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A Brief Theology of Desire

A couple of days ago I received an email from a young man who reads this site and he asked a rather simple question: How am I to react to sexual desire? As a teenager, unmarried and with marriage in the distant future rather than the near future, he wanted to know how God would have him understand sexual arousal.

That took me a little bit of thought, but here is how I think a young man can understand sexual arousal.

Sexual Arousal Motivates Marriage. Arousal points you to the fact that God wants you to marry. The fact that you feel sexual desire is a good and God-given thing—he uses it to point you toward marriage. Sexual desire is a part of how God has wired men so that they will pursue a bride. So in that way, see it as something that is not inherently evil. Arousal is evil only if it is improperly acted upon or if it leads to sin.

Sexual Arousal Preaches Imperfection. The very fact that you feel sexual desire tells you that you are incomplete—incomplete without a wife with whom you can find satisfaction and fulfillment of that desire. And I think this kind of incompletion can point you to the wider reality that we live in an incomplete world marred by the realities of sin. There may be a deeper lesson in unfulfilled sexual desire.

Sexual Arousal Teaches Self-Control. Young men who continually give in to sexual desire by acting out on it through masturbation train themselves—their minds and bodies—that they need and deserve sexual release whenever they feel desire. And yet that is not how life works. Even married men with loving wives and great sex lives deal with a great deal of unfulfilled sexual desire. So this is an opportunity to train yourself, while still young, that sexual desire can and must be controlled if it is to be something that is properly stewarded to the glory of God.

In the end, if you trust the Lord, you can know that there is no temptation that must cause you to sin. The Holy Spirit gives you the ability, the power, to stand strong in the face of even the most difficult torment. So in those moments when desire is aroused and when it feels like torture, you need to plead the cross, you need to preach the gospel to yourself. In those moments you need to know that Christ died to forgive sin and he rose to overcome the power of sin and death. So you can remain unstained by sexual sin.