Ten Words of Counsel for Single People
I have ten words of counsel for persons who are not married but who have to deal with sexual desires. Some of these have a masculine orientation because I know the male temptation firsthand but not the female. Some are dos and some are don’ts, but all aim to be positive in that they are intended to help you preserve your freedom from any enslavement but God’s.
1. Do not seek regular sexual gratification through masturbation the stimulation of your own self to sexual orgasm or climax. Masturbation does not solve sexual pressure for very long, it tends to become habitual, it produces guilt, and it contradicts the God-given design of sexuality. Our bodies and desires were designed for the sexual union of persons, and masturbation contradicts that design. But perhaps worst of all, masturbation is inevitably accompanied and enabled by sexual fantasies in the mind which we would not allow ourselves in reality and so we become like the Pharisees: well scrubbed on the outside, but inside full of perversions.
2. Do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person, even if you stop short of sexual intercourse. Everyone knows that intimate touching is the prelude and preparation for sexual intercourse, and therefore it belongs where that event belongs, namely, in marriage. Where the permanent commitment that characterizes marriage is missing, caressing becomes depersonalized manipulation; it turns the other’s body into a masturbation device to get a private physical thrill. God made us in such a way that if we try to turn that moment of touching into a personal, spiritual expression of love, we are not able to do it without making promises of faithfulness. Implicit in our hearts at that moment is the statement: You may touch me because you have promised never to leave me nor forsake me. You may have me because you are me. We are so made that we cry out for permanence when giving away our most intimate gifts. They belong in marriage.
3. Avoid unnecessary sexual stimulation. It doesn’t take any brains to know that there are enough X-rated movie houses and adult bookstores in this city to keep a person livid twenty-four hours a day. To visit these crummy places is temptation enough. But the real test is what you do with the more legitimate sources of sexual stimulation. PG movies, Time magazine, the newspaper, television, drugstore magazine racks, rock music lyrics. In our society you cannot escape sexual stimulation, but you can refuse to seek it. And you can avoid it often when you see it coming. This is the great test of whether we are enslaved or free can we say no to the slave driver in our bodies who wants us to keep on looking and keep on lusting.
4. When the stimulation comes and the desire starts to rise, perform a very conscious act of transfer onto Christ. I wish I had learned this much earlier in my life. While riding down the road, if some billboard or marquee puts a desire into my mind for some illegitimate sexual pleasure, I take that desire and say, “Jesus, you are my Lord and my God, and my greatest desire is to know and love and obey you, so this desire is really for you. I take it from your competitor, I purge it, and I direct it to you. Thank you for freeing me from the bondage of sin.” It is remarkable what control we can gain over the direction our desires take, if we really long to please Christ.
5. Pray that God would give you, in ever-increasing strength, a longing to know and love and obey him above all else. I read a sermon once entitled, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” The point was, there is no better way to overcome a bad desire than to push it out with a new one. It is in prayer that we summon the divine help to produce in us that new desire for God.
6. Bathe your mind in God’s word. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). There is nothing that renews the mind and enables it to assess things God’s way like regular meditation on the word of God. The person who does not arm himself with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) is going to lose in the battle for his or her body.
7. Keep yourself busy, and when it is time for leisure, choose things that are pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Idleness in a world like ours is asking for trouble. It is much harder for sexual temptation to gain a foothold when we are busy at some productive task. And if you need some fresh air, walk in a park, not down Hennepin Avenue.
8. Don’t spend too much time alone. Be with Christian people often. Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but encourage one another, stir each other up to love and good works. Talk of your struggles with trusted friends. Pray for each other and hold each other accountable.
9. Strive to think of all people, especially people of the opposite sex, in relation to eternity. It is not easy to fantasize about a person if you think about the eternal torment they may shortly be suffering in hell because of their unbelief. Nor is it easy to disrobe in your imagination a person you know to be an eternal sister or brother in Christ. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “From now on we know no one according to the flesh.” We view everybody from God’s eternal perspective.
10. Resolve to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and he will add to you everything you need sexually. It may be a spouse. It may be the grace and freedom to be single and pure and content. That is up to God. Ours is to seek the kingdom. Or to put it another way, our all-consuming passion must be to glorify God in our bodies by keeping ourselves free from every enslavement but one: the joyful, fulfilling slavery to God.