Several weeks ago I received a comment about quitting masturbation:
I have eliminated porn from my life. How can I break the habit of masturbation and lust? Every time I get overwhelmed or stressed out, my mind clicks off and I end up giving in to the lust, masturbation, and fantasy. I could use your prayers please, and any good devotional.
This question highlights our great need to guard our hearts above all else, because we live out of the overflow of our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). The Bible does not specifically condone or condemn masturbation, but it does address a myriad of heart-level issues tied to why people masturbate.
What I loved about this question is how self-aware the questioner is. He has already identified the trigger of stress as a catalyst for his habit to fester. He sees masturbation as his habitual way to “escape.” This ability to “see the sin before the sin” is a prerequisite step for anyone looking to overcome this habit.
In my experience, the battle with masturbation is a battle of faith. Behind any habit is a belief system that fuels it. We must replace the old belief system with a new one. We must fight this fight of faith on three fronts:
(1) in our triggers;
(2) in our bodies; and
(3) in our deepest longings.
There are different kinds of triggers: external and internal. An external trigger might be spotting a racy billboard on the way to work or a seeing a plunging neckline. Learning to bounce our eyes away from these sort of triggers can be very helpful.
But it is our internal triggers that are the hardest to run from, because they are…well…in us.
Like the gentleman quoted above, the trigger might be stress. We might turn to masturbation as our refuge, our stress-reliever. Stress and anxiety ultimately come from our reactions to stressful situations or circumstances. Why do we react to stressors the way we do? We react with stress because of what we believe about the stressors, the significance we place on them. We need to ask ourselves: What do I believe that makes this situation or circumstance or condition stressful for me? Identify what lies you believe about the stressor and then diligently replace those lies with truth.
Our trigger might be envy. We might see our friends with their loving marital relationships and think: “I wish I was married,” or “I wish my marriage was more intimate.” We may turn to masturbation as a substitute for what we really want. Again, we must ask ourselves: What do I believe my sex drive is for? Is it to grasp at selfish pleasure, or is to pursue oneness in marriage?
Our trigger might be anger at God. Perhaps we are dissatisfied at the way our life has turned out, so we blame God. We turn to masturbation as our own private activity that grasps for a pleasure all our own, a corner of life we claim as wholly ours, a way to rebel. Again, the battle is one of faith: Why do we believe God owes us anything? Why do we think we ought to get what we desire?
Our sex drives will inevitably build up physical tension, but it is our reaction to that tension that matters most. What are we believing that makes masturbation seem like the only way to release the build-up of testosterone?
For single men God has created built in release mechanisms: either nocturnal emissions or absorption.
For married men God has provided sex as a means of marital intimacy. Do we believe these systems are God-given means of taking care of our bodily drives, or do we believe masturbation is the only way? We must repent of our beliefs about masturbation and praying for a non-sinful release of tension in our members.
For many sexual pleasure is the ultimate escape from reality. Like a drug, it provides a fantasy world where we can forget our sorrows or our boring lives. Instead of using masturbation as an escape from reality, we must learn the habit of escaping into reality, into God Himself. This, again, taps our faith.
Related: Porn and the Desire Dilemma
Do we believe God is an all-satisfying Being? Do we believe it is our chief purpose to glorify God and enjoy Him forever?
How has God helped you in your fight?