Question

I am currently young, and I have intense sexual urges. I know that they are natural at my age because of puberty, but I feel as if when I say I am not giving in, I am. I think about it a lot -- to a point where it's totally spontaneous; I do it on instinct. I feel like when the time comes where I am to be tempted by sex that I will give in. That scares me because I've grown up my whole life being taught that sex before marriage is a sin. Deep down inside, I do want to wait. Being that I already feel shame for my desire now, I know that I will feel immense shame from engaging in intercourse or any form of sexual fulfillment before marriage. However, this sexual tension is really hard. With the society and pop culture of today, sex is unregulated and is portrayed as a casual deed shared among two people, regardless of whether or not they are married or even in love.

Every time I ask God for forgiveness, I feel I am clean for a whopping few minutes until I start thinking about sex again. My sexual desire is getting in the way of not only my daily life but also my relationship with God. I feel as if I'm losing faith in Him every day, and He is doing the same for me. I know that He will ultimately forgive me, but not when I keep giving in.

Do you have any advice on how I can withstand my sexual desires? Also, do you think God will forgive me even after giving in on multiple occasions? I need help now more than ever.

Thank you!


Answer

You are confusing temptation with sin. James details the process of sin in this fashion: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). The steps are:

  1. Desires: Each of us is born with a normal, natural set of desires. The physical desires are the consequence of the operation of our bodies. We also have spiritual desires, such as not wanting to be alone, wanting to be liked by others, or wanting something pretty.
  2. Temptation: Satan tries to place us in situations where it appears that the satisfaction of a desire will require the breaking of a law of God. Temptation is the forcing of a choice to be made: either to break a law of God and satisfy a desire or to forgo satisfaction in order to keep God's law.
  3. Lust (desire conceived): When a person mentally consents that breaking a law of God is worth satisfying the desire, then the person has moved into the realm of lust. This is when the person justifies to himself that breaking God's law can be excused, at least in some situations.
  4. Sin: This is when a person seizes an opportunity and actually breaks God's law.
  5. Licentiousness (sin full-grown): Sin is rarely done just once. The excuses to sin come fast, such as "I've done it once, doing it again isn't going to make much difference." Eventually the person becomes calloused to sin and no longer feels guilty about what he is doing. He doesn't care what other people think. He may even convince himself that he has the right to sin. (Licentiousness means thinking you have a license to sin.)
  6. Death: A person fully convinced that he ought to sin and doesn't care what even God thinks about his actions won't be persuaded out of his sin. Since he won't leave his sin, he will die in his sin.

As an example, hunger is a desire -- it is neither right nor wrong. Temptation is when you are in the convenience store and see a candy bar, but realize you don't have enough money to pay for it. Lust is when you tell yourself that the store can afford to lose some items and that they are expecting some loss, or telling yourself that you could pocket it now and pay for it later and you accept that this is adequate justification to steal. Sin is when you walk out with the candy bar without paying for it. Licentiousness is when you think it is fun to take things off the shelf even though you have adequate money to pay for it. And from there it is a short step to spiritual death.

You don't beat yourself up because you get hungry all the time due to your growth. But that hunger does open the possibility of being tempted to sin. Yet, you have been practicing self-control since you were a child to manage your hunger.

In the same way, you are now aware of sexual feelings. They seem overwhelming at times, but you are also learning self-control. The desire for sex is not wrong, but it can open you to temptation to sin. "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 2:7). This is not a feeling to rush into because in your rush, you'll lose what you are actually seeking -- just like a frightened deer.

If you make decisions based on your feelings, you'll make many mistakes. Your feelings are unreliable. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26). You have to train yourself to make decisions based on what you know is right. It doesn't matter what I want, only what God commands matters. "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (II Corinthians 5:14-15). What God guarantees is that you will always have a choice (I Corinthians 10:13).

Thank you so much for your response. I feel a lot better already! I am also going to try harder to resist temptation whenever it seems overwhelming. Thanks so much again!