Imagine keeping a lion in a small cat carrier for years. Day after day, night after night, he roars, he eats (a lot). His energy is endless, and yet you keep him caged.
As a single girl in my thirties who was committed, by God’s grace, to saving sex for marriage, I often felt exactly like that caged lion. Sometimes my physical drives were so strong, I despaired—the long, intense fight for purity in a sexually-saturated culture seemed impossible. And while there was constant dialogue about men’s sexual struggles and temptations, there was this eerie silence when it came to women. Was I part man, or was this normal for women?
However, the more I opened up and shared my struggles with other single women, the more I realized I was indeed normal and in very good company. So why wasn't anyone talking about it?
Or maybe the greater question is: why should we even fight for sexual purity when our desires seem so natural and good—and often feel too powerful to control?
Christ Is Better
If I can testify to anything, it’s that I found Christ to be greater than my sexual desires.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with an agnostic coworker who was, once again, giving me grief about not sleeping around. (Mind you, I had never offered that information at my workplace, but I guess everyone had figured it out based on my lifestyle.) It ended by me saying, “Eric, Jesus is better than sex.” And by the way he looked back at me, I could tell he desperately wanted to know that was true.
I think we all want to know that's true. If sex is the highest good in life, the greatest pleasure we can experience, we’re in trouble. Yes, sex is amazing! On this side of marriage, I can testify that God created a really good and pleasurable thing. But it doesn’t begin to compare to the infinite pleasures we have in God.
God created sex, then told us to enjoy it only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman, so if He has us wait an excruciatingly long time for it, He is (mercifully) teaching us to meet our deepest desires in Him alone. That’s easy to say; it's incredibly hard to live.
In fact, it’s impossible to live. Sometimes my fight against temptation brought me to the end of myself and reminded me that “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2). I could not boast in my own strength; I was so keenly aware that God Himself was sustaining me, and apart from Him I would quickly lose the battle.
Listening to His Promises
During those long years of singleness, this is where the rubber met the road: would I listen to my passions, or would I listen to His promises?
I remember pounding my pillow, crying out in anguish, even yelling when the flesh seemed too strong to fight for one more day. But it was in those desperate moments that I found God to be exactly who He claims to be. It was in the trenches of the fleshly fight that I learned to take my Commander at His word.
And His Word says that He makes known to me the path of life, in His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).
So how can a single woman walk in His fullness of life and joy in the midst of sexual frustration? Here are a few of the ways that helped me:
- Memorize and meditate on Scripture.
I can’t overstate this enough. God’s Word has strengthened, sustained, convicted, encouraged, and changed me. Unless we’re constantly in the truth, we’ll easily fall for lies.
- Keep a few good friends close.
Don’t let yourself become isolated. Be open and honest with godly, safe, and wise women in your life. When sin is brought into the light, it loses its power and stops condemning you. (And you may be surprised at how many women around you can identify with your struggle!)
- Exercise and eat well.
Run or do Pilates or take a dance class. Feed your body good stuff. Sitting in front of chick flicks and eating chocolate cake is not going to help the cause.
- Serve others.
Channel your frustrated energies into caring for the people around you. Send an encouraging text to someone who’s hurting today. Host a meal at your place. Deliver coffee to a mom who’s at home with several kids.
- Don’t compare.
Don’t keep looking at what your married friends have. Their challenges and sufferings are different. God knows how to make all of us need Him desperately in very different ways.
- Don’t borrow tomorrow's troubles.
God has given plenty of grace for today. “I'm going to be single for the rest of my life!” Don't go there.
- Take stock of your cultural diet.
Evaluate and re-evaluate your movie-watching, music-listening, clothes-wearing habits. Are you feeding or starving the lusts of your flesh?
- Set helpful boundaries with men—for your sake and theirs.
Hanging out alone with a man for long periods of time never helped me; it usually stirred up desires unnecessarily.
- Keep a thankful heart.
I can’t tell you what a powerful tool this is. Thank God for everything you can think of, big and small—it’s like instant heart surgery!
- Remember the goodness and kindness of God.
Resisting sexual temptation for any prolonged period of time can wage war on our belief about God. Is He mean, unfair, detached? Why all this anguish to obey Him? But according to 1 Peter 4:12, we shouldn’t be surprised at the fiery trials we face in this life. The best news in the world is not that we are spared pain but that we are infinitely loved and forgiven (so our pain has purpose).
In His kindness, God came to be with us in the form of Jesus, to free us from our slavery to sin. And not only to free us, but also to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is tender to our struggles and failures, and He is for us—always at work for our everlasting good.
Dear one, there is so much at stake in our battle for purity. And if you have messed up, join the club. Every last one of us has fallen short of God’s purity in one way or another, and we all are in desperate need of His grace.
Keep returning to the Lover of your soul. Keep fighting and trusting by the power of the Spirit that is at work within you. God is good, and what He does is good (Ps. 119:68). As I reflect on my thirty-four years before marriage, I am stunned at God's goodness to me, even when—no, especially when—it took me to the end of myself.
What is one promise or habit you can apply to your own fight for purity? What part of your struggle has left you feeling isolated? How can you reach out for encouragement and accountability this week?