AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
If you skip a meal, your stomach will start grumbling and you’ll probably get rather cranky. If you keep skipping meals, you’re going to start obsessing over food. The hungrier you become, the less you will care about the quality of what you eat and the more delicious garbage foods will taste to you.
We can find this same pattern applying to another major appetite that the human body has: its appetite for sex. Humans vary quite a bit in their desire for sex. Some of us never want it. Others of us want it all the time. Some of us can take or leave it. Some of us are feeling so starved that we’re obsessing. Just as being starved for food will cause you to readily ingest foods that are bad for your physical health, being starved for sex will cause you to readily participate in sexually arousing activities which are bad for your physical and psychological health. Watching porn, for example, has a very detrimental effect on humans. The same is true for many forms of sexual activities, such as BDSM, orgies, rape, and molestation. But the fact remains that once we become overwhelmed by the need for sexual release, our fear of being harmed drops out of the equation, and we find ourselves charging into all kinds of self-harming activities.
Now Christians have a tendency to grossly oversimplify the whole issue of sex. The general Christian view is that anyone who craves anything other than “normal” sex is a perverse little yuck. This is like saying that any “good” child would only desire to eat vegetables and whole grain breads, while children who want things like candy are rebellious little perverts. And yet does a child really have control over what his tongue says “yum” and “yuck” to? Not hardly. When a child tastes spinach, he doesn’t choose to dislike it, his tongue just says “get this out of here!” When a child tastes candy and his tongue sings with joy, that isn’t because the child consciously told his taste buds what to do. There are many biological and psychological factors which affect which foods you like and which foods you’re even willing to try. The same is true for sex.
Just as you had no say in what foods your tongue would accept and reject when you were a child, as an adult, you have very little say over what kinds of activities and stimuli bring you sexual release. Sexual appetites are greatly influenced by psychological factors and early life experiences. Sexual appetites are also changeable. They can vary quite a bit as your psychological stress load changes. Sex is a highly symbolic activity for humans, and once we get into things like torture fests, scat porn, and bestiality, sex is merely being used as a coping method to manage internal stresses which have nothing to do with sex. The common reason that rapists rape, for example, is not to get sexual release, but to try and get relief from a core feeling of vulnerability and powerlessness which is causing them immense internal distress. In cases of molestation, the primary goal is usually to reduce the stress of unresolved psychological traumas, with sexual release being a mere side effect of that coping method. The point is that if you’re going to provide real help to people who are struggling with sexual issues, you need to acknowledge that their distress is often linked to core needs that have nothing to do with a desire for some physiological release.
As miserable as it would be to have to sit in a restaurant watching people eat if you had normal hunger pains, the situation would become far more intolerable if you believed that putting food in your mouth was the only way you could remain mentally sane or keep yourself from being sucked down some abyss of terror. Once you see food as the key to your emotional and mental survival—not just your physical survival—than you will do anything to get it. You will chuck morals aside, you will wound others, and you will sacrifice the things that are most important to you—all in order to get your hands on something which you believe is critical to your survival. The reality is that not all sexual struggles are equal in intensity. While some of us find sexual craving to be an annoying hassle, for others, sexual cravings are the center focus of their lives. And again, what causes sexual stimulation to become an all-consuming obsession is that it has become psychologically linked to core needs which have nothing to do with sex.
Once we acknowledge how complicated and variable the whole sex issue is, we can see why it simply doesn’t work to tell all sex-starved people to “have some self-control.” Such advice is like saying to a hungry person in a buffet line “wait your turn.” If the person is a child who is dealing with normal hunger pains, the child can indeed muster the self-discipline needed to wait for his turn to reach the food. But if the person is a man who is desperately hungry, or if the person believes that he must eat food in order to restore his slipping sanity or hold off a tidal wave of terror that is about to crash down onto his head, then our trite advice will fall on deaf ears and the man will charge forward without any ability to stop himself.
This is real life: some of you currently have the resources to pass on the porn or the prostitutes, or whatever other means of sexual release tempt you. But others of you simply do not have the internal resources you need to control yourselves, thus you keep crashing down into activities which you know violate God’s general moral code. So then what? Well, according to the authors of the New Testament, your immoral sexual activities mean you’re on your way to Hell. According to Paul, no true Christian would struggle as you do, because he would have successfully nailed his sinful flesh and all of its cravings to the cross of Christ. According to John, a chronic sinner like yourself has never really known Christ, because no true Christian could even have the desire to sin once Christ’s seed is within him. Also according to John, your ongoing sin problem demonstrates how you’re just a child of the devil. According to James, God is not about to help you or listen to you until you find away to wash off your moral filth. According to the author of Hebrews, you must simply lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares you and run with endurance the race that is before you. And if you find all of this absurd blather to be utterly unhelpful, that’s because it is. The authors of the New Testament refused to acknowledge how real life works, and instead they all lived in delusional worlds that they’d invented for themselves in which they were the righteous stars who God loved while He spat on everyone else.
If you want real help with sin problems or sex problems, the Bible simply isn’t going to help you. Neither will most Christian websites, since they do nothing more than parrot the idiocy of misguided biblical authors. If you want real help with your struggles, then you need to go directly to God and give Him the chance to educate you on the vast difference between who He actually is and who many Christians think He is. Approaching God with sincere, reverential submission and a teachable attitude is the first step towards getting real help with your sexual struggles. The second step is to get your priorities fixed.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PRIORITIES
How you view your problems in life and how you attempt to deal with them will be determined by what your personal life goals are. When it comes to sexual struggles, the New Testament authors and most Christians send you down a completely wrong road by telling you to make sexual purity your top priority. In other words, if you’re addicted to porn, they’ll tell you that your top priority should be to break free of the addiction. Christians teach you that moral behavior and moral thoughts are what matters most in life. Well, this is complete rubbish. Start talking to God and He’ll tell you that your top priority should be progressing forward in your relationship with Him. You progress forward with God by eagerly embracing new insights He shares with you about who He is and what He wants from you. You progress forward by practicing the soul attitudes that He says please Him—things like reverence, submission, dependency and trust. You progress forward by treating God’s opinion like the only opinion that matters. And of course God helps you with all of these things.
Spiritual maturity is a journey that God guides you through at a slow, doable pace—it’s not an impossible homework assignment He assigns which you then have to go off and do by yourself. Far too often Christians treat spiritual growth like a solo journey—like a strenuous, lonely task which we must perpetually slave at while we tensely await the moment when God will suddenly appear to check up on us and point out all of the areas we’re failing in. Once you buy this wrong view of spiritual growth, then you will start to view God as standing up in Heaven, sighing impatiently and rolling His eyes in annoyance while you strain in vain to muster up more of that ever elusive self-control. It is by accepting a wrong view of spiritual maturity and a very dark view of God that we end up feeling like pond scum every time we crash down into the muck of perversity. When we discover that we simply can’t get aroused unless we’re watching pornography, we don’t run to God for compassion and comfort—instead, we assume a holy God would take offense at us trying to discuss vile things with Him. How quickly we forget that God is the Origin of all things, not just the pretty things. Sin, perversity, and sexual appetites only exist because God has brought them into existence. God is not some pure minded Simpleton who is unaware of most of what is happening in His own creation. God understands your sexual struggles better than you do, and He does not find it the least bit awkward to talk with you about the grisly details of your struggle.
God will always teach you to put your soul before your body in importance. This means that the well-being of your soul should be considered far more important than the well-being of your body. Once you align your priority system with God’s, your life will start to make a lot more sense. You see, God brings bodily problems into your life for the purpose of helping your soul. It’s profoundly simple, and once you understand that this is what God is doing, you will start asking the right questions when your body starts hounding you for sexual release. The first and most important question is: “How can this struggle help me grow closer to God?” There will always be a way to spiritually gain through every struggle that you have. This very handy set up is entirely due to God’s amazing skills and His personal interest in you.
God didn’t create you to just exist as part of the planet’s décor. He created you for the purpose of developing a personal, positive relationship with Him. This is God’s personal agenda for you, and being God, He forces His agenda onto everything and everyone that He creates. It is God who creates problems in your life. It is God who has decided what kinds of personal issues you should be saddled with and it is God who decided what kinds of sexual appetites you would develop. If God put you down in a home where you were molested by others and now as an adult you find yourself hooked on child porn, this is not just a case of you being “messed up.” This is a case of you struggling with issues which God specifically chose to give you for very strategic reasons, and those reasons all have to do with helping you spiritually thrive in the long term. So you see, when all you focus on is changing your behavior, you’re entirely missing the lesson that God wants you to learn. Put your soul above your body in importance and ask God to help you see the opportunities for spiritual growth that exist in your current struggle. They are most certainly there—you just need His help to identify them. And once He does help you—which He will—you’ll be able to adjust your priorities accordingly.
If you’re going to strive towards a goal, you need to strive towards a goal that God has chosen. If you try to choose a different goal, then He will simply sabotage your efforts to reach it. Trying to completely free yourself of all sexual desires, trying to have pure thoughts, or trying to live a sinless life—none of these are goals which God is going to help you achieve. Remember that God is a very opinionated, dominating Being who forces His agenda onto everything He creates and you’ll realize how pointless it is to try and live in opposition to Him. You simply can’t reach any goal without His help, and He’s not going to help you reach goals that He’s not interested in you reaching. Contrary to what you’re taught in the New Testament, God has no interest in relating to sinless creatures. He also doesn’t assess your value by the state of your body or what kinds of sexual cravings you have. Whether God is pleased or displeased with you entirely depends on how your soul is responding to Him. God is quite displeased with the Christian who quickly closes the pop up porn ad while glorying in what a righteous superstar he is because such a man is arrogantly taking the credit for the gifts God has given him instead of recognizing that he depends on God for all things. But God is quite pleased with the Christian who is neck deep in a porn addiction while his soul is desperately praying for God to have His way in his life. While the first man is steeped in arrogance and a delusion of self-reliance, the second man recognizes that he can do nothing apart from God. The first man thinks he is earning the favor of God with his good deeds, while the second man is practicing trust and submission.
God’s best plan for your life is going to have some very ugly seasons to it: this is real life, not Sunday School drivel. Sexual struggles can be fabulous tools for unearthing wrong beliefs and deep fears that are hampering your relationship with God. For example, what kinds of fears surface when you try to imagine God’s view of your sexual struggles? Are you imagining Him as a compassionate, easy-to-please God? Probably not if you’re reading a post like this. It’s burdens of guilt and shame that drive us to the internet searching for some pinpoint of light that can pierce through the darkness of the condemnation that we’re drowning in. When you live in a world in which you are judged by your actions, it takes a lot of time to grasp how radically different God’s judgment system is. When you’re used to dealing with humans who are misers of mercy, it is very challenging to try and get your mind around what a radically different kind of Being your Creator is.
God isn’t a human, and He doesn’t think like a human. He is positive, encouraging, compassionate, kind, and incredibly easy to succeed with. He doesn’t ever get shocked or grossed out by the things we humans do. He understands the depths of our depravity and He understands all of the billion ways we can veer off into perversion. When you turn to God for help with your sexual struggles, you are turning to Someone who is actually for you—Someone who has your best interests in mind. But you’re also turning to Someone whose priorities for you are much different and far better than your own. You see, we humans set our sights far too low and we’re so quick to settle for garbage instead of holding out for diamonds. With other Christians heaping on the condemnation, we find ourselves desperately praying for the strength to stop engaging in immorality. We decide that more moral behavior is the ultimate prize in life. Often we are even willing to settle for improvements in just one area of our lives—an area that causes us the most shame—and we think that if God would just give us help there, we’d be all set. Well, God isn’t content to settle for our very low standards. Instead, He teaches us to fix our eyes on far greater treasures, such as a close walk with Him and a deeper understanding of who He is.
The goals that God wants you to embrace are best attained through long seasons of struggling with various kinds of problems and temptations. This is why God is so stingy with the quick fix miracle cures: it’s not that He doesn’t enjoy blessing us, but rather that He wants us to have the greatest blessings available instead of settling for the least He could do for us. And since God considers a close walk with Him, knowledge of Him, and His approval to be the greatest treasures that there are, He pushes us to focus on these things.
USING THE NEGATIVE TO ENHANCE THE POSITIVE
Now God has countless options for how He could choose to mature you. But when it comes to humans, He prefers to use negative means to enhance the positive. For example, we all have doubts about how much God loves us personally. There are two ways that God can build our confidence in His love for us. The positive approach would be for Him to keep whispering sweet affirmations to our souls for us to hear and cling to. The negative approach would be for Him to create situations in which we think we see evidence that He dislikes us, only to then disprove our theories. While we naturally prefer the positive approach, God tends to favor negative methods. And though His preferred style is harder to endure, it actually results in much greater gains.
Let’s use a metaphor to appreciate the wisdom of God’s methods. Suppose you get signed up to take a long plane ride with a total stranger named Jack. During the long flight, you and Jack talk quite a bit with each other. By the time you reach your destination, you feel like you’ve learned quite a bit about Jack. He sounds like a really neat guy. You’ve gained a lot of respect for him, and you’d like to get to know him better. But what do you know about how Jack views you? Sure, he was very attentive when you were sharing about yourself, and he sounded interested. But was he really interested in you or was he just being polite? Now that the trip is over, you know that you’d really like to pursue a friendship with Jack, but you’re too shy to admit it out loud because you’re not sure how he feels about you. You could easily explain all of his nice behavior as mere social politeness, and the thought that Jack might not really care about you at all makes you feel sad and alone. When you finally muster the courage to ask Jack if he’d like to meet for coffee and he agrees, you walk away with a bunch of insecurities, wondering if he found your request a pain and if he’s even going to show up.
This first Jack scenario is an example of how you can try to build a relationship with someone using positive methods. The flight you went on with Jack gave you a smooth, stress free environment to converse in. No crisis arose. Everyone was on their best behavior because there was no reason not to be. But now let’s see what changes when we start this scenario over, only this time, you’re a backpacker whose tropical jungle adventure went horribly wrong when cannibalistic natives attacked your little adventure group, killed your traveling companions, and hauled you away as their prisoner. Now you’re stuck in a scary dark hut, listening to your captors discussing the best way to cook you up. But then a total stranger bursts onto the scene, kills the men holding you hostage, and rescues you from your scary prison. The stranger says his name is Jack and that he’s come to save you. Jack explains you’re located deep within a vast jungle, but that he’s committed to escorting you all the way out. Jack promises he won’t leave your side until you get to safety. As for you, you’re a traumatized mess who only goes along with Jack out of desperation. But you don’t trust the man—instead, you keep looking for evidence that he is leading you into some new kind of trap. When Jack wants you to cross a ratty looking rope bridge across a roaring river, you refuse, certain that he’s trying to murder you. When Jack won’t take “no” for an answer and grabs hold of you, you panic and fight him as hard as you can. But for all of your clawing and kicking, Jack ties you up, swings you over his shoulder, and carries you safely across the rickety bridge. On the other side he gently sets you down, unties you, and once again assures you that he’s come to help you.
For the next eight weeks, you and Jack face many perils together, and you have plenty of emotional meltdowns. You give Jack a ton of attitude, you accuse him of having shady motivations, and you do a lot of griping. Through it all, Jack is extremely patient, kind, gracious, and gentle with you. When you apologize for being rude, he always forgives you and leaves the past in the past. By the time you reach the end of your journey, your attitude towards Jack has radically changed. You’ve become convinced that he really is on your side, and that he really does care about you. After all, the man has seen your worst side and your ugliest traits, yet for some insane reason his view of you only seems to have grown more positive. At the end of the trip, when Jack says he wants to continue his relationship with you, you know he isn’t just being polite. There’s no question in your mind that Jack knows exactly what he’s signing on for by asking to see more of you, and after seeing how faithful, kind, and wise he is, you’re very eager to talk about how the two of you can stay connected.
This second Jack scenario was fraught with problems and negativity, and yet consider what you gained from it. In the first comfortable scenario, you ended up feeling very uncertain about how Jack viewed you. But in the second scenario, you realized that you had gained something very real and special. In the second scenario, your relationship with Jack was constantly being tested, but it was worth it, wasn’t it? In that horrible jungle, you learned things about Jack that you could have never learned sitting in that airplane. It was the difficulty of your journey that drained your resources and forced you to show Jack sides of yourself that you didn’t want him to see. But being forced to expose the worst sides of yourself resulted in you discovering that those parts of you were totally accepted by Jack. When Jack later tells you that he loves you, you know that he loves the real you, not just a pretty illusion that he has about you. If real love and a secure, safe relationship is what you want, then clearly the second scenario is the far better choice.
In His relationships with humans, God prefers to use negative experiences to build very strong, positive foundations with us. When it comes to the vast world of sexual struggles, there are endless opportunities for you to make fabulous gains with God. As you keep tanking in some perverse activity and you know He’s right there seeing the whole thing, you’re being forced to have the worst sides of yourself dragged into the open between you and God. No serious Christian enjoys being some depraved sinful yuck. We’d much prefer to be on our best behavior for God all of the time—to honor Him by strictly obeying His moral code. While God is always pleased by our desire to honor Him, He is even more interested in helping us become more secure in our relationships with Him.
You aren’t going to get far with God when you think He’s holding your limitations against you, or that He’s turning away in disgust every time you act less than perfect. If you’re going to learn how to stand confidently in God’s Presence, you need to learn that He loves the real you, not who you wish you could be (see Understanding the Love of God: The Five Versions of You). If you’re going to really understand the Character of your Creator, then you need Him to shove you into situations where you will feel in desperate need of His compassion, mercy, and grace. It’s by having God withhold the resources you need to be perfect that you will have the chance to really understand that perfection simply isn’t something He wants from you. It’s by having Him drag your worst qualities into the light and forcing you to hit the limits of your resources time and time again that you’ll have the opportunity to learn that He is the One holding your relationship together. You’re not keeping God close to you–He is keeping you locked in His grip.
No matter what kind of earthsuit issues you’re dealing with, or how messed up your mind is, God can use it all to draw you closer to Him. When He gives you the resources to resist some sexual temptation, fine. But the real gain in such moments has nothing to do with not sinning. It’s always the spiritual lessons that are the real gain, and experiencing God giving us the strength to not sin is a great opportunity to realize how dependent on Him we really are. When He withholds the resources we need, then it’s time to look for a different positive lesson. There will always be some positive spiritual lesson that you can glean from your struggles, and the sooner you focus on identifying the positive lessons God is teaching you personally, the sooner you’ll learn to see your struggles in a positive light.
The common Christian answer to those who struggle with sexual sins is to focus on a way to correct the behavior. And yet, as we’ve explained in this post, making behavioral changes your top priority is a big mistake. Your relationship with God is the most important relationship you have, and cultivating that relationship should be your top priority in life. Since every struggle you have has been strategically orchestrated by God for the purpose of drawing you closer to Him, the best way you can respond to any struggle is to start by asking God to help you learn everything He wants you to learn through the experience. Don’t just pray for God to take your problems away. Don’t treat God’s brilliant plans for your life like a bunch of bad mistakes. Instead, ask Him to help you gain a deeper appreciation for how wise He really is and ask Him to help you align with His priorities for you. God really does know what He’s doing when it comes to cultivating the little creatures He has made. Struggling with sexual temptation should not be viewed as some terrible crisis or flaw. Instead, it should be viewed as a fabulous opportunity for you to grow closer to a God who actually takes delight in relating to you. When we stop listening to humans and we start listening to God, we learn to view areas of perpetual failure like fields that are brimming with glorious treasures which are just waiting to be unearthed.
Voluntary Castration: The Solution that Makes Everything Worse (Help for Sexually Frustrated Men)
Guidance for Priests: When to Break Your Vow of Celibacy
Understanding Your Perverse Fantasies: A Sign of Stress, Not Defectiveness
Misdirected Sex Drive: Why do I feel aroused by inappropriate targets?
Help for Sex Addicts: Understanding Symbolic Sex
Understanding Divine Judgment: Illumination, Empowerment & A God Who Delights In Mercy
Are all sexual perverts going to Hell?