Sexual desire is not a sin…

Husband holding wife in arms and looking into eyes

…but sin always begins with desire. Before studying this truth more closely, I had settled on the fact that sexual desire in and of itself is not something that we should be ashamed of feeling. But when I came across the fact that, “sin always begins with desire”, well let’s just say that things became a lot more interesting in my mind!

How can something that was created to be such a sacred pleasure, designed by God, also be so destructive and sinful? Is God setting us up to fail? Let’s be real, as parents we would never give our children something to play with that we knew could cause serious harm! Interestingly enough, the key to understanding this is not found in looking at the item itself, but looking at how it is used…

Just like our desire to eat, our sexual desire was created to be a healthy part of who we are. But in the same way that we can abuse our appetite for food, our appetite for sex can also be abused and lead us into crippling experiences. Our normal desires for the ordinary can become the very thing that we are chained to – struggling for ways to find freedom.

I remember visiting the beach one year as a family when I was very young. Like most kids, I was excited to be able to play in the sand and the sea. Before I was allowed to set foot in the sea though, my mum made sure I was wearing my inflatable ring around my waist to keep me afloat and out of danger. I ran into the sea without a second thought, excited at the chance to splash about in the water with my brother. It was all going well until a wave came along… over I flipped with my inflatable ring, and the same item that was designed to keep me safe was now keeping me from taking a breath. It was too snug to remove from my waist, but thankfully my brother was with me and helped me flip the right way up again so I could breathe.

For so many of us, it has been a long time since we’ve been able to truly breathe – free of sexual sin. Our issue seems to have started off so harmlessly long before we got married, but ended up taking root and extending to every aspect of our lives and our marriages. We’ve become accustomed to those feelings of guilt and discomfort, so much so that we have become good at living “double lives” and maintaining the mask when it is needed most. Whether you are watching pornography, or hiding sexually explicit messages from your spouse that you have been sending to others to try and satisfy the needs of your seemingly uncontrollable desire, you’ll feel an overbearing sense of shame for the very thing that was created to bring true pleasure.

I know what it is like to lie next to your husband and feel entirely sexually frustrated because long-term issues haven’t been resolved and communicating your sexual desires just doesn’t feel “right”. Shaking the shame takes a real, intentional effort, and often we have picked this shame up unintentionally along the way as we are searching for the answers that we were never provided with to our completely appropriate questions. When you don’t communicate those deeper, tough and very real issues, it is inevitable that your marriage will be impacted at its heart and choke your sexual connection.

What happens when you resort to filling that void with pornography, masturbation or sex toys to satisfy the need that your spouse can’t seem to meet? What happens when these things aren’t enough, and that person conveniently comes into your life and pays you more compliments and notices you in a way that your spouse hasn’t in a long time…?

There are those Christians who believe that marriage is the solution to a “high libido” not realising that this can instead be a more sinister sign of a sexual desire that has been fed by the wrong things for such a long time, that even your own marriage won’t be able to contain it’s unending need for more of the things that weaken and eventually destroy marriages. In these cases, you need to pull the problem up by the roots. Some issues are bigger than your marriage, and it is important to be able to have the humility to recognise this and seek help where required.

When your diet isn’t good, your body will begin to tell you. From weight issues, to problems with the health of your teeth, to breakouts on your skin – the list could go on! For many of us, these signs would be enough for us to do something about our diet – recognising that we need to be intentional about looking after what we put into our bodies. But there are also many of us who would see these signs and know that we need to do something, but struggle to improve our diet because we enjoy too much of the wrong things and simply aren’t willing to give them up. Exactly the same applies to our sexual diet, and this is often awakened long before we get married, but for many of us we still bring this same diet into the marriage with us. We may not see the physical results as such, unless we have had a child before marriage or ended up contracting an STI, but there are definitely psychological effects that remain with us and affect our capacity to genuinely connect with our spouse.

Your “diet” is key. Is there any nourishment in the things that you are currently feeding your body and your mind with? Or is it a temporary high that leaves you feeling like you need something even greater to satisfy you? You will either learn to control your sexual desire, or your sexual desire will control you.

For some of us, our sexual cycle of sin is years if not decades in the making, and it can feel as though you have no choice but to just lie in the bed you believe that you’ve made for yourself. Today is the day that you need to tell yourself that you can still get out of the bed. Despite the lies that you may be listening to, you still have the opportunity to improve your diet and improve the quality of your marriage as a result. The more you learn about sex as it was created to be experienced, and finally address the baggage that you have been carrying from one relationship to another, the more you will free up space for the tools that will help you regain control of your sexual desire – something that was always intended for the good of your marriage. This doesn’t mean that you won’t face temptations in future! In fact, you may still feel like you are going through moments where you are struggling, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is a sign that you are trying to change and when human weakness for lust meets heavenly guidance for love, there will always be a battle. With God, this is a battle you can win.

God never intended sex to be experienced in the way that the world portrays it today, and He definitely didn’t create sexual desire to be something sinful. Sadly, we have taken something that was created to be so beautiful, and made it sinful. Although we are sinful by nature, there is hope for us even in spite of our mess… God has called us to a higher standard. God wants us to seek Him first so that He can renew our understanding of sex, and all that it was created to be. Do you want to know the best part? Regardless of your past mistakes, this opportunity still applies to you and your marriage too. I can say that confidently, as this is the only reason that I can sit writing blog posts on topics like these today despite mine or my husband’s past mistakes.

If marriage teaches you anything, it’s that your baggage load is guaranteed to double! But the determining factor between the ability to make the load lighter and buckling under the weight, comes down to what you both do with your own baggage – sexual or otherwise. Our spouse can’t put the work in for us, and we can’t put the work in for them. We have to take responsibility for our past actions, and not be afraid to face up to ourselves. Even if this involves seeing a counsellor, which is highly recommended in most cases where the issue has taken up the large majority of your life, there comes a point where you need to start unlearning your destructive habits so you and your marriage can finally breathe again…

YOUR THOUGHTS

Are you tired of the dealing with the same sexual issue in your marriage? Usually, communication (or lack of it) is a major hurdle in this area that keeps us from progressing and finally breaking the cycle. Have a go at answering the following questions, then discussing them with your spouse if you feel comfortable to do so:

  1. When did this sexual issue start, and what caused it?
  2. Why is it such a source of shame, especially if I haven’t told my spouse the full story?
  3. Why do I feel like I would rather hide and live a “double life” than to be honest with my spouse?
  4. What is the worst that could happen if I open up to my spouse about this issue?
  5. What is the best thing that could happen if I open up to my spouse about this issue?

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