Some time ago, we 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.”
Like this person, you may feel trapped by habitual masturbation even after leaving porn behind. Christians have different convictions when it comes to masturbation. However, it’s a habit that easily feels out of control, and many people (Christians and non-Christians alike) need help dealing with it.
Why Can’t I Stop Masturbating?
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). From a Christian perspective, breaking free of porn and masturbation means changing heart desires rather than just behaviors.
The Bible does not directly condone or condemn masturbation—there’s no one passage that specifically forbids it as Matthew 5:28 forbids lusting after a person. But the Bible does address a myriad of heart-level issues tied to why people masturbate. Scripture also shows us the path to freedom.
Related: Can you masturbate without lusting?
The Connection Between Masturbation and Faith
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” and feels he is not living out his values consistently. 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:
- In our triggers
- In our bodies
- In our deepest longings
How to Resist the Urge to Masturbate
Remember, before you think about overcoming masturbation, make sure you’ve taken the prerequisite step: quitting porn.
However, even after leaving porn behind, you may still wonder, “Why do I masturbate when I’m sad, lonely, or stressed?” The urge can feel overwhelming, and you may be discouraged by your repeated attempts to quit.
1. Identify Your Triggers
There are different kinds of triggers: external and internal. An external trigger might be spotting a racy billboard on the way to work or seeing a plunging neckline. Learning to bounce our eyes away from these sorts 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.
Stress as a Trigger
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 and 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.
Envy as a Trigger
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 it to pursue oneness in marriage?
Anger at God as a Trigger
Our trigger might be anger at God. Perhaps we are dissatisfied with the way our life has turned out, so we blame God. We turn to masturbation as our own private activity that grasps for 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?
2. Address Your Physical Tension
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?
God has created built-in release mechanisms for single men: either nocturnal emissions or absorption. For more thoughts on handling your sex drive when you’re single, check out For Singles: How to Handle a Strong Sex Drive in a God-honoring Way.
For couples, 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 pray for a non-sinful release of tension in our members.
3. Examine Your Deep Longings
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
Things to Do Instead of Masturbating
Do we believe God is an all-satisfying Being? Do we believe it is our chief purpose to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? In the Covenant Eyes ebook Hobbies and Habits, Lisa Eldred explores seven different types of hobbies that you can develop as alternatives to porn and masturbation. Here’s a brief summary:
- Creative hobbies like music, writing, or painting.
- Physical hobbies such as sports, or hiking.
- Practical hobbies including things like cooking and sewing.
- Intellectual hobbies like reading or learning a language.
- Experiential hobbies are sure to leave a lasting impression—like traveling or sky diving.
- Generous hobbies teach you to think about others. It might be serving at a local soup kitchen.
- Social hobbies connect you to other people, which is important because masturbation is a lonely and isolating habit.
Curious to learn more? Download the ebook for free! How has God helped you in your fight?