Sexually Transmitted Misery
This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
I once met a man who struggled his whole life with pornography, which had been a terribly destructive force in his marriage. He’d prayed many times, asking God to just take away the appetite. Eventually, due to prostate cancer, he underwent treatments that robbed him of all testosterone and libido. His prayer was answered but he was more miserable than before, realizing that he didn’t actually want the thing for which he’d prayed. Looking back, he could see how it had been his responsibility to do what it took to abandon pornography, but he hadn’t. He was now miserable for not having done what God asked him to do.
Our passions are like that. We want something so badly that we justify it, even though we know it’s self-destructive. We find immediate gratification of course, but it doesn’t last. Soon, the misery and regret set in. I can’t tell you how many patients I see in clinic who’ve had a brief pleasurable sexual encounter, only to spend the next several months terrified that they’ve picked up some infection. We all know families who’ve been torn apart by infidelity. Lust makes terrible choices.
In today’s passage, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to abstain from sexual immorality and to not be controlled by their passions. In reading the Bible, it may seem that God wants to rob us of everything pleasurable, but God created us to experience a life of joy and peace. He simply wants us to experience that life the right way, by following his plan. He knows that deviating from his plan causes misery.
When we allow our appetite to control us, we follow ourselves above God. This always causes some destruction and pain in our lives. This doesn’t have to involve a sordid affair. Like in the story above, this can simply involve a smart phone or computer screen. Jesus taught that to lust after a woman, even if only in our minds, is to commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). Again, this may seem puritanical, but I’ve met several men whose marriages have been wrecked, not by an actual affair, but by a digital addiction to pornography.
There is a place for our passion, and sex is a beautiful thing, but God has a plan and there is a right way to enjoy sex. Deviating from his way invites pain. When we allow our passions to make our decisions, we’re simply inviting misery into our lives.