I am a twentysomething single female whose heart is awed by the grace of God on display in grand scale wonders and minuscule everyday miracles. But I also struggle with allowing lesser pleasures to take my eyes away from him in the form of intense lust.
And no, I’m not talking about those light, fluffy, cute, and tingly little butterflies it’s “okay” for females to feel.
I’m talking about a heady, intense, burning stampede of crazed elephants that (if left to my flesh) might mercilessly trample anything that gets in their way. The kind that, in some minds, is exclusive to men.
After talking recently to female friends who share in my struggle, it seemed that such battles are often either totally hushed up in church circles (“Ladies, don’t talk about that”) or completely toned down (“Surely you don’t mean that sort of feeling”). Thus, many women following Jesus feel shameful or like they’re the only ones with strong yearnings for sex.
Well, let me reassure you, sister, you are not alone. I have smothered my desire for sex beneath moral resolve and discipline, fooling those around me for years. However, the Christian walk isn’t about fooling anyone; it’s about honesty, vulnerability, and redemption.
My struggle with lust has been a regular, even daily, and (often) unsuccessful battle. And because I am a woman, it has often been lonely. The following questions are for women like me, in the moments we begin to slip (or perhaps even afterward), when we wonder why we should resist at all, when fleeting pleasure starts to look better than eternal Loveliness.
1. Is it wrong for a Christian woman to want sex?
No, indeed not. A high view of sex and sexual pleasure (and its inherent goodness) is actually more conducive to resistance. Sex is cheap and its value degraded in this culture of one-night stands, hormone-driven decisions, and rampant objectification. That reality today, though, is not what sex was created to be.
God made sex. And, like all he made, he made it good. He commanded us to multiply and fill the earth through sex (Genesis 1:28). He didn’t have to make procreation such a wonderful and satisfying experience. He was pleased to do it because he is a good Creator and a generous Giver.
The idea that the word of God condemns sexual relations outside of marriage is one of the most undermined commandments in America today. Its decline has, among others, twin roots: “God doesn’t want us to have any fun” and, “As long as we’re committed, who cares?”
Both of these undermine God’s goodness in his commandments and his goodness as a holy Father. Because of his holiness, he seeks our holiness (1 Peter 1:14–16). Therefore, he’s quite willing to set “fun” on the back burner in order to give us something far greater, safer, and more satisfying. He will withhold fun to make us into something new. His motives in doing so are not harmful (Romans 8:28). He set sex within marriage to protect and increase its intrinsic pleasure and its accompanying intimacy, not rob us of it.
C.S. Lewis describes this situation in his eighteenth Screwtape Letter:
The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured. From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended to produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and the family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call “being in love” is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy.
Because of his perfect fatherhood, he seeks our eternal joy more than our “here and now” happiness and our fleeting pleasure. He sets limits. Parents’ limits are most often to keep children safe, though from the child’s perspective, it may seem like the parent merely wants to keep something from them. So it seems to those who would make God into a sovereign fun-stealer and good-withholder.
That is not his heart towards his adopted sons and daughters (Psalm 103:13, Luke 12:32). He is eager to give us pleasures at times, in ways and increments that are best for us. He is indeed the good Giver whose presence radiates throughout, yet supersedes all true pleasures.
2. Does sexual purity earn good standing with God?
No. Jesus placed lustful hearts on par with adultery (Matthew 5:28). God knows already the most lewd desires of my heart (Jeremiah 17:10).
To be sure, presenting one’s self as a virgin on a wedding night is a precious thing in God’s sight. Furthermore, those who are lifelong singles, forgoing sexual pleasure because of God’s calling and joyfully submitting to his high view of sexual union, present a uniquely fragrant living sacrifice to him. Their undivided attention and unyielding diligence brings opportunities to glorify God married men and women won’t have, and avoids the hardships marriage inevitably brings (1 Corinthians 7:32–35, 7:28).
Still, God’s standard for holiness and purity cannot be earned, even by the most innocent minds. We all fall short of his requirements and that’s why Jesus’s perfect, holy, sinless life and death was needed to intercede for us and satisfy God’s wrath (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:23–25; 1 John 2:1–3).
We don’t fight for purity or guard our virginity in order to earn God’s love for us, but instead to declare the intensity of the love we have for him.
3. Is sexual desire only for men?
Again, not at all. Sexual desire is not for men only, as noted throughout the Song of Songs:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. . . . Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. (Song 1:2, 4)
Sexual desire and pleasure are very good things and should be expressed intensely and passionately at the right time, by men and by women. I desire it, and feel ready for it now. But sex is about far more than my readiness; it’s about far more than my feelings, emotions, and the temporary pleasure of catering to my natural senses and impulses.
The Sovereign Ruler of My Sex Life
I am not ruler over my own sex life. When I came to know Christ, he became Lord over all of me. Nothing in my life is withheld from him. Thus, my body is not my own and not for me to use as I please (1 Corinthians 6:18–20), but as he please, and for his glory alone. He cares deeply about my body, my relationship to my future husband (Hebrews 13:4), and most of all to himself (1 Corinthians 6:15–17).
This means he determines, in love, how long I will struggle against my desires, and when, if ever, I will be free to enjoy the good gift of sex in marriage. Until that time comes, these desires aren’t things to be ashamed of, but things to be held in check (avoiding both tempting situations or fantasies), and redirected with hopeful expectation. Sex is not shameful and I mourn that it has been twisted into a bad thing by insecure moralism, and into a cheap thing by popular culture.
I already hear a question: “But what if that ‘right’ and ‘good’ circumstance never comes?” What if we never marry?
Our relationship status doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is our Lord and Treasure. By his power, we are able to honor him with our bodies, experience fullness of joy and abundance of life, and refrain from sex (as impossible as that may seem right now). As much as our flesh would like us to believe this, God is not punishing us with a sex-starved season of singleness. It is unimaginably good for us single, dating, and engaged ladies to not have sex at this point in our lives.
No Need to Fear Missing Out
“But I’m missing out on so much!”
Yes, sex is an amazing expression and foreshadowing of love and affection that God intends to add to many lives in marriage. I hope to experience it one day. But it’s supplemental, not vital. We don’t need it to truly live, like our society seems to think we do. We certainly don’t need it to thrive and grow and flourish as godly women.
Jesus is better than sex, and even just a few moments with him in eternity will eclipse the height of every pleasure we’ve experienced in this life. That includes a good meal, a favorite book, and yes, sexual union.
Sex’s ultimate purpose is far greater than a momentary muscle spasm; it foreshadows an intimacy every believer will experience when we enter into God’s presence — the one who knows every line on our skin (Psalm 139:13), who is well-acquainted with every strand of hair on our heads (Luke 12:7), and who died in love to satisfy us forever with himself. We will be his bride, his church (Revelation 19:6–8).
Do I want to have sex? I do. But I trust it is incomparably more satisfying to know the God of infinite wisdom and mercy, to serve him with everything, including my body and my thoughts, and to devote all my desires completely to him.