Desires Denied

A common theme you’ll see throughout Boundless is the idea of marrying young. One reason, as Gary Thomas’ article “Marry Sooner Rather Than Later” points out, is that “at a certain point it becomes spiritually dangerous and even unhealthy to deny sexual relations.”

I can see how Gary’s statement would be true for a dating or engaged couple and why it might be good to encourage them to get married sooner rather than later, but are singles who are abstinent in some sort of danger zone?

How the unmarried ought to understand and express their sexuality is a topic Lisa and I have wanted to explore further with Boundless, so I recently emailed Gary, asking him to clarify. He replied:

What I mean is that if a man or woman is spending a significant amount of time just fighting back sexual desire, that’s not a productive way to live, so they should seek marriage and be able, so to speak, to move on with the rest of their life. So the ‘certain point’ doesn’t relate to any age or level of development, as much as it has to do with balancing spiritual health and normal sexual desire.

I appreciated Gary’s response, but I still wondered if single men and women understand what “normal sexual desire” is and where they personally land on the scale.

Googling “sexual desire” didn’t seem like a wise idea, so I decided to see what Boundless has to say about it. And I had an idea: Might we be able to define normal sexual desire as the opposite of having the gift of celibacy?

In her article “Defending ‘The Cost of Delaying Marriage,’” Candice Watters quotes Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Focus’ board of directors, as suggesting that singles ask themselves, “Can I go the rest of my life without sex, without the companionship of marriage, without having children and without being bitter about it?” If you answer yes, it’s likely you have the gift of celibacy.

My conclusion is that maybe “sexual desire” isn’t just about sex but also the desire for companionship in marriage and the desire for children. Perhaps a broader spectrum of singles can relate to that meaning and better understand Gary’s point. Inserting it into his earlier comment looks something like this:

If a man or woman is spending a significant amount of time just fighting back a desire for sex, a desire for companionship in marriage and a desire for children, that’s not a productive way to live, so they should seek marriage and be able, so to speak, to move on with the rest of their life.

That phrase “move on with the rest of their life” stuck with me. What would it be like to have the issue of “who will I marry” settled — for good? What difference would that make in how I live, pray, minister, work, etc.?

Desiring the companionship of marriage, sex and children (in that order) is not a bad desire. But I can see better now why “at a certain point it becomes spiritually dangerous and even unhealthy” to deny that desire (or obsessively wonder why that desire has been denied). Like Gary said, it’s not a productive way to live.

“If something is a daily battle, I think that’s something that needs to be addressed,” he continued. “If someone feels like they’re struggling once a week or once a month, well, there are a lot of issues Christians deal with more frequently than that. For me, it’s about seeking first the kingdom of God; if something else has my primary attention (like sexual frustration), I need to make a change.”

You’ll know best how often you struggle with these desires and what change(s) you may need to make to ensure seeking Christ’s kingdom comes first in your life. Pursuing marriage could be one idea, and Boundless has lots to offer in that regard. But I also recognize that “pursuing marriage” won’t result in an overnight engagement. So what’s the proper place for sexual desire then?

That’s a question I can but only recommend we bring to the Lord. While it may be too late for you and me to “marry young,” it’s not too late to assess our desires and realign with God’s plan for us today and trust Him with tomorrow.

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