A woman’s struggle for sexual purity can be just as hard as that of a man. I didn’t acknowledge this in last weeks sermon and have been reminded through the week of the need to encourage both men and women towards purity. There have been a number of recent surveys that shed light on the fact that many women are struggling with issues of sexual purity: in Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus’ book “Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex” they speak of an informal survey that was held at a women’s conference that showed nine out ten married women may at some time been attracted to a man who is not their husband. Tim Chester, in his book “Captured by a better vision: Living porn-free”, quotes statistics that as many as one in five christian women use pornography.1
What may make a woman’s struggle for sexual purity even more difficult is that their struggle is so often a lonely one. Men, it seems, are more willing to share their struggles in this area of life with other christian men – and so there is more encouragement and accountability, while for women their struggle can often be in great isolation with little encouragement. I personally fear that my sermon last week may have only added to that isolation as I spoke [not exclusively, but largely] towards men.
Another reason behind this isolation is that a woman’s sexual struggle is often more emotional and less visual, and therefore mostly invisible. Women who aren’t drawn to pornography may instead escape into romantic movies or steamy novels that encourage fantasies about romance with the man of their dreams. Temptation in this way often begins with dissatisfaction in your romantic life [whether you are single or married]. This dissatisfaction leaves you longing for someone who will love you better and realise your true value.
For women, as it is for men, the core of this temptation is in the heart. Sin at its core is always a heart issue – a temptation to mistrust God; to think that either:
- God doesn’t know what is best or
- He doesn’t want whats best for me
So that if I want what is best I had better take things into my own hands.
Many women in our society at present do not trust God in matters of sexuality. Some express this by going from one sexual relationship to the next seeking to find the love they pine for, but never achieving it. Other married women seek emotional intimacy with a man they are not married to, others still indulge in fantasies to escape reality – all of these begin with the heart betraying God.
It is in this way that women try to meet their hearts longing by something other than God – and so they devote their hearts to love, sex or romance. These can then become idols in their lives that will never give satisfaction but instead leave them empty and broken.
The key to dealing with temptation in this area for women is dealing with the issue of trusting God. We need to be constantly reminded that God does indeed know what is best and want what is best for us, regardless at what the world is saying to us. We need to take God at his word, that nothing will separate us from his love Romans 8:38-39 and ask him to help us recognise his love in our lives. We also need to take God at his word about watching our lives closely to avoid sin.
Part of this involves a willingness to put some structural changes into our life to reduce the opportunities to feed the “old self”. As a man I will not be an expert in what those structural changes might be. But I am sure that when women start talking honestly with other women about this area of life then those conversations will provide helpful ideas. I would imagine that avoiding steamy books like “Fifty shades of Grey” is an obvious start, but possibly being wary of the whole romance genre [novels, movies, and television] is a wise move.
The danger of talking about structural changes that need to take place is that some people may miss all the “matter of the heart” and hear a ‘set of rules’ solution. The problem with a set of rules is that people may either keep them and become proud, or fail them and despair.
Better still is to come back to the cross and remind people that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Gods people are pure in God’s eyes, forgiven and made new. God through His Spirit is working in us to make us like Christ, and his purposes never fail, even if ours do. However the structural changes provide us with ways we can discipline ourselves to keep in step with the Spirit.
What is crucial in all this is forgiveness. The woman [or man] who struggles with sexual sin needs to be reminded of God’s gracious gospel. God is well aware of our sin, and our need for repentance and his help to change. He offers his help to whoever will humbly ask for it, and grants forgiveness freely through Jesus.
1. Tim Chester, Captured by a better vision: Living porn-free, IVP, Nottingham, 2010, pp. 11-12, and an informal survey at a women’s conference Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus, Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex, Waterbrook Press, Colarado Springs, 1999, p. 92