6 lessons I've learned from my struggle with sexual sin

Getting Real About Purity: 6 Lessons I’ve Learned from My Struggle

6 lessons I've learned from my struggle with sexual sin

This is the second post in my “Getting Real About Purity” series: a series I hope will encourage us to take an honest and scriptural look at sex, temptation and the pursuit of purity. Check out the first post here, and check back next Tuesday for the final post in this series.

I prayed over writing this post for a year. I was afraid to write it because I had to be vulnerable and honest, and I feared the judgment I might receive (I’m continually learning how cruel and harsh people on the internet can be). Then I realized my fear could prevent me from seizing an opportunity to debunk myths about the value of sex outside of marriage and connect with girls at various stages in their struggle with sexual sin.

Why read yet another post advocating purity? Well, I won’t claim to have special insight on this topic or a great deal of new wisdom to share (any wisdom in this post was granted to me from God through scripture and discussions with older Christians). What I do have is experience: experience making poor choices and dealing with the long-term repercussions of those choices. My experiences have reaffirmed all that I’ve learned from scripture. It is my hope and prayer that in sharing my experiences I can share lessons I learned the hard way in order to encourage those of you flirting with sexual sin to flee from it, as we are instructed to do in 1 Corinthians 6:18, and value purity.

The ultimate reason to pursue purity is that it’s God’s will for us.

For too long, I held a counterproductive view of purity. I thought purity was a lofty goal only righteous people who never struggle with sexual sin could attain. Consequently, the pursuit of purity always seemed hopeless to me with all of my unrighteousness and damage from past sin.

Purity didn’t seem attainable until I began to focus on pleasing God rather than reaching a goal. Only then did I realize the ultimate reason to pursue purity: it is God’s will for our lives to be continually sanctified so that we can have a relationship with him through Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). From the creation of man in Genesis 1, God’s desire has been for us to choose to have a relationship with him as well. In order for us to do that, we have to abide by God’s holy standards and seek to be holy, as He is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16), and be pure, as he is pure (1 John 3:3). Yes, purity is a high standard that has been impossible for any man but Jesus to attain of his own volition. Yes, our flesh is weak, and we can never be pure on my own. But God is rooting for those of us who choose to seek Him. That’s why he has extended grace and mercy to cover us as we are being sanctified, and he strengthens us with his Word, his Spirit, and the hope we have in Jesus Christ. He gives us all the tools we need to fight this spiritual battle because he wants us to be victorious with Him.

So let’s not seek purity for purity’s sake. That’s a tiring, fruitless quest. Let’s seek purity because God wants us to be pure, and we should want to show our love and gratitude for a holy God who has gone to great lengths to have a relationship with us.

Even a little sexual sin can cause great damage.

Here’s a lie about sex the devil has effectively planted in our hearts: just a little won’t hurt. Just a little porn won’t hurt. Just a little making out won’t hurt. Just having sex one time won’t hurt. Here’s the problem with that lie: Once you know what sex looks and feels like, you can’t erase that knowledge; and even a little taste of sex leads to the desire for more. This shouldn’t be surprising. God created sex to be a wonderful, powerful blessing for mankind, but only within the confines of marriage (Genesis 2:25; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Trying to access that blessing outside of God’s plan typically leads to an overwhelming desire for more that you cannot righteously fulfill as an unmarried person.

Furthermore, the consequences of sexual sin are typically greater than you think they will be. There are spiritual consequences. The guilt, shame and despair you experience after committing sexual sin only pushes you further from God, and that separation becomes palpable. There are mental consequences. Subconscious triggers can result from past sexual experiences, and these triggers make the mental battle against lust extremely difficult. There are even physical consequences. I think we are all familiar with the various STDs we catch from even one brief sexual encounter.

In the heat of passion, it’s difficult to consider the big picture. But don’t let the devil trick you into thinking just a little bit of sexual sin won’t harm you (the consequences may not appear immediately, but the damage will be done). Instead, head the command Paul gives in Romans 13:14:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Sexual sin is never an act of love; it’s an act of selfishness.

Here’s another lie Satan has done a good job of disseminating: Sex outside of marriage is good if it’s between two people who ‘love’ each other. I used to believe this lie, and then I learned two critical aspects of love: “It does not insist on its own way,” and “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:5, ESV).

Love is not self-focused. It requires the constant pursuit of others’ best interests over our own. (Those of us belonging to Christ know the best interest for ANY man is to dedicate himself to Christ and seek to be pleasing unto God.) Love also does not delight in sin. It delights in the God’s truth, which is love, and righteousness. So if a man pressures you into doing anything sexual with him because he “loves you” and wants to show it, that’s not love. That’s manipulation based in a selfish desire for physical pleasure. If you allow yourself to give into such pressure for sex, you’re not displaying true love for him either. You’re putting your desire for that relationship over what’s good and right. True love requires standing in the face of temptation and saying, “no!” Sometimes true love even requires distancing yourself from a relationship that could be spiritually damaging to both parties. Even when it hurts, even when we face rejection from men we care for, we have to seek what’s best for them.

Sexual sin results from trying to meet real needs in a broken way.

I learned this concept from one of my mentors, Teresa. This was a groundbreaking realization for me. For so long I felt like such a fool for falling in and out of sexual temptation. Then Teresa helped me realize I was wrongly using sex to meet needs that were completely natural.

I longed for companionship, love, trust, acceptance, affirmation, intimacy — and none of those desires are inherently wrong. What is wrong is how I tried to circumvent God’s will and timing to immediately meet those needs with sexual sin. Fortunately, Teresa also taught me that there are righteous ways to meet those needs. For example, the need for companionship and acceptance is fulfilled by being an active, serving member in the body of Christ, the church. Just as serving others helped me overcome depression, it also fulfills my desire to have meaningful relationships with other people.

Thankfully God, in all his grace and mercy, gives us the ultimate means for fulfilling our emotional and physical needs: marriage.  Our job is to faithfully wait for such a blessing and seek godly ways to fulfill our needs during our seasons of singleness.

False intimacy destroys our ability to experience true intimacy.

I breaks my heart to think of the many girls who fall prey to false intimacy, as I did. They desire intimate connection, but for varying reasons they don’t wait to fulfill that desire in marriage. So they settle for guys who give them little but ask for much by way of sexual relationships. Inevitably the intimacy they think is real betrays them, and their hearts are broken. In an effort to protect their broken hearts, they develop a callous attitude towards intimacy, and they attempt to separate the physical act of sex from the emotional involvement of intimacy. Ironically they become similar to the men who hurt them.

If this sounds like you, I want to remind you of two things:

1) God has something much greater in store for you: true intimacy in marriage — the connection that’s experienced between people two people who trust each other and are fully committed to serving each other. We cheat ourselves from the future joy of true intimacy when we settle for a cheap counterfeit.

2) You’re not just cheating yourself and future husband by settling for false intimacy, you’re destroying your ability to experience spiritual intimacy with God, who desires for you to be holy. So let’s not take intimacy lightly. Let’s value it for the blessing it is, but wait for men who deserve to experience it with us.

Confession is essential for healing.

I remember, opening up about my struggle with sexual sin in a prayer group, and feeling so ashamed because I thought no one could relate to my struggle. I felt like a heathen amongst saints. To my surprise, a few girls in the group approached me afterward to let me know they experienced similar struggles and also thought they were alone. In those moments, I realized the importance of confessing to one another as we’re instructed to do in James 5:16. Too many of us hide in our secret sexual sin because we’re ashamed and fear the judgment we may receive. In our attempt to escape judgment, we miss opportunities to receive encouragement and guidance from our sisters, many of whom experienced similar struggles. We can’t effectively pray for each other if we don’t know what to pray for. So let’s open up to faithful sisters we can trust and take advantage of the healing that results from prayers of the righteous.

I’ll end this post with two heartfelt pleas: To those of you who have not succumbed to sexual sin, please stay strong, stay on guard, and keep trusting in The Lord. Please know you aren’t missing out by waiting until marriage. God’s plan for sex is for our benefit, and the consequences of rebelling against Him are great. To those of you who have made mistakes, please know you are not alone and you don’t have to secretly wallow in your sin or guilt. Thankfully God’s grace is greater than ALL our sins, and He is able that frees us from the bondage of sexual sin. That’s what I will discuss in my post next week, along with some practical tips for fighting sexual temptation in the future.

Downtown Demure

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    Kiera
    04/21

    Love this. (: It’s so powerful and strong and honest. And yeah, people will judge, but I think a lot more people will relate! It’s so important to have these honest conversations so the next generation can be informed and equipped… something I didn’t have the pleasure of! I hope many young people read this and realize just how important it is. (:

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Kiera
      04/22

      Your support means more to me than I can express, Kiera! This was a difficult post to write, but I agree — we have to have informed, honest conversations about sex or we will learn about it from all the wrong sources. Thank you for not judging, my friend. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Elizabeth
    04/22

    Wow, great post! I’m so thankful that you decided to do this series and that you are willing to be open and honest. I think being open and transparent with others is a great thing, however, it can be hard as well. I’ve grown up in church and around other Christians my whole life, and I know how people love to look at someone else’s sin and judge them harshly for it and even enjoy talking about it to other people. So when I mess up, it is almost impossible for me to admit it, because I’ve seen the great hurt it can cause, and how Christians will never forget it. For instance “Oh yeah, that’s the girl who used to do this or that.” Anyways, I definitely value purity. I think that’s why it’s so hard whenever I fail. I get frustrated with myself because I know how important purity is. I guess it’s hard for me to accept that I’m as susceptible to temptation as the next person, no matter how long I’ve been in church or have been saved or how much I believe in purity and have read about it. And then I have to think “Well, what if my future Prince Charming doesn’t want someone like me who hasn’t guarded their heart and mind like they should?” Yeah, that’s me, always thinking about the future lol. Sorry for the forever-long comment lol

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Elizabeth
      04/23

      Oh man. So many good points in your comment, Elizabeth. Sadly even those of us claiming to be disciples of Christ forget to show the compassion and forgiveness he embodied. In that way, so many Christians are like the world and not like Christ at all. Mature Christians will seek to help you repent and change so you can grow closer to Christ, and thankfully there are plenty of mature, loving Christians to balance out the immature Christians. If ever you need to confess a sin you’re struggling with, I urge you to find the a mature, faithful Christian woman in your congregation whom you can trust. (I’m also here to pray for you, but I likely won’t have the wisdom and guidance a more seasoned Christian can provide.)

      I know, It’s frustrating when we fail because we want to be pleasing to God. I think it’s good that you take sin seriously and do all that you can to keep your thoughts and actions pure. But we are all sinners made of weak flesh degraded by fleshly desires, so we have to rely on God for strength, not ourselves. I think of David, a man after God’s own heart. He loved God more than most men, and he STILL made some horrible mistakes. He was not unlike us. Yet, he took his failures to God, asked for forgiveness, and learned from his mistakes so as not to repeat them. I think that’s what God expects of us.

      • Avatar
        Elizabeth
        > Elizabeth
        04/23

        Thanks so much for replying! I’m thankful that I can say I’m pure physically, but I would never look down on someone who wasn’t. I would try to point them to the Cross, where Redemption abides. But for me, the battle, in the past, has been in the mind. No one talks about that part as much! I’m glad to be able to say I know God can restore your soul and clean all that up 🙂

  • Avatar
    Autumn
    04/22

    Wonderful series – I know the next post will be just as great! Thanks for the honesty, cuz I know how terrifying it can be, feeling so exposed and vulnerable. I’m 27 and have been able to maintain physical purity, but it sure hasn’t always been easy and temptation seems to be at every turn. The last guy I was involved with kept pressuring me (even accusing me of having a sex phobia at one point. Ha!), so I had to cut ties with him, cuz he couldn’t accept my beliefs. Anyway, thanks for the honesty and edification you’re blog always provides! 🙂

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Autumn
      04/23

      Yes, writing this post was absolutely terrifying; but reading comments like yours made it worthwhile. Thank you for the love and for sharing your story, Autumn. I’m so glad you cut ties with that guy instead of letting him compromise your standards and purity! You’re an example to us all.

      • Avatar
        Autumn
        > Elizabeth
        04/23

        Thank you for your kind words, Elizabeth! 🙂 Believe me, I’m so relieved to be done with him. I was literally sick to the stomach pretty much the whole time, which I believe was God trying to warn me away…I EVENTUALLY listened. And you’re an example to us all, Elizabeth, for sharing your story with unflinching honesty!

  • Avatar
    Jessie
    04/23

    My favorite “ah ha” moment of your post ->Focus on pleasing God instead of attaining a goal. THAT translates to so many things, everything, in my life really.

    I applaud this post. You’ve written both honestly and intelligently.

    I found you at Peony’s group on FB and I’m so glad I did. Your profile photos is beautiful! You definitely know style and I hope to learn everything. 🙂

  • Avatar
    kike
    04/23

    I Really applaud you for posting this . It is only an evidence of Gods abundant grace in your life. As bitter as it may seem It is the truth. The Illustrations or warnings from the bible you stated are only said to us by God because he loves us. It really is not easy but I think it is so important that a lot more honest messages like this are shared (if you have prayed about it and know that you should share) so that a lot of people know that despite the fact that it seems difficult we can overcome. Even if for some reason we may have compromised on our standards we can pick our selves back up . Focus on God and his love more and he can turn our mess into our message. Really enjoyed this .I would probably share the link to it on my blog too http://www.thefvfactor.blogspot.co.uk if it is ok with you?

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > kike
      04/23

      Hi Kike! Thank you for the sweet words of encouragement. I can’t express how much they mean to me. I made all the mistakes, and his grace repurposed them. I’m glad you took away the ultimate message: God’s grace is bigger than our sins, and he can save us from the bondage of lust if we will let him. I really don’t want girls to think they are doomed because they failed to stay mentally or physically pure. Thank you so much for reading! I don’t mind if you share this post — in fact, I’m humbled you’d even ask. 🙂 God bless, my friend!

  • Avatar
    Allie
    04/23

    Wow. You win! This was so great and a lot of it was new to me! I especially loved the part about sexual sin never being an act of love – so. true. That is such a lie that we’re lead to believe, but it’s so wrong. Thank you.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Allie
      04/23

      Exactly zero It’s a lie that’s easy to believe because we is badly want it to be true. Thank you so much for reading, Allie! Your kind words encourage me greatly.

  • Avatar
    Natasha Atkerson
    04/23

    Thank you for sharing, as a blogger myself I know how scary it can be to admit I’m not perfect. I’m sorry you’ve experienced pain from others, I often find this means they’re only hurting themselves.

    It’s alarming to think about the fact that people think giving into sin will make them happy (I’m specifically thinking of someone who “comes out” and then commits suicide) they think giving into their sinful desires is going to make them happy, but sin (of any kind, and yes! I’m a sinner) will make us unhappy, miserable and void of life.
    I’m so thankful for a Heavenly Father who is patient and forgiving when I blow it.
    Natasha
    A modest fashion blog: http://www.natashaatkerson.blogspot.com

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Natasha Atkerson
      04/23

      Thank you for the encouragement, Natasha! I couldn’t agree more with your comment. Sin is never satisyfing and it never fulfills its promises. I think the lure of sexual sin is that there is a temporary pleasure, but the pain/grief/shame that follows (upon God and ourselves!) completely eclipses that temporary pleasure. Paul put it perfect: Sin leads to death (Romans 6:16). I too am exceedingly thankful we serve a God who wants to save us from such a fate, if only we’ll follow Christ…

  • Avatar
    Toyin Alli
    04/24

    Thank you so much for this post! I am loving this series! We really need to open up and talk more about the reality of the struggle for purity! This post has really helped me!

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Toyin Alli
      04/24

      Thank you so much for reading, sweet friend!

  • Avatar
    Jacqueline
    04/24

    Thank you for sharing this!

  • Avatar
    Anna | SheisJoyful
    04/24

    I love this series. Thank you for opening up 🙂 You are so encouraging.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth
      > Anna | SheisJoyful
      04/24

      Thank you, Anna! Your thoughtful, kind words are encouraging as well.

  • Avatar
    Rachael
    04/30

    This is so beautiful, and something I really needed to hear right now. Thank you <3