What to Do with Sexual Desires
Last week, we explored reasons why our sexual desires exist in the first place. They are good, created by a good God, to draw us deeper into relational intimacy with himself and with others. By understanding why these desires exist, we gain a greater framework for understanding how to navigate them.
One of my primary purposes in starting this newsletter is to continually choose dialogue over silence when it comes to sexuality. And I think that's the foundation of freedom when it comes to our sexual desires as singles.
This may sound simplistic, but if the goal of our sexual desires is to draw us into deeper connection with God and his people, then the proper response is pressing into connection. Connection is knowing and being known by another. Connection involves being seen and heard and understood. It involves time, and willingness to be vulnerable and open.
I think so often we choose isolation in sexual desires by staying silent, hiding our sin patterns, and resisting vulnerability. It’s risky to be vulnerable, for sure. But I think that by openly discussing our sexual desires with trusted people (and with God), we are creating a two-fold opportunity: we take what is in the dark and bring it into the light, reducing the power that Satan has over these desires – and we actually begin to fulfill them, by pressing into the outlets for intimacy that God has provided us in singleness.
Repression, by definition, is the process of suppressing a desire so that it remains unconscious. Of course, we know how difficult this is to actually maintain. But we can see that mere repression is actually the opposite of God’s purpose for sexual desires. He does not give us a good gift then ask us to suppress it with the goal of non-existence. He gives us the means to steward this good gift well and to press into its intended purpose. Stewarding requires discipline; but discipline and repression are not the same thing.
So what does healthy discipline look like? Whether we are single, dating, or married – I think it starts by consistently renewing our minds before a God who is infinitely worth of all glory. John Piper has a helpful message on what it means to renew our minds, which I’ve included below in the Perspectives section.
He says, “The Christian alternative to immoral behaviors is not a new list of moral behaviors. It is the triumphant power and transformation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ — our Savior, our Lord, our Treasure.”
And I think that’s an issue we’ve faced in the Church – our well-intended attempts at purity often equate behavior modification rather than a continual transformation of our minds through the work of Jesus Christ. Renewing our minds, put simply (please read his article for more), is relishing in the truth of God’s Word, consistently praying that the Holy Spirit transforms the way we think, feel, and behave.
This is where discipline lies, friends. It takes discipline to wake up an hour earlier each day to sit in the Bible. It takes discipline to choose prayer over music or podcasts while we are on our commute. It takes discipline to meditate on the goodness of God. But these Spiritual disciplines are what aid to renew our minds, and in doing so, help us “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).
Sexual purity starts with a renewed mind in Christ. Specific disciplines, however, include:
- Redirecting sexual desires towards non-sexual interactions with others. This involves spending quality time with people instead of choosing isolation. It involves developing healthy male and female friendships that foster deep connection.
- Get consistent accountability with a trusted source. Accountability involves being open and honest with a person you trust, and letting them in on the struggles of singleness and sexuality.
- Exert energy through exercise, sports, adventure, and play. Exercise is not only a healthy alternative to release sexual energy, but it also keeps us away from isolation and temptation. No one watches porn while they are playing soccer with friends outside. Statistically, we are most likely to watch porn when we are inactive, bored, lonely, and at home. Exercise counteracts this.
- Have open, ongoing discussions with your significant other about boundaries and expectations. Each person is different and each relationship is different. So I trust that you will use discernment on when is most appropriate to discuss these things. BUT, I do believe that there is a tendency to avoid conversations about sexuality in attempts to stay pure. Again, this is the mentality that silence breeds freedom. It doesn’t. It leaves us in the dark; light breeds freedom. Use discernment and prayer and accountability in this – but also don’t be afraid to discuss these things in your relationship.
- Know yourself. Know the things that are most arousing to you, the times and places when you are most tempted, when your tendency to isolate yourself happens. We are each unique and have different manifestations of sexual desires. Know yours to be able to appropriately place boundaries in those areas.
I've said this before and I'll say it forever. You are not alone. You are not alone in your singleness, you are not alone in your sexual desires, you are not alone in the fight for holiness. I hope this newsletter reminds you of that.