowing on dandelions, chasing butterflies, and spreading sunshine wherever she goes – oblivious to any and all sexual impulses.  Until, at long last, the day comes when her suitor finds her and makes her his own. And after the engagement, the rehearsal dinner, the walk down the aisle, and the wedding reception, the woman is finally alone with her husband in the safety of their honeymoon suite where she can turn her faucet from “off” to “on”.  She can now be sexual.  No muss, no fuss.

But in reality sexual desire cannot be handled so orderly and neatly.  In fact, sexual desire is less like a mechanical faucet and more like a massive current of rushing water.  Think for a moment of how rushing water normally behaves.  Water flowing in a river must have an outlet and if it finds its way to an ocean or sea, no harm is done to the neighboring area through which it flows.  But if there is no such outlet, water will still flow somewhere – flooding streets, parked cars, houses, and farmland – creating much destruction in its wake.  So is the dilemma of the single woman.  She often finds herself constantly trying to restrain a tidal wave of sexual desire when marriage, the only outlet for such desire, continues to elude her.  But restrain it she must because if her desire doesn’t flow toward marriage, like rushing water it will flow somewhere.  And “somewhere” will be sin.

That’s not a warm and fuzzy stance, I know, but make no mistake about it, single Christian woman, sexual desire finds no legitimate place for expression outside of marriage.  The world will tell you otherwise but God’s Word could not be clearer:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28 (This also applies to a woman looking lustfully at a man)

“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. – 1 Corinthians 6:13

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. – Ephesians 5:3

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. – Colossians 3:5

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

The Lord’s position on sexual immorality is tough and unyielding which probably comes as no surprise.  And it’s not that you want to sin against God.  You want to use your singleness (as unwanted as it is at times) to glorify God and please Him.  You truly want to be a single woman set apart for the Lord, the kind that the apostle Paul described in his first letter to the Corinthian church:  “And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:34).  There are times – glorious moments – when you reach the lofty spiritual highs that your singleness affords, communing with the Lord so deeply and profoundly that you desire nothing else.  Those times are truly magnificent and transcendent.  But sometimes…

There are times when sexual desires threaten to overwhelm you – and they seem to come at the most inopportune moments, don’t they?  Like when you’re sitting in church service and you desperately don’t want to have those thoughts, but you can’t help noticing how handsome that deacon over there looks in his tailored suit.  Some Christian writers and leaders suggest staying busy to avoid sexual feelings, throwing yourself into church ministry, or exercising intensely to burn off the sexual energy but that has never worked for me.  I can be up to my eyeballs in work or beat-down tired serving others and still think about sex.  I have at times even dreamt about having sex. It’s interesting to note that the Bible doesn’t offer these quick fixes for dealing with sexual desire.  It gives only one solution:  Marriage.  But what if marriage hasn’t come yet?  What are you supposed to do with these desires?  Where do you put them?  How do you deal with them?

To help in this regard, many Christian books list reasons why singles should avoid sex outside of marriage.  They include the following:

1.      Sex outside of marriage creates regret and guilt, destroying the unfettered intimacy and enjoyment that God intended for marriage.
2.      Sex outside of marriage exposes you to the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases.
3.      Sex outside of marriage exposes you to the risk of an illegitimate pregnancy.
4.      Sex is designed by God to create a strong emotional bond and when that bond is broken (does not lead to marriage) it can cause intense pain and grief.
Though these are all good reasons to abstain from sex outside of marriage, they provide little incentive in the heat of the moment.  Ultimately, we abstain from sex outside of marriage to please the Lord.  Joseph had the right idea.  When propositioned by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph fled from her in such deliberate haste that he left his garment behind in her hand.  Why did he flee?  Obviously because he was strongly tempted to give in to her demands since he was a man without a wife.  The reason he avoided this sin, however, was not because he was afraid of losing his job (which he lost anyway) or because he didn’t want a sexually-transmitted disease.  He said, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)

So to have sex with someone you are not married to is to sin against God.  But the Bible does not only condemn committing a sexual act outside of marriage (adultery and fornication).  It condemns “sexual immorality”, an umbrella phrase that includes essentially any sexual activity outside of the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).  These sexual sins are often secret and hidden; no one knows about them since there are rarely any witnesses.  When not in a dating relationship, most single Christians can avoid having sexual intercourse, but the secret sexual sins are much harder to avoid.  It is here where the battle for purity is often lost and where Satan boasts many casualties.

Sexual purity.  It's worth fighting for, but it's not easy in our day and time. 

The Schemes of Satan

You can say many things about Satan – he’s a deceiver, he’s evil, he’s angry, he’s doomed – but one thing you can’t call him is dumb.  Satan is a formidable enemy of the saints because he is quite shrewd.  This is not so much a compliment to him as it is a statement of fact.  Satan has been a keen observer of humanity since creation, learning our weaknesses and developing his own bag of tricks to throw us off the narrow path.  The temptation of Jesus in Luke 4 is a classic example of how Satan operates.   He did not tempt Jesus on the day when Jesus was preaching in the temple, resolute and full of the Spirit.  No, he waited until Jesus began his 40-day fast, when Jesus was tired, weak, alone, and very hungry.  In the same way, Satan will wait until the single woman is tired of fighting off urges, weak with desire, alone in her bed, and hungry to be touched.  He’ll say,

“God hasn’t given you a spouse, has He?  And yet He has burdened you with sexual desires.  How cruel of Him.  Don’t worry.  I can help you deal with those.  Oh, I know you don’t want to have sex and throw away your virginity.  You won’t have to do that.  There are some things you can do that will help you get through this.  You’ll still look holy.  You’ll still be able to do all your church activities and hang out with your church friends.  No one will be the wiser.  It will be our little secret.”

The Bible describes Satan as prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  He has devoured many an unsuspecting single Christian with three devices:  masturbation, online pornography and sexual fantasies and lusts.  Repulsive, embarrassing subjects to be sure, but I feel I must address them because long-term singleness with no hope of marriage in the near future makes you vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.  He will surely tempt you to curb your sexual appetite with these secret sins so you need to be prepared.  Let’s take a closer look at these weapons in Satan’s arsenal of temptation.


Yep.  That’s right.  I’m going there.

It’s not easy going here.  The word sounds like “constipation” and it’s ten times more embarrassing to discuss.  But when a person is single, especially for a long period of time in a sex-obsessed society like ours, masturbation will rear its ugly, little head.  Manual stimulation, sex toys, sexual appliances of various kinds – our sinful world condones such activity and even sees it as emotionally and physically beneficial. But how does God feel about masturbation?

Many times, when we sin secretly, we absolve our guilt by choosing to see God as a doddering old man in the sky with bad eyesight, unaware of what we’re doing.  But that is not the God of the Bible:

Job 34:21 – “His eyes are on the ways of men; He sees their every step.”

Prov 15:3 – “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Psalms 94:9 – “Does He who formed the eye not see?”

Heb 4:13 – “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to who we must give account.”

Psalm 139:11-12 – “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

Can you imagine God – the God who created marriage and sex for marriage – approving of masturbation?  Can you imagine Him viewing this activity and saying, “Oh, you’re having sex with yourself?  Wonderful! I completely approve.”  Neither can I.

Might God be indifferent to masturbation?  Might it be a minor infraction that He is not concerned about?  Knowing the nature of God – that He is all-knowing, holy, righteous, just – we know there is no gray area with God.  Indifference or impartiality means that you either don’t know or don’t care whether something is right or wrong.  It is impossible then for God to be indifferent to anything so He is not indifferent to masturbation.  Since He is definitely not for it, He is surely against it.  Moreover, the real issue with masturbation is not the physical stimulation, but the sexually-explicit, lustful thoughts that accompany such activity.  Those thoughts are defiling to our new nature in the Lord, they grieve the Holy Spirit within us (1 Corinthians 6:18-20), and God is fully aware of them.  Don’t fool yourself. 

Masturbation.  It's the elephant in the room everyone is trying to ignore.

Online Pornography

I dare you to find a Christian singles’ book written by a married woman that even mentions this topic.  You won’t find one because a married Christian woman would seldom if ever be tempted by the dirty, filthy business of online pornography.  But it is not because they are holier than single Christian women.  A married woman is simply not vulnerable in the same areas as a single woman.  She is less vulnerable to the temptation of porn because she has a husband, a man all her own that she can gaze at and enjoy any time she wants.  Therefore Satan doesn’t bother to tempt her with porn.  Satan tempts the married woman in areas that the single woman is not tempted in – comparing her children to another woman’s children and disrespecting her imperfect husband, for instance.

Satan aims at the weak, vulnerable places and he knows singles are weak in the area of unfulfilled sexual desires.  Do not let him trick you into believing that viewing porn is a minor sin or guilty pleasure, safe to be discreetly consumed by consenting, responsible adults.  Our world has lowered its standards and elevated porn to acceptable private entertainment, but God’s standards have not changed.  He sees it, He cannot overlook it, and He despises it.

Porn is a slippery slope.  It promises to curb the sexual appetite and provide gratification but it does not ultimately satisfy those God-given desires.   It instead distorts them and perverts them.   What porn is notorious for doing is not satisfying its consumers until they get married, but creating in them an insatiable desire for more porn…..increasingly more deviant, more violent, more repugnant porn.  Its victims spiral further and further down into its cesspool of transient fantasies and fleeting thrills.  It is a spiritual trap and the discerning, godly single woman would do well to resist it.   
Sexual Fantasies and Lusts

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I must admit, this is a tough one for me.  The mind is such a difficult thing to control but God doesn’t just want my body, He wants my mind as well.  He wants my head filled with His Word; He wants it set on the things that are above (Colossians 3:2-3).  During the daylight hours, this usually isn’t a problem.  Holiness is easy when I’m busy working and running errands.  But at night when I go to bed……that’s when it becomes a challenge.  That dangerously idle time between licking my minty, freshly-brushed teeth and drifting off into the initial light stages of slumber can become a time of uncontrollable, all-consuming, hot, sizzling, burning-up-the-sheets lust if I’m not careful.  I sometimes forgive myself by seeing it as compensation for a frustrating day.  No matter what happens during the sunlight hours – dates that fall through, single men who ignore me for my best friend, failed office romances – I always have my trusty fantasy man at night.

But God is not pleased with this.  And lately, in my desire to please Him, I have looked for that promised way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  I recently bought the Bible on CD in my favorite translation.  On the nights when I am so beat-down tired I fall asleep seconds after my head hits the pillow, no problem.  No need for the CDs.  But for those nights when I am lying awake and tempted to sin against God, I break out the CDs and play them as I am drifting off to sleep to keep my mind on things above.

I’m not saying I have completely overcome this, but there is one thing I can say:  It’s really hard fantasizing about sex when you’re listening to Lamentations.

Taming the Beast

Actually that’s not a good way to describe the sex drive.  The sex drive is not a wanton “beast” but a desire given to us by a holy God meant to be expressed in an honorable, godly, holy way.  But I know from experience it can seem untamable at times.  Besides listening to the Bible while in bed, how do you keep your mind pure and your sexual desires free from the influence of Satan, the world, and your own weak flesh? 

Stay positive and stay in the Word, sister!  You can do this with God's help.

Often, when troubled by sexual temptation and facing what seems to be a lifetime of celibate singleness, we tell ourselves, “Well, God gave me this sex drive and I can’t ignore it.  I have no choice but to sin.”  Yes, it’s true; God did give you that sex drive.  But it’s highly unlikely He gave it to you in the condition it’s currently in.  Let me explain.  We live in a very sinful, sex-obsessed society.  Satan and the world have conspired together to dial up our sex drives to a loud crescendo.  Giving in to temptations like masturbation, online pornography, and sexual fantasies and lusts is like giving Satan complete control of the sex drive that God created and gave to you to glorify Him.  It is like giving someone else the volume control on your radio and allowing them to crank it up as loud as they want while you’re trying to drive in heavy traffic.  It’s senseless.  We must be vigilant in the area of sexual temptation.  Keep these Scriptures in mind:

1.      “Keep yourself from being polluted by the world.”  (James 1:27)
2.      “Set your mind on the things above, not the things of this world.” (Col 3:1,2)
3.       “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Rom 12:2)

Take inventory of your personal possessions.  To stay pure, I have had to throw away all kinds of sexually-explicit CDs, steamy, romantic DVDs, lust-filled novels, and at times turned the TV off.  If I’m filling my head with the tempting, lustful messages of the world, I can’t blame God when I become a snapping, snarling ball of sexual frustration.  In getting rid of this stuff, I am not renouncing my God-given womanly desires; I am renouncing Satan’s dominion over these desires.  I am wresting them out of the devil’s filthy hands and placing them safely under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer themselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

Our attitude toward sexual sin should be the same as the attitude that Daniel’s three friends had regarding the worship of King Nebuchadnezzar.  When the three were going to be thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship him they said:

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, O king, we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan 3:17,18)

Let us adopt this attitude toward sexual sin:  “My God whom I serve is able to deliver me from sexual temptation.  In fact, He is able to provide me with a husband.  But even if he does not, Satan, I am not going to hand my mind and body over to you to indulge in sexual immorality.”

(For more help and encouragement in this area, read "What Do I Do With These Sexual Desires?  - PART 2")

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