What if I’m attracted to a married man?
I am a Christian woman who is madly attracted to my co-worker who is also a Christian. The thing is, he is married! All my life I disdained adultery, and here I am in a terrible situation.
At first, our dealings were professional; then it got personal. He helped me get through a bad relationship. After a while, my feelings for him changed. I grew attracted to him. A sister-brotherly relationship turned to flirting, and now he has confessed that he has a crush on me. Needless to say, that was a very awkward moment. I feel guilty because I want him even more. I asked God for forgiveness, but I can’t stop thinking about him. Help!
Dear reader, I’m so glad you wrote. This is a frightful situation you’re in, but I’m not surprised by it. We are designed for sexual intimacy — it is our nature to desire it. But it is also our nature — our sin nature inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12) — that makes us long for illegitimate sexual intimacy. And that is what you want. Your temptation is less surprising than you might imagine, but far more deadly than you realize.
It’s easy to dismiss as ridiculous the sins we think could never tempt us. But in that frame of mind, we’re vulnerable. Satan wants us to think of one sin or another as something we’d never do. Then, when temptation floods us, we start to doubt: doubt a certain sin is as bad as we once thought, doubt that it’s resistible, or doubt that God would judge our disobedience. It’s not primarily because we live with so much sin out there. The sin that destroys us is in us. It is our own hearts that deceive us. James 1:14-15 tells us that “…each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death” [emphasis added].
The death that comes from disobedience, from giving in to our temptations and eating of forbidden fruit, is often not immediate physical death (as Eve discovered in Eden), but it is spiritual death, separation from God, and if not atoned for, eternal punishment. Scripture is clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), and that they will be judged with fire (Revelation 21:8). We are morally culpable and will be held accountable for what we do. Don’t “follow your heart,” as one popular Hallmark sentiment advises. It leads to destruction.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
One of Satan’s deceptions is to make you think you’re the only Christian you know who is struggling with this. His strategy for destroying you (1 Peter 5:8) is to make you think that this temptation is irresistible, that it’s not that bad, or if those lies fail to persuade you, that what you want to do is so shameful that if you were to confess it to another Christian, you would be rejected as a pervert. None of these are true. I can assure you that you’re not alone in this temptation. I was a single professional woman once, and I remember the sort of situation and temptation you’re in. And the temptation to sin sexually doesn’t disappear when you get married. That’s why there are so many warnings about sexual temptation in the Bible.
Don’t let your desire for sin surprise you. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Not one. This temptation is common. But that is no reason to trifle with it. The waves of lust and desire can feel overwhelming, as if the powerful currents of the ocean are threatening to drown you. But mercifully, 1 Corinthians 10 doesn’t end with verse 13. When powerful temptations overtake you, remember, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (v. 14).
What are those paths of escape?
Tremble at God’s holiness. Study His perfection and holiness; meditate on the character of the one who loves you perfectly, and who sent His Son to die to ransom you. Why did Jesus have to die? Because the distance between God’s holiness and our sinfulness is infinite. Our situation is that bad. Apart from Christ, we cannot approach Him, let alone stand before Him. In light of who He is, we are reduced to the posture of Isaiah, who said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
Own your sin. The thoughts you’ve described are sin. And certainly the actions they will produce if you follow through on them are sin. But we are pros at self-deception. Resist the urge to justify your thoughts and deeds. First John 1:8-10 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Resist the devil. First Peter 5:8-9 commands us, saying, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Flee like Joseph (Genesis 39). Run away from the situation in your thoughts, and run away in fact. This may take the form of actually leaving your position, asking for a reassignment, or simply never being alone with this man. If some or all of these scenarios sound extreme, consider what Jesus said about how we should respond to temptations to sin:
And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire (Matthew 18:8-9).
Compared to the alternative — drinking the cup of God’s wrath for eternity — makes doing whatever it takes to not sin with this man, even if it means getting a new job, a small sacrifice.
Consider your future. How trustworthy would a husband be who cheated on his wife and divorced her to make himself available to be with you? What sort of character would his actions prove? That of a liar, a cheat, and worse. That knowledge would plague you. Such a man will do it again, or be capable of it. But so, my dear, would you. What if he doesn’t divorce his wife? What if you get away with a secret affair? That is no better — for eternity or now — because it will affect your own future marriage. Live now with men the way you want your future husband to live with you: faithfully, in all purity.
“Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10). Your mind is a powerful force, for good or for evil. You see how strong its power is to pull you into the very thing you despise. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it can be equally powerful for pulling you toward holiness (Colossians 3:2, Philippians 4:8).
Confess your sin. If you are in Christ, you can and must confess your sin to other believers (James 5:16). This is one of the essentials of life in the body, the church. When you push past your embarrassment and pride, and tell another believer about your temptation, the power of secrecy is broken and (if it’s in the context of a biblical church) you gain the effective and necessary ally of accountability.
Learn from older women. In his book Tempted and Tried, Dr. Russell Moore talks about the importance of learning from believers who are ahead of you in your stage of life. He recommends keeping “a close watch on the stories around you, not with a prurient interest and certainly not with a sense of moral superiority, but with a sense of warned empathy. You could be in every one of those situations. Feel the horror that comes with each of them.”
What horror? The horror of lives destroyed, of children robbed of their secure home with a mom and dad faithfully married to each other, of dreams shattered (including your dreams of a fruitful marriage to a godly, faithful man), and ultimately, of eternal damnation. Do this now, before your sinful desire gives way to soul-destroying actions.
I’m not surprised by your letter; I’m grateful for it. Thank you for confessing your sin to me. Let this be a start. I’m not in your life the way older women in your church are or should be. I’m a stranger you to. You need the help of real friends, sisters in Christ who will weep with you, pray with you, encourage you and hold you accountable. I’m a stranger, but as a fellow believer, I am deeply concerned about your soul. Despite Scripture’s repeated warnings, we tend to be shocked by our temptation and cavalier about the consequences that will follow if we give in to sin. We have it backward. We ought not to be at all surprised by temptation, and we ought to be horrified by its ultimate ends (see especially 2 Peter 2-3:13).
You must hate this as much as God does and repent for it and turn away from it. Nothing short of crucifying your sin will do. But that is the glorious hope of the Gospel. When you trust Christ’s work of redemption on the cross and receive His gift of salvation, believing in His resurrection from the dead, you are covered in His blood. It is His blood that makes it possible for you to be reconciled to God. When you believe Christ and are saved, the power of sin is broken in your life (Romans 6:6-14) and the Holy Spirit comes on you in power to enable you to obey God and resist sin. This is the same power and the same Spirit who gave Christ the power to obey God perfectly (Isaiah 11:1-3, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 4:15) during His time on earth.
If you are in Christ, you are able to resist this temptation. You are not an animal designed to follow its instincts. You are a woman created in the image of God. You have a conscience that bears witness to the truth and a will that by God’s grace, is strong enough to resist and flee temptation. Ask God to help you flee, to show you the path of escape He is providing, and to give you the power to take it. He is faithful. I am praying for you. I urge you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust His work and obey His commands. I say with the writer of Hebrews,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.…
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of join but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:1-4, 12-14).
By Grace Alone,
Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.