June 23, 2020
The pursuit of sexual purity has never been as starkly challenging as during this season of quarantine. Statistics show that pornographic viewership has steadily been going up globally since the start of the community quarantine. Sexting and online hookups are also prevalent.
In a time of idleness, boredom, loneliness, and anxiety, people are looking for comfort, fulfillment, and pleasure from every source. Put this together with the abundance of sexual offers online, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.
As someone who has decided to follow Jesus Christ, you may be looking to this article as a source of practical steps to say no to sexual temptation or to overcome sexual sin patterns.
But pornographic addiction and other sexual sin patterns are just symptoms of a deeper issue. And that is something we need to address first.
Human beings are social creatures. Even the most introverted person needs to connect with someone, because we cannot fulfill our own emotional needs.
What are these needs, and why can porn, masturbation, and online hookups seem to be the answer?
The need for comfort in the midst of loneliness. It’s been months of being separated from your friends or even from your significant other. Maybe even if there are people at home, you feel ignored or overlooked. Then you chat online with someone who shows you care and concern.
The need for security in the midst of uncertainty. Maybe you are afraid that the person you care for and are in love with will seek comfort from someone else if you don’t give in to his/her demand for sexual pleasure.
The need for pleasure in the midst of pain. Maybe there’s been so much loss and heartbreak for your family. The pain is too much to bear and you feel that the only way to numb the pain is through pornography and masturbation.
The need for escape in the midst of chaos. Maybe you feel stressed with all the news of injustice and corruption. You just want to shut out the rest of the world and escape into a fantasy world.
The problem is, giving in to sexual temptations only gives temporary pleasure. Once the sensation is over, the need for comfort, security, and love remains. Guilt and shame start to kick in.
What’s worse is that this can lead to a potential addiction, which can sever our important relationships in our lives: our relationship with God and our relationship with our family–biological or spiritual.
Every need outlined above is valid and is part of God’s design for human beings. And He alone can satisfy those needs.
This is why nothing temporal can truly satisfy us. It’s like being so hungry that we grab on to any sugar-loaded junk to stuff our faces and get our short-lived highs, only for our energies to suddenly plummet into the depths of hunger again.
Our souls are the same. The gaping hole in your heart was not meant to be filled with earthly goods, much less a lot of junk that can only lead to spiritual death. This is not even just about sex anymore. We need comfort, so we gorge ourselves on food or alcohol. We need security, so we become obsessive-compulsive control freaks or master manipulators of others. We want to experience pleasure, so we shop online impulsively even when we don’t have the budget. We need an escape from reality, so we watch one Korean drama after another to get our “kilig fix” or stay up well into the night to win just one more round of our favorite mobile game. Doing some of these things may not be sinful in themselves, but it is when we depend on them to save us from the dreary reality that they become replacements for what only God can provide.
These functional saviors are exposed for the frauds that they are because they can’t truly satisfy. The adrenaline goes away, and once more we are left empty. Worse, they are sometimes taken away from us completely and we experience withdrawal symptoms. And we feel like we want to die, because where do we get our fix now?
So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18 (HCSB)
When nothing tangible works, we are clearly tapping into the wrong source. But the good news is, for as long as we live, the ultimate solution is offered to us. We were designed to seek comfort from God, to find security in His love, to experience pleasure in His presence, and to encounter His peace that transcends all circumstances.
Our desires are meant to be signposts toward our ultimate destination: Him. However, this desire—this God-shaped hole—was meant to be fulfilled by Him and Him alone.
Trusting God to fulfill these needs starts by having a relationship with Him. There can be no trust outside of a relationship. There can be no full surrender outside of knowing the one you give your life to.
If you are struggling to end your dependence on temporary things, He is inviting you to come, be reconciled to Him, and trust in Him alone. If you are tired of temporary pleasures and failed relationships, He is inviting you to experience Him.
If you are struggling with sexual sin and have shared your struggle with someone before, you may have heard different advice about what to avoid: suggestive songs, lewd photos, explicit novels, lurid videos or films, and so on. Basically, watch what you consume and be accountable about them to someone.
This is good advice, and we’d do well to have these checks in place to avoid temptation. Yet it is interesting what Paul says about rules:
These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
Colossians 2:23 (NLT)
This is a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’ve worked really hard on avoidance and self-control. Yet, at the same time, if you look closely at your heart, you know that it is only a matter of time before a temptation that is too strong to resist comes along.
Saying no to one is saying yes to another. If you feel like saying no to temptation is not satisfying and fulfilling, then you haven’t really discovered the pleasures of being in a relationship with the one worthy of your yes.
What pleasures can we derive from our relationship with Him?
The pleasure of knowing God. God is a person, and He has many facets to Him that make for an eternity of amazement and awe to those who seek to discover and experience Him.
Have you yet to experience your heart beating fast and feeling so much kilig as you ponder His love for you? You can. Have you yet to be awed at the depth of His wisdom and at the greatness of His beauty? You can. Have you yet to witness impossible miracles in your life that make your jaw drop in wonder? You can.
But there are no shortcuts. Not even through studying theology in depth or memorizing all the verses in the Bible can you experience this, because this is not an intellectual “knowing” but an experiential one. It can only be derived from a lifetime of regular communing with Him—from centering your life around Him every single day.
The pleasure of receiving His gifts. God is good and generous, and He has gifted us with life-giving relationships.
A life-giving community is where people encourage each other to pursue God and His purpose, instead of relying on one another to fill their emotional needs, which only God can ultimately fill. This is where we experience the pleasure of pure friendship.
Don’t miss out on the joy of these relationships because you are seeking affirmation and affection from the wrong source.
The pleasure of fulfilling His purpose. God has also gifted us with talents so we can fulfill His purpose to be a channel of blessing to others. Find out what your talents are and cultivate them. Find people who are willing to help you grow in them. Find avenues where you can exercise them so that others can be blessed with them.
Indulging in earthly pleasures can lead to the dangerous path of addiction that cuts us off from the path of life. The thrills and pleasures we derive from any created thing can never compare to what we will experience in eternity with God.
Imagine the best worship experience of your life so far and compound that a million times over. That is a picture of eternity with God. God is offering us a foretaste of that experience in this lifetime. Let us not mar it with the pursuit of temporary highs, but instead pursue Him into the path of life, purity, and true satisfaction.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 (ESV)