Whether you are a man or woman, dealing with sexual desire is something that you will face at many points in your unmarried life (and then again in different ways through your married life as well). Learning to deal with these desires in a healthy and God-honoring way is a discipline that will last you deep into your married life as well.
There are many people who would say that they understand that their sexuality and sexual desire are a God-given, God-created gift- but how do take the next steps in keeping those gifts from becoming a point of struggle? How do you handle them when you have no means of expressing them as an unmarried individual? How do you allow them to point you to Jesus, rather than keep you away?
The first word I think about in light of sexual desire is the word CONNECT.
More than anything else, our desire for sex and sexual intimacy is evidence of our need to connect. We are relational beings, who even by the nature of our physiological makeup, are created to be in connection with other human beings.
It’s important to understand that our sexual desires are rooted in our need for connection, and then seek to channel that connection in healthy and productive ways. First, we must allow our desires to bring us in connection with God. What I mean by this is that so many times we are wired to run from God in guilt, fear, and shame when we are struggling with our sexual desires. As a mother of two, I know that the LAST thing I want my children to do when they are truly struggling is to go and hide. I want them to come to me, to talk with me, to share with me and allow me to enter into their struggles. I want to hold them, to help them, and to heal them in any way that I can when they are hurting, afraid, or in need.
When we are struggling with our sexual desires, our first step should be in allowing those struggles to bring us to Jesus. We need to thank Him for the longings that we have, and use those longings to draw us even closer to Him. If you are longing for sexual companionship, God’s Spirit can offer you hope. If you are caught in sexual sin, God’s Spirit can lead you into healing. But the first step is always to connect with Him.
Secondly, it’s important to connect with others. There are times when the gravity of our sexual desire correlates with the state of our emotional needs. We need to feel loved, accepted, and to belong. Sex in marriage offers all of those things within the context of a life-long companion. But for those who are unmarried, those very needs can begin to be met outside of a sexual relationship- in the embrace of a friend or the comforting words of a loving mentor. God can use all kinds of people to fill our deep emotional needs for connection. But we have to be aware of the connection, and then take action by engaging in meaningful non-sexual relationships.
Thirdly, we can connect to the world around us. Have you ever heard of the concept of channeling your anger? I believe that we can also channel our sexual desires by focusing our time, our energy, and our efforts on things that are meaningful and purposeful. What is it that excites you? What are the things that your heart deeply connects with? What causes do you feel are most important in this world? Use your energies to make a difference in the world around you. I think Paul was referring to just that when he explained that greater than sexual connection, is the ability to serve God in a focused and undistracted way. Unlike Paul, we may not all have the life-calling of a celibacy, but we do have a calling toward meaning, toward purpose, and toward a fulfilling life. Use this time in your life to focus your energies on things that matter and the pursuit of your passions- and I believe it will bring you one step closer to getting a healthy perspective on your sexual desires.
The next word I think of with regard to managing sexual desires, is the word PROTECT.
Not only are we called to connect, but we are called to protect this God-given gift that we’ve been given. You can have the greatest intentions in the world, coupled with the strongest desire to do right- but if you don’t have a plan, you’re not going to be able to get to where you want to be.
There are many factors to planning this kind of protection, as well as a few really practical steps that we can take in order to guard ourselves. From accountability, to boundaries, to confession – there are a lot ways we can protect ourselves from the prospect of sexual sin, and learn to honor God with our bodies long before we’re even in a dating relationship. I write about this extensively in Chapter 8 of my book, True Love Dates in a section entitled “Why Sex Matters”. I encourage anyone striving to protect their sexual desires from becoming strongholds, to read and re-read this chapter and then take the time to make a practical plan that will challenge you to take the necessary steps to both being freed from sexual sin, as well as protecting yourself from sexual struggles.
May God give us the wisdom and the grace to realize that He has got our best interest in mind…and He always has. May we find the courage and strength to choose to do things His way, because His way will always be our best.
Thank you to those who have shared your your questions and concerns, and I will work on addressing more of the topics that you’ve sent my way.
For much more on this topic as well as how to overcome sexual temptation – download my 40 minute audio lesson: Sex and the Single Life: What To Do With Desires While You Wait
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, 21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray for Your Love Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!