Recently I received an anonymous email from a single man about his struggles with lust. He asked for prayer regarding his lust, and he made it clear how difficult it was to have a “normal” sex drive and be a single man. He wrote, “Why have a sex drive if I can’t have sex? I have prayed and asked God to just take the sex drive away.”
I know many Christian men who are in this same situation. What are singles, specifically single men, meant to do with their God-given sex drives? Here are my words of advice, for what they are worth . . .
Dear Single and Struggling,
Thanks for your candor and honesty about the situation in which you find yourself. As a recently married man I can understand the feelings you have. It was only two years ago that I was in the same boat.
I feel the best I can offer you are thoughts from the Bible on this subject.
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1. The Bible is consistently pro-marriage, and we should therefore be also – From Genesis onward, the Bible speaks of marriage as a normal and desirable thing. Hebrews 13:4 goes so far as to say, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” The word “honor” means “of great price, precious,” and “esteemed.” No matter if we are single or married, the institution of marriage needs to be regarded as a precious thing. Moreover, even the single apostle Paul counsels men to learn how to acquire a wife in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (for a laugh, read my post I wrote about this right before I got married).
When God calls something good, we too should call it good. If I’m reading you right, it would seem that your problem isn’t with marriage, per se, but with the stresses that come with family life. Marriage and parenting are certainly full of challenges, but Scripture acknowledges this with gladness. In fact, the challenges that married men face are some of God’s means of sanctifying them so they reflect Jesus’ character and holiness. Husbands are given the call to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). The married man has to make the moment-to-moment, day-by-day choices to die to himself and serve his family. This is a great calling, to practice a life of true sacrifice the same way Jesus did.
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2. A single man’s sex drive is God’s invitation for him to consider marriage – Paul counsels men who have trouble with a burning lust to get married (1 Corinthians 7:1-9). He says this even acknowledging that married life comes with its spiritual challenges (v.26-28, 32-35). For a good discussion of this idea, I recommend listening to Dr. Albert Mohler’s message, “The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage.”
Far be it from me to presume from your short email that your answer is to pursue marriage because of your sex drive. That is not what I am saying. I’m merely asking you to consider the possibility that God might want to change your attitude about marriage and lead you toward it. There are many good commentaries and recorded sermons about 1 Corinthians 7 and I would invite you to pour over a few of these and spend serious time asking the Lord whether He would have you marry. I would even find someone at your church who displays spiritual maturity, to pray over this matter with you.
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3. There is no recipe for self-control, only the Holy Spirit – There are many books available that pertain to the subject of lust, books that offer step-by-step approaches to overcoming sin. Many of these books contain bits of wisdom that are very good, but most of them are also just tricks for behavior modification. Our bent toward sin cannot be overcome by a 12-step program or a theological recipe of more prayer, more Bible-reading, more Christian fellowship, and more trying.
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and we only display the Spirit’s fruit when we are keeping in step with the Spirit. I recently wrote a post about the concept of walking in the Spirit that you may find helpful. In another series of posts, “Awakening Our Thirst for God,” I talk more about what it means to “drink” of the Spirit.
The secret of self-control is not that God removes the drives that move us toward sin, but that he overcomes them with new drives that move us toward living right. Walking in the Spirit does not mean the loss of our flesh, but a new vision that fuels our love for God and enables us to say no to temptation.
It is unlikely that God will merely take away your sex drive. First, your sex drive is actually a part of a larger relationship drive. The soup of hormones that drive you sexually are also used to drive you to connect to people in non-sexual ways. We are wired for relationships. Second, God doesn’t take away your sex drive for the same reason he doesn’t take away your drives to eat, sleep, recreate, laugh, be entertained, or work—God calls us to use these drives discriminately, and they offer occasions for us to practice a life of sacrificial worship. When God calls a single man or woman to “fast” from sexual stimulation, He wants us to do so as an act of worship. For more information about this, I recommend reading our posts by my friend Ellen Dykas about “Godly UNmarried Sexuality.”
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4. Find real community – In your email you expressed your need for accountability: “I need to have someone to be accountable to. Being alone most of the time and single, it is too easy to do what I want when I want to do it.” This is exactly right. Christian community is one of God’s means for healing and empowerment in the Christian life.
Many of our stabs at Christian community can become trite and pointless pretty quick. I’ve been in a lot of Bible studies and small groups over the years, and these experiences have definitely had their place instructing me in the ways I should go. But rarely did we really seek to know one another in these groups.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The verse indicates that we are called to interact with one another in such a way that we can give honest and helpful feedback to one another, feedback that helps one another see how sin is operating at the heart level. It is easy to point out obvious sins to each other. But our call “every day” is to engage with each other and try to understand the deeper issues, the deeper sins that drive our actions.
James write, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). The church is meant to be a place of mutual confession and powerful, face-to-face intercession, yet today too few people can say they are in a Christian fellowship such as this. We need to dare to confess our darkest sins. We need to dare to hear the sins of others. This is real accountability. Certainly, you must choose to whom and how you confess your sins with discernment and wisdom, but finding that kind of accountability is crucial.
For an excellent treatment of how to do this, read Dr. Larry Crabb’s, Inside Out. This book is, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of deep change that can take place in the heart.
I hope some of these words can get you started in a good direction. Please take my words with a grain of salt—I can’t presume to know you or your situation from one email. I write these ideas because many of them were helpful to me when I was a single man. Thanks for your question and God bless.