What should I do with my longings for sex?
I recently read your article “Sex Series: Sexy Single Women.” I want to live a life of purity for God but am confused about what to do with sexual desires. The article said, “The more you understand your sexual identity as a woman, the more apparent it will become how you can address the longings of womanhood in satisfying ways during your season of singleness.”
I’m sorry, but what on earth does this mean practically? As a single woman, I can’t do anything sexual, not even with myself, without sinning. It seemed like the article acknowledged the question but didn’t answer it. And I don’t understand how I can address my longings for sex and physical connection and intimacy in a godly way as a single woman.
I know I need emotional and social connection with other believers and a closer relationship with Christ most of all. But I don’t understand how those things will meet these deep longings. If masturbating, reading erotic stories, sexting, and obviously sex outside of marriage are all sins, what can I do with these desires? I know “give them to God,” but the longings are still there.
I don’t mean to sound whiny or ungrateful. Thank you for being willing to address such difficult topics.
Thank you for writing to ask about the “Sexy Single Women” article on Boundless. I don’t think you sound whiny or ungrateful, and can understand why the sentence you quoted left you frustrated. If read out of context, that sentence is unsatisfying and confusing. The longings of womanhood are not the same as the sexual longings you have as a woman. However, the problem may stem not from the article, but from its title. It seems to suggest there is a way to be sexy and single, while also remaining faithful to Christ. “Sexy” in our day is all about dressing, looking, thinking, and acting in ways that are erotic. Sexy means sexually active. The problem for a single Christian woman is that acting sexy is what she must not do.
While it is possible to faithfully embrace and live out your femininity and associated desires to nurture, help, and create beauty, it is not possible to act on or satisfy your sexual desires outside of marriage if you are obeying Christ. The strong sexual desires you feel are part of God’s good design. However, they are given to us to act on exclusively within the boundaries and safeguards of the marriage covenant.
I remember that article because the title caught my attention. Likely that was part of the plan — catchy titles attract lots of readers. But it isn’t entirely accurate and can prove misleading. The article itself is rich with biblical categories of thinking about being a woman. As a human being you are sexual — meaning, you have a God-given gender, either male or female. But your sex is not limited to your sex organs. Nor are you any less female if you are celibate. You are a sexual being even if you’re not having sex. I think this is what the author of that article was trying to explain. She wanted to help single women see that they are fully female, and feminine, even while they wait to be sexually intimate within marriage.
The author, Mary Kassian, wrote, “The more you understand your sexual identity as a woman, the more apparent it will become how you can address the longings of womanhood in satisfying ways during your season of singleness.”
Notice she didn’t promise to show you how you can address your sexual longings in satisfying ways during your season of singleness, but rather how you can address the longings of womanhood in satisfying ways. These are two very different longings! The article’s subtitle is more helpful than its title: “Femininity intentionally cultivated and displayed brings God glory. Learn how to value and cherish your sexuality as much as the One who created it does.”
That’s what this article is about — feminine sexuality: being fully female to your good and to the glory of God. What it’s not about is finding ways to be “sexy” — the way our culture understands it — that are passable for Christians. Far from it. One of Kassian’s main points is that sexual purity is an essential facet of being biblically feminine. She mentions Jesus, Paul, Lazarus, Mary and Martha as examples of men and women who lived fully with unfulfilled sexual desires. It would have been helpful if she’d gone into more detail about how they did it. So how can a sexual being live a fully female (or male) life while having unfulfilled sexual desires?
We know it’s possible because Jesus did it. He was fully God and fully man. He was the perfect example of masculinity. And yet He was celibate His whole life. “Of course He never sinned,” you may protest, “He was God!” This way of seeing Jesus — and writing Him off as an example of a celibate single because of His divinity — is common, but mistaken. Hebrews 4:15 says,
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
We tend to forget how much temptation He must have encountered and overcome. He was fully man. He was a sexual being. And yet He did not have sex. He did not act on a single temptation. Yet it’s not enough to attribute His purity to His divinity.
Hebrews 5:7-8 says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” [emphasis added]. Jesus lived in human skin. And he suffered. It was how He learned the obedience He would need when it was time to go to the cross. The small deaths of self-denial were preparing Him for the big obedience that He was born for.
We are like this. Every time we obey in something lesser, we gain the strength to obey in something greater. When we are faithful in little, we are given more responsibility. Don’t despise these daily opportunities to submit your sexual desires to God in obedience to His good plan.
How did Jesus obey? His obedience was due to His dependence on the Holy Spirit. The power He had to obey is available to us as believers. In Ephesians 4:17-24, he describes what life in Christ looks like,
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
How do believers walk this way? In the power of the Holy Spirit — the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20). — we do it in community with other believers, participating in the baptism and communion, submitting to God’s Word through faithful preaching, praying daily, and fasting.
Look to Jesus, who was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, feeling extreme hunger after fasting 40 days. Russell Moore writes,
Jesus flees Satan’s temptation not because he doesn’t like bread, but because he wants more bread than Satan can provide and because he wants the bread in fellowship with his Father and with his bride. The Devil wants a masturbatory meal, wolfed down alone in the desert. Jesus wants a marriage supper, joined with his church “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2) in the New Jerusalem.Russell Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 84-85.
The reality of what Jesus did in the wilderness applies to all our temptations, whether they be food, sex, drink, shopping, or something I haven’t even thought of. We must resist whatever we desire apart from God’s will, but because of Jesus’ victory at the cross, we can resist it. He is our power to obey.
When you are tempted to seek sexual fulfillment outside of God’s good design of biblical marriage, take up your cross and follow Christ. Enter into His suffering, and trust that when marriage and the sexual fulfillment that goes with it are for your joy and God’s glory, He will give it. He is faithful.
Copyright Candice Watters 2015. 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.