Is marriage the cure for sexual temptation?

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Is marriage the cure for sexual temptation?

Jan 17, 2011 |John Thomas
Question

I am a young man about to graduate from college. I have never been anywhere close to having a relationship and have been rejected about as many times as one can count on two hands. I realize it was probably my fault for coming on so strong.

The problem is that I’ve become very resentful toward myself and my Christian sisters because of it. I don’t feel like ever trying again to impress someone, yet my body and my soul yearn to be connected deeply to a woman. I feel angry at God for giving me sexual desire, letting me be born into sin and not giving me a wife by now.

It’s hard to believe that God has actually provided a way out of this temptation common to man. My guilt over sexual fantasies is racking up day after day, and I don’t feel I have a clue about how to calmly get to know a prospective wife, fearing prompt “uh-I’m-not-into-you” signs surfacing any second.

There is one young lady I’ve thought a good deal about lately (and often not so purely). I haven’t even tried to converse with her the past months because I doubt I stand a chance. She’s generally been friendly to me in the very limited communication we’ve had, and it feels better to stay in fantasy land than to actually try to get to know her and see if anything will happen, believing that another heartache would just result.

I know marriage is not an automatic, effortless solution to sexual temptation, but it is one that Scripture recommends and even commands in more than one place. I feel morally compelled and yet emotionally unable to seek marriage. I know this descent into bitterness, anger, lust and pessimism isn’t what God wants from me, but it doesn’t seem to show signs of stopping soon.

Should I try to talk to this girl or others more? Should I just bite the bullet through the intense nervousness and awkwardness, and dive into conversations with Christian young women? I know the root of the problem lies in my damaged relationship with God. When I pray or read the Bible, anger and sexual thoughts seem to come in the worst way. Is this another area where teeth simply must be grit?

Answer

I appreciate your candor about your struggles. You’ve touched on several areas, and I want to try to get us honed in on a few critical things that might help bring some clarity.

First, a thought or two about that well-known verse in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (ESV).

The vast amount God speaks in Scripture about sexual lust and temptations, much of it directed at married believers, assures us that marriage alone does not bring with it the power to cause “burning with passion” to cease. Marriage is the only fireplace God created for that particular fire to burn (better than an uncontained forest fire). Without a doubt, marriage is designed to help channel our sexual longings in a positive and God-glorifying direction, but marriage alone is not the “way out” of lust. We need look no further than the epidemic of porn-addicted married men (and women) for evidence of that fact.

Scripture also makes clear that marriage is much more than merely a channel for the human sex drive — not even primarily that — and to seek it as such is a recipe for disaster. Marriage exists as a living parable of the love of Christ for His Bride, the Church, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5. Sex is part of that union, and an important part, but it is only a part of the whole.

More to your (and many believers’) struggle. There is a vast difference between longing for something in a healthy, God-glorifying way and that of fantasizing in a self-centered, objectifying way.

A healthy longing for relationship is one that seeks the whole package that marriage is, and has at its center a desire to please God by embracing His plans and purposes for our life. Yes, this longing is excited about the sex but is equally excited about the love and intimacy with another human expressed to one another in thousands of different ways over a lifetime of marriage, which brings praise to God.

This longing waits with an open hand, prayerfully keeping God and His glory as the aim whatever the cost. It is a longing not limited to that of marriage, but in all things God has placed a desire for in our hearts.

The counterfeit of this healthy longing is self-centered and hones in primarily on those things that (we think) will satisfy us. It’s the quick fix, and it is the ongoing struggle of every believer, married and unmarried.

If this longing involves other people it usually places them as merely objects to help us be satisfied. It is fantasy and does not have those people’s best in mind. It is about what they can do for us, not the other way around. The satisfaction of this longing is not an act of praise to God, but a temporary numbing of a symptom of deeper longing. It puts ourselves at the center.

And we are all guilty of this latter, self-seeking longing. Whether for fame or wealth or things or sex or a thousand others. All of us need to bring these real struggles to the God who “knows our frame” and ask Him, sometimes hourly, for the grace to get out of that downward spiral, up to the place of vision for health and wholeness in Him.

Your issue, as I see it, is only partly singleness. The greater issue, as you already know, is your “damaged relationship with God.” In your case, marriage right now would do just the opposite of what you hope it would do. It wouldn’t serve to help solve your problem; it would compound it by placing a burden — your happiness — upon another person that she was never intended to carry.

Marriage is not the way out of sin; the Lord of marriage is. Set seeking relationships to the side for a season, and seek Him first. Let Him bring health to these empty fantasies, and replace them with rightly-ordered longings for all that He has placed in your heart. Stay with it, even if it’s a struggle. Be persistent. Freedom will come.

Only the Christ who created marriage (and all the other amazing things in life) can set us free so that we can fully experience the wonder of it. This is true for the single who is just beginning to think about relationships, all the way to the person who has been married for 60 years. It’s a freedom worth fighting for.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2011 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

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