Tag Archives: sex and the Bible

Q&A with J: “Our Marriage Bed is a Mess” Part 1

My inbox is filled with questions from spouses telling me about their hardships regarding sexual intimacy in their marriage. I have maybe 100 such emails, and I often feel bad that I cannot get to each and every one. I imagine these individuals finallypainfully telling the details of their concerns and hoping to find some answer that will set them on the right path.

Yet my time is limited, my own marriage and family require attention, and God doesn’t expect any one person to do it all. I’m just one finger, or maybe just a toe, in the Body of Christ. I take heart that even Jesus sometimes turned away from the demands of people to keep His focus on the primary mission: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16).

Since I don’t have the time and resources to answer each of those emails, I want to share six responses that come to mind when reading various stories of marriage bed difficulties. These are for the people who write me to essentially say, “Our marriage bed is a mess.”

Blog post title with unhappy couple in bed

I’ll cover three today, and three next week. Perhaps one of these touches on your particular situation.

And, by the way, I’m going to be really candid. No mincing words.

1. You’re married to a selfish jerk.

Sadly, some of you are living with a selfish spouse who dismisses your beliefs, belittles your feelings, and/or thinks your body belongs solely to them to be used as a sexual tool. Perhaps they also pursue sexually sinful practices and expect you to get involved or to look the other way.

If that’s your situation, you have to stand up for you! Set some boundaries. If you don’t know how to do this, go read Boundaries or Boundaries in Marriage by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Then follow through.

If your spouse’s attitude and behavior reaches the level of abuse — verbal, emotional, even physical — you have to stop allowing and enabling that. Even walk away, for your safety and wellbeing. And please no one tell me that suffering through abuse is somehow analogous to Christ suffering on the cross. Jesus allowed Himself to be mistreated then for a specific and higher purpose. But two other times, He escaped people wanting to physically harm Him:

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:59).

Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp” (John 10:39).

A selfish jerk likely won’t change unless you throw a wrench in the gears, meaning you stop playing your part of the system. Instead, calmly oppose mistreatment wherever occurs, to others and to yourself. That’s biblical.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17a).

2. You are the selfish jerk.

Sometimes the spouse who writes me is the selfish one. They complain about how they’re not getting everything they want in the marriage bed and explain how they’ve whined and argued with their “beloved” about how they’ve been mistreated without any progress. Wow, I’m sure that makes you a lot of fun to be around. 🙄

If you’ve given your spouse the clear impression your only interest in them is getting exactly what you want sexually, why are you surprised they don’t want to sleep with you? If you’re always complaining, often angry, or only touching them to get sex, you’re not an appealing lover. Kevin A. Thompson wrote a great post about this: I Wouldn’t Sleep with You Either.

Your answer is to remember what you did while you were dating, falling in love, first married. Are you doing those things now? What kind of person are you to be around? Do you need to focus on giving your spouse the gift of happiness? Are you making sex all about you? What about your spouse’s needs and desires? Ask yourself some tough questions, and then pray for God’s help and guidance on what you can do to be less selfish and move loving. (I’ll give you a hint: It looks more like Christ.)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus….” (Philippians 2:3-5).

3. You have a poor theology of sex.

Theology is “the study of the nature of God and religious belief.” More specifically, it can refer to “religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed” (Oxford Dictionaries). One core part of my ministry is correcting erroneous beliefs about sexual intimacy; that is, throwing out our wrong thinking about sex and replacing it with God’s design for sex in marriage.

Unfortunately, too many Christians still have beliefs about sex that aren’t in line with how God our Creator made sex. And those ideas of what sex really means, how it should practiced in our lives, and what to do when we face challenges impact our marriage beds. What plenty of spouses need is an adjustment in their theology.

So when people write me and say that they heard something was wrong or something was right when it’s really the opposite, I wonder if we shouldn’t simply open our Bibles more and see what our Lord Himself had to say about it all. Of course, some people don’t know where to look, and that’s something I’ve tried to address often. It’s also a problem that our churches and pastors don’t talk enough about sex and marriage. Sometimes what we spread is just off-the-mark, like my recent post for Crosswalk.com on 10 Myths about Sex You Heard in Church.

If this is where you are — not really knowing what part sexual intimacy should play in your marriage — then continue reading my blog and check out other responsible Christian marriage blogs like To Love Honor and Vacuum, OysterBed7, Heaven Made Marriage, The Forgiven Wife, Calm.Healthy.Sexy, Awaken Love, and the like. A part of me would also like to tell you which sources to avoid, but instead I encourage you to study your Bible more so that you will be “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Also, read books that cover this subject well, like my Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, Sheila Gregoire’s The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and Julie Sibert and Jeffrey Murphy’s The Pursuit of Passion. And listen to my podcast with three other marriage and sex bloggers, Sex Chat for Christian WivesGet others around you reading and listening these resources so that you have allies. Ask your pastor and/or elders to introduce more resources for married couples. In short, seek truth. I know there are a lot of voices competing for your attention, but truth is out there for those willing to pursue it.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it….” God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).

I have three more overall answers to many questions I’ve received, which I’ll cover next week.

If you’re one of the readers I haven’t specifically answered, please know that I appreciate you writing me, my heart does go out to you, I wish I could clone myself and do much more, and I’m praying for you and your marriage.

Praying Together for Your Marriage

Sex is a somewhat awkward act. It involves getting naked, striking positions you don’t usually do for anything else, and making various body movements and noises. It’s one of the reasons I’ve said that sex is not merely hot and holy, but humorous.

Yet plenty of married couples have had sex numerous times and still balk at the awkwardness of praying together.

Why do we struggle to link hands and hearts and go to our Heavenly Father in prayer?

Why do we struggle to link hands and hearts and go to our Heavenly Father in prayer? Click To Tweet

Blog post title + couple holding hands to pray over Bible

I wonder if in some ways praying together as a couple is even more vulnerable. You have to be willing to speak up and share what you’re thinking, feeling, and longing for. You might need to confess sins in front of your spouse and ask for guidance in ways that reveal your heart. If you pray openly and fervently, you reveal deep parts of your soul.

In that moment, you also come to God together as a couple, two individuals now one flesh before their Creator. It can be an intense reminder of the commitment and challenge you’ve taken on.

If you wonder why you should even pray together, here are a few reasons:

1. Every couple I talk to who regularly pray together deeply believes it has helped their marriage. Some swear that praying together is what saved their marriage or revived it. Inviting God to work in your marriage is powerful stuff. Ephesians 1:19-20 says: “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (NLT). Don’t you want resurrection-level power working on your marriage and your marriage bed?

2. It brings us closer. It’s a vulnerable experience, but vulnerability is what leads to intimacy and trust. Oftentimes, praying together doesn’t start out at that deep level, but with time you become more comfortable revealing your mind and your heart. It’s hard not to feel a strong bond to someone who lets their guard down and prays to God with you, and you show your own closeness to someone by letting them see you as well.

3. It results in more satisfying sex. No, really. Both research and anecdotes have linked daily prayer with better lovemaking. I suspect it’s because they mutually promote intimacy in marriage.

So how can you get past the awkwardness and approach God’s throne together in prayer?

1. Remember, it’s just a chat. We tend to get caught in “saying the right things” when we pray aloud, but if you treat it like a regular chat with your Heavenly Father, that might loosen you up to relax and just speak what’s on your mind.

2. Start small. We sometimes treat our prayer lives like weight loss goals: I’m going to lose 20 pounds by this summer! We’re going to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and pray together for half an hour! Those sound great, but they’re overly ambitious and you’ll likely never make those goals and then give up. Aim for five minutes a day together in prayer. Start small and grow from there.

Aim for five minutes a day together in prayer. Click To Tweet

3. Take turns, or don’t. Praying together means you’re both present and paying attention. But from there, you can take turns or one of you can pray and let the other simply listen. Knowing that you don’t have to speak every time might free some of you up to go ahead and give it a shot. When you feel comfortable, you can jump in.

4. Use touch to focus. For many couples, it’s helpful to hold hands or embrace while praying. It helps to create a circle of concentration and it’s a reminder of our connection as we pray.

5. Pray specifically about your marriage. You can cover other things, but many have a tendency to make prayer into a list of requests for other people: Dear God, help Johnny do well on his math exam, be with Grandma in her upcoming surgery, and help Uncle Joe get a new job. All well and good, but if you’re taking the time to pray together as a couple, then pray about being a couple. Ask God to use that infinite power to heal your rifts, strengthen your bond, and pour His love into you so that you can better love one another.

6. Try praying before or after sex. This one might feel more awkward, or even risky. But give it a shot! You might find that praying before or after sexual intimacy gives you a better perspective of God’s ongoing blessing of your marriage bed.

I’d love to hear your own take on how praying together as a couple has helped your marriage and your marriage bed. Please share!

Sources: CNN: Couples Who Pray Together – Have Better SexCouples Who Pray: The Most Intimate Act Between a Man and a Woman; Family Life: What Happens When Couples Pray

A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy

When I started this series on Praying More for your marriage and your sexual intimacy, I admitted that I didn’t know exactly what it would look like. How would have a whole year of blog posts about praying? But God kept nudging me that this was the direction to take, so I stepped out in faith. Okay, okay, I shuffled out in faith, but I’m lengthening my strides week by week.

Today I have this strong sense that I just need to write a prayer. One that you and I can both say for our marriages and our marriage beds. I hope you’ll join me.

A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy with PRAY in the background

Dear Heavenly Father,

I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got married. Yes, of course, I prepared in some ways, and even tried to figure out some things ahead of time about what sex would look like in our marriage. But, as You know, Lord, it’s different going through the experience and dealing with my unique husband. Also, I couldn’t have foreseen the seasons we’d go through — times when sex was good, and times when sex was a struggle.

I want to bring my concerns, my hurt, my longings all before You and lay them at Your feet. I cast all my anxieties on You because I know You care for me (1 Peter 5:7). Guide me to the path I should take and teach me Your way (Psalm 25:9).

Now let’s start with this body You gave me. It’s an amazing creation, able to accomplish so much automatically and at my will. I thank you for all the workings of my body that allow me to go through my days and do what I need to do. But when it comes to sex, it’s not always been an easy road. At times, getting aroused with my husband can be difficult, and at other times, my body is ready to go when there isn’t a chance in the world that we can have sex. How fair is that?! Orgasms can be like my best friend, eager to hang out with me, or my nemesis, avoiding me at every turn. I don’t adore every inch of my appearance, my body does weird things in certain angles (like why is my stomach hanging down like that? — blech), and flexibility feels like a thing of the past.

I need to see myself how You see me, how You designed my body, and how You blessed me to be with my husband. I also need more understanding of my body and how to help it cooperate with the sexual intimacy I need and want to have in my marriage. Help me to identify real issues that need addressing through medical assistance or counseling or exercise, and to have the purposefulness and persistence to follow through. Place before me the right resources to deal with those concerns.

Help me to feel beautiful. Give both me and my husband an acceptance and appreciation of my body’s own sexuality and help us learn how I can experience both pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed.

My God, I also struggle with my background. I brought baggage into my marriage — teachings about sex that weren’t in line with Your Word, experiences that colored my perception of sexuality, and labels that I carried in my mind about myself and about men. Please wash away all the debris and replace it with truth.

Help me step by step to replace the negative self-talk in my mind with messages that align with Your design for sex in my marriage. Help me to demolish every argument and pretension against Your will for my marriage bed, to take captive of every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Transform my mind so that I will know Your will for me, even in the bedroom (Romans 12:2).

You are a God who heals, so I also pray that You will heal any rifts between me and my husband. It is indeed good and pleasant when Your people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1). Where my husband and I do not see eye-to-eye on sexual intimacy, I pray that we can move toward unity. Help us to listen to one another, to communicate about difficult issues, and to make the personal changes we need to make to find common ground.

And this weekend, today, even now, I pray that you’ll open up my heart and my body to taking even one step in the right direction. While I long for a Red Sea moment, when You perform some great miracle that makes my marriage and marriage bed a perfect reflection of Your design, I recognize that more of my Christian life is walking faithfully with You. With Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, showing me only the bit of road ahead that I need to see (Psalm 119:105). Help me take my next step in the right direction, and the one after that, and the one after that. Until I am striding along on the road You want me to be on, and my husband and I are moving toward greater intimacy and more honor to You, our Father.

Lord, what I haven’t said here, You already know. Where I don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for me (Romans 8:26). You are, and will always be, my Savior.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

The Beatitudes in the Bedroom: Persecuted

On Saturdays, we’ve been looking into how the Beatitudes impact our marriage and our marriage beds. Once again, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-10

We’ve been through Poor in SpiritThose Who Mourn, The Meek, Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness, The Merciful, Pure in Heart, Peacemakers. And now we’ve reached the final one: persecuted because of righteousness.The Beatitudes in the Bedroom: Persecuted Bible verse

Some of you definitely feel persecuted when it comes to sexual intimacy in your marriage. I can already hear those of you who say your spouse has persecuted you for your perspective when it comes to sex.

I feel for you, but that’s not what this verse is talking about. Let’s break it down.

In the New Testament Greek, the phrase “persecuted because of righteousness” comes from three words: Dioko Heneka Dikaiosune.

Dioko. The New Testament Greek word Dioko is one of three words used to mean persecute. This particular word carries with it the notion of pursuing someone in a hostile manner. It’s not just mistreatment, but persistent pursuit to harass or oppress.

Where I live, in a well-churched suburb of Houston, I don’t think we have a good sense of what it’s like to be really persecuted. We certainly haven’t ever had to make a choice between confessing our faith and having our freedom or our lives. For that, I’m grateful — and I pray for those Christians in our world who live in places where they are outright persecuted.

But most Christians know what it’s like to be mocked by someone for their faith. That’s a low form of persecution, but it is harassment or even hostility. And yes, we can be mocked for our position on sexual intimacy in marriage. But, before I go into more detail, let’s get to the next Greek word.

Heneka. This is the word translated as because ofbut it’s also translated in other verses simply as “for” (see Matthew 10:39, 19:5). So why am I focusing on an itty-bitty preposition?

Because we might read, “Blessed are those who are persecuted,” and immediately start listing all the ways we feel put upon and harassed and mistreated. But God isn’t saying you’re blessed just because you’re having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad decade. There are other verses that give you comfort and answers for that.

This verse says you’re blessed if it’s because of something. The reason why you feel like things are going badly matters. Some of us are experiencing bad stuff in our marriage because, truth be told, we aren’t fully seeking the next part of this verse.

Dikaiosune. I love this definition of the word used for righteousness, from Bible Study Tools: “integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting.” When I consider applying those principles to my marriage bed, a beautiful image emerges. What if we all treated our sexual intimacy with integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, and correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting? What if we all aligned our desires with God’s design for sex in marriage?

Our marriage beds can be places of righteousness. Not simply in those black-and-white ways of having sex in marriage but not outside of marriage (which is definitely important), but with each choice we make in how we treat our spouse, what attitude toward sex we adopt, whether we pursue God’s plan for deeper love and intimacy through physical closeness, and how we express Christ-like love as we make love.

So bringing this all together…

What could it possibly mean to be persecuted because of righteousness — when it comes to the marriage bed?

I don’t think this is about feeling mistreated by your own spouse. Rather, I know spouses and couples who have tried to seek righteousness in this area of their marriage … and things got harder. It’s tough to admit that, because I’m always saying stuff like, “Work on your marriage bed! Things can get better!” Which is true, but that doesn’t mean that Satan, and other people, will be cheering you on as you seek righteousness.

See if you recognize any of these forms of harassment or hostility:

  • Your friends mock your desire for more and more intimate sex, saying that husbands should be glad they get any.
  • Your single friends suggest that marriage is where sex goes to die and mock your commitment to monogamy.
  • Others suggest skipping all the work needed to improve your sexual intimacy and taking care of your own self with sex toys or pornography.
  • You start to see improvement in your sex life, and other stressors begin to interfere: job stress, family problems, illness. As if Satan himself is attacking your desire to seek righteousness.
  • You try to speak up about godly sex in church or among friends, but get shut down for speaking about “private things” in public.
  • You iterate your commitment to avoiding lust of others — whether pornography, erotica, or simply TV/movie choices — and get ridiculed for being a prude.

You could probably add to list, and none of these is insurmountable. I certainly don’t know anyone whose stance on godly sex in marriage has resulted in a threat that they’ll be burned at the stake or hung in the public square.

But I have seen couples who have made real progress in the bedroom, and instead of having others celebrate their steps toward righteousness — life seems to attack them from various directions. I can tell you that every marriage blogger I’ve talked to about this says they’ve felt spiritually attacked in their marriage at one point or another.

So maybe there is some persecution because of righteousness in the marriage bed. But whatever. “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I think I’ll take that trade.

Pursuing righteousness in your marriage bed has its own rewards between you and your spouse, but ultimately we do the right thing for the sake of God and His kingdom. We are His children, and our lives — all the way down to our sexuality — should reflect the Father.

Have you felt any persecution, or harassment, because of your stance or pursuit of godly sexuality? Has your marriage felt attacked in some way since you began working toward better sexual intimacy?

The Beatitudes in the Bedroom: Pure in Heart

It’s been a few weeks since I talked about the Beatitudes in the Bedroom. I’ve been looking at how this passage relates to our marriages and marriage beds. Here’s the passage of Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-10

My previous posts have covered Poor in SpiritThose Who Mourn, The Meek, Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness, and The Merciful. This week let’s talk about pure in heart.The Beatitudes in the Bedroom: Pure in Heart verseBeing a curious gal, I once again wanted to know the original Greek words for pure and heart. The heart word is kardia, which is really straightforward. Think about the English root word cardio; put it in front of anything, and you know we’re talking heart (cardiovascular, cardiologist, cardiogram, etc.).

But the Greek word for pure is katharos. You might also recognize that one, because it’s where we derive our word catharsis. If something is cathartic, it’s emotionally cleansing, so to speak. And indeed, katharos is typically translated as either pure or clean.

In the Bible, a couple of other uses of katharos caught my attention. John 13 shares the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet at the Passover supper before His death, burial, and resurrection. When Jesus gets to Peter, there’s this exchange:

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

Just because our skin is clean doesn’t mean that we are truly pure, as Jesus pointed out in His last statement. The purity in heart that we seek really comes from being washed by Jesus!

The next passage with katharos that caught my eye, and which I want to focus on, is from Revelation 19:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Marriage is often used in the Word of God as a representation of God’s relationship to His people, both in the Old and New Testaments. Here in Revelation, once again God’s people are compared to a bride … and our groom is the Lamb Himself, Jesus Christ. What does the bride wear for such an event? She is given fine linen, bright and pure.

I think about this image of a bride in pure garments readying herself not only for the nuptials, but the wedding night and the honeymoon. Here she’s at her very purest, embracing God’s design for intimacy.

And that’s so very different from how many Christian wives feel about sex in their marriage. The messages they received in the Church, or even receive now, make it seem like purity and sex are opposites.

Come close, girlfriend, because I want to tell you God’s truth: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. And your heart is 100% pure if you are pursuing sexual intimacy according to God’s design for marriage.

This was one of my biggest struggles when I got married. I honestly thought that, with a couple of I Dos, I would leave my premarital promiscuous past behind, never to feel the burden of guilt again. But my actions had connected these two things in my heart: sex and sin. And there wasn’t anyone insisting that God had an entirely different way of looking at things. So while I enjoyed sex in my marriage, I felt unclean at some level, as if me desiring sex with my husband was not quite the fine, clean linen I should be wearing.

What a lie!

Impurity is seeking and engaging in things outside of God’s will. Sin is often defined as missing the mark. But God’s will is for His married children to engage in healthy, holy, and even heat-rising sex — it’s right on target for marriage.

Sweet, sexy wife, please know that your libido is a beautiful provision, that your sensuality is God-given, that your pleasure in the marriage bed is pure. Yes, we can mess up our marriage beds in all kinds of ways, but the healthy desire to engage in God’s gift of sex is a blessing. It’s a pure-in-heart thing.

Seek His purity in your marital bedroom. Find out what that looks like. Wrestle with the wrong messages you’ve received and replace them with biblical truths. Dig deep for answers to the problems you’re facing with your sexuality or your relationship with your husband. Pray for Jesus to wash your heart completely and make it pure in your marriage. Then enjoy the blessings that God wants you to have.