Today’s question is from a single woman and involves lust.
“I have a strong desire to have sex, and most girl friends I talk to can’t seem to relate. I want to have sex with my future husband and no one else, but what do I do with my physical desire in the mean time? I’m sure you can understand that these type of feelings aren’t like your desire to eat a piece of cake where you can just ‘be strong’ and say no. It’s not that easy.
“I don’t want to just be physically pure when I get married one day, I want my mind and heart to be pure for my husband. But every single day I struggle with my desires, and I can’t just ‘turn off’ how I feel until I get married and then turn it back on again. And because of my struggle, it’s really hard for me to view sex in marriage as pure and holy when right now, I feel like I have to push those thoughts away.”
I took a very personal look at this one, because I’ve thought a lot about what might have changed my premarital promiscuous behaviors. I also had a strong sex drive that did not go away just because I wanted to do things the way God said. But don’t worry, reader: We’re in good company (see Romans 7:21-25), and we can overcome (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
Here’s what I believe would have helped me.
A belief that the best truly was yet to come. I tended to think the sexual pleasure I had outside of marriage was so good, how could it be any better inside marriage? I know differently now. But I wish I, and others in the church, had been taught regularly that the marital intimacy was worth waiting for — because it truly was more holy and more hot.
A strategy for remaining pure. I had nothing, nada, zero but my own willpower, which was not strong enough. I swore to myself I wouldn’t cross the line, but then I put myself in scenarios that set me up for failure.
Instead, I would not be alone with dates unless there was a strong possibility of being seen or walked in on. I would have a mutual commitment with my boyfriend/fiancé to stop and do something else if things got heavy. I would recognize that I was weak and needed to set myself up for success in this area by keeping my dates about something other than my strong sexual feelings (which, of course, will happen anyway…but less so if you’re, let’s say, bowling than making out).
Simply saying you won’t isn’t enough. It’s like saying you want to own a software company, but you have no plan for educating yourself in computers or learning how to run a business. If you set a goal, you need a strategy — a statement of how — for meeting your goal.
Someplace to channel those intense emotions. It isn’t enough to say what you won’t do; it’s better to say what you will do. For instance, what if when I got all hot and bothered, I took a run? Or went to a dance class? Or even punched a punching bag? I’d be looking for positive outlets for the stress that builds inside when you don’t have a sexual outlet.
Too often we focus on the don’ts of Christianity without paying attention to all of the do’s. Think about it in terms of the recovering alcoholic who ends up a table of people drinking cocktails. Instead of sitting there empty-handed, most will order a ginger ale or a club soda — they have a plan of what to put in their hands instead of the thing they don’t want. Likewise, figure out where you can channel that excess tension and energy.
Affection that doesn’t rely on the romantic. Speaking of positive outlets, sometimes we get all, or almost all, our affection through our romantic attachment. Since our bodies thrive on touch and connection, it’s tempting to shortcut all that, have sex, and get super-rushes of Oxytocin.
But we can find other ways to meet social/emotional needs, like holding babies at your church nursery or hugging the elderly at a local convalescent home (they could really use affection) or sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with friends or family. Long touches with others can keep us from having too long and too heavy touches with our romance partner.
Prayer and scripture. I’d pray more often, more fervently, and more openly to God. I’d also find a few scriptures to memorize, that I could bring to mind at the snap of a finger. I believe these are God’s weapons against spiritual temptation. Not in the moment of sexual temptation (that prescription is to flee — see 1 Corinthians 6:18), but in preparing ourselves for day-to-day life.
As you can see, I really don’t have easy fixes. I think the big issue here is that as long as we’re trying to not do something, it’s especially hard. We’re likely to have greater success when we try to replace that something with a better something.
So get off the couch where you’re reading romance novels and thinking how much you want to have the sex that protagonist is having and start reading scripture and working out on your treadmill. Stop heading into private places with guys you’re just dating and start hanging out in public places with friends. Quit looking at “man candy” and spend time as a “candy striper” at a local hospital.
Don’t kick yourself for having God-given sexuality, but channel your energies in appropriate ways. And if need be, repeat to yourself Song of Songs 2:7, 3:5, 8:4: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” It will desire someday — when you are in a covenant marriage before God.
What are your tips for this single woman and others?
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.” — Psalm 119:9