Behind Closed Doors: Sexual Sin in the Fight for Purity

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Behind Closed Doors: Sexual Sin

March 19, 2019  - By Bonnie Willoughby

Behind Closed Doors-Sexual Sin-Well-Watered Women

How it began

When I was about five years old, I remember sitting on the bathroom floor idly thumbing through an old magazine and happened to see a tiny advertisement for a book about sex. The cover had a naked man and woman positioned just so you didn’t see the “private parts,” but still enough to convey a sexual tone. I was immediately dumbstruck. My little mind grasped for terms and framework to process what I was looking at, but it came up blank. This was something new, something interesting, and yet something at which I knew I shouldn’t look.

Over the years there were similar incidents at increasing speed and intensity. Curiosity turned into interest and interest turned into desire. Even though I felt searing shame, pornography and masturbation became destructive habits in my life.

Struggle and shame

Like many who also struggle with lust and masturbation, I felt shame beyond imagination. Paul’s aching question in Romans 7:24 put words to my feelings. “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?” I knew it was wrong, and I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how to take hold of victory and be free from this habit. So I stayed silent. I kept my secret and vowed that I would take it to my grave. Fortunately, we cannot hide our sins from the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:13).

As I got older, I became desensitized to the Spirit’s conviction and my heart was hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). Shame took a backseat to rationalization. It’s not that bad. It’s not like I’m having actual sex. Borrowing from a culture that preached that masturbation was a good thing, I talked my way out of holiness and gave into temptation. When someone would ask me how I was doing spiritually, I would lie. When someone asked me what I was doing in my room so much, I would lie. Dishonesty allowed my secret sin to continue for years, expanding into other forms of sexual sin, and there was so much that I kept concealed. But one day, it all blew wide open and I couldn’t hide anymore because a holy, loving Father does not allow His children to continue in deceit. Psalm 51:6 tells us, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (NASB).

 

Well-Watered Women-You cannot win spiritual battles with physical tools alone. If you are battling sin, you must fight with the power of Christ (Eph. 6-10–13)

Repentance and freedom

By God’s grace and sovereignty, He used an unplanned pregnancy to get my attention and shine a spotlight on the habits and patterns that had contributed to my very sexual lifestyle. I finally came to terms with the fact that pornography and masturbation were sin. They were not harmless habits, but blatant sexual immorality. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion…” (1 Thess. 4:3–5a). Once I identified sin as sin, my rationalizations, explanations, excuses, and bargaining held no weight. I couldn’t continue as before because now I was responsible to confess and repent (James 4:8–10).

Once I was pregnant, I couldn’t hide from others anymore either. The Lord graciously and relentlessly pressed me to confess my sin to people who knew me and loved me. I was a weak, feeble Christian and had been separated from the flock for too long. The Body of Christ is called to bear one another’s burdens and I desperately needed the support and accountability (Gal. 6:2). I began seeing a Christian counselor who helped women living in sexual sin, and I opened up to my family and friends. Gradually, facing my sin became less and less scary. I felt less and less alone. I found that many other women struggled with porn and masturbation. It wasn’t “just a guy’s problem.” It was affecting people I knew who had been struggling in silence for years just like I had! Through open and honest conversations, the Lord showed me freedom I had never experienced before.

Over time, with the help of my counselor and others, I became aware of certain triggers that led me toward temptation. Boredom, stress, and my monthly hormonal changes played a big part in the pattern I had lived in for years. If I was experiencing any of those triggers, I knew I had to take great care to be prayerfully on guard against the enemy. Instead of letting myself lounge around, I tried to get up and do something to distract my mind (Eph. 5:14–17). If I got stressed, I had to put away my old coping mechanisms (Eph. 4:22–24) and replace them with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:5–7). When I felt the hormones washing over me every month, I would remind myself that Jesus is Lord over all creation. I was created through Him and for Him; He is before all things and in Him all things hold together, including my physical body (Col. 1:16–17). If He truly is Lord of the universe, He could give me the grace to help in my monthly time of need (Heb. 4:16)!

However, the biggest tool in fighting this decades-old stronghold was spending regular, meaningful time studying my Bible. You cannot win spiritual battles with physical tools alone. If you are battling sin, you must fight with the power of Christ (Eph. 6:10–13). Make no mistake: the gospel of Christ is one that not only provides victory in death, but victory in life as well (Rom. 8:37)! Until I began consistently reading the Word and letting the Holy Spirit renew my mind, I had no way to experience that victory. But when I did begin to study my Bible regularly, the power of God started to change me.

“The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). 

Confession and community are not your enemy | Well-Watered Women | Behind Closed Doors: Sexual Sin

When we spend regular time studying our Bibles, we find a greater appetite for the Lord and His Word, and our hungry lusts begin to lose their strength. He promises that if we walk by the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16)! But we cannot live by the Spirit if we neglect our relationship with Him through His Word.

Spending time with the Lord through His Word and prayer also tore down the warped way I had viewed God for so long. When I regularly looked at porn and masturbated, I started to see God as angry, vindictive, waiting for me to fail, and eager to punish. My own disobedience was the enemy’s primary tool in changing how I viewed the Lord. In my mind He was no longer my Advocate, but my accuser, and that only drove me further from Him. It was only after I daily spent time with Him that I began to see that yes, He is holy, He is Judge, and He cannot tolerate sin, but He also has compassion on us like a father and remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:13–14). He understands our temptations and sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). He promises to be with His children through the fierce trials of temptation (Is. 43:1–3).

The continual fight for purity

While I have finally experienced ongoing victory in this area of my life, I still have to stand guard and sometimes actively fight against these same temptations. What I watch, read, and listen to directly affects my mind. Every day I have to think about and practice what I know to be good and godly (Phil. 4:8–9). I take extra precautions to stay busy and prayerful during the times of the month I know I’m most vulnerable. But above all, I make it my priority to stay in fellowship with the Lord, and walk in holiness. Through that obedience, He has transformed my life in very tangible ways. Christ redeemed my unplanned pregnancy, and my daughter is a living, breathing testament to His mercy and grace. He has used my past sexual sin and my present victory over it to equip me to minister to women wrestling with the same struggles.

So if you are struggling with pornography and masturbation, or other sexual sin, I want you to know some things: The Lord loves you and wants you to be free from this prison. Confession and community are not your enemy. Saturating yourself in Scripture and spending time in prayer is the best thing you can do right now. There is victory in our Lord Jesus Christ, and He can redeem anything.

your sister,
Bonnie

Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!

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Behind Closed Doors-Sexual Sin Struggles-Pursuing Holiness-Well-Watered Women

  1. Jen says:

    I appreciate this blog post. More women in the church need to talk about sexual sin. However, I did take issue with one part of this article: masturbation. Is it inherently sinful? Is mutual masturbation in marriage wrong? This specific topic might deserve another blog post.

  2. Nancy says:

    thank you

  3. […] Behind Closed Doors: Sexual Sin […]

  4. Fee says:

    Please pray for me. I need accountability and prayer. I’m struggling with deep rooted sexual sin.

    • Friend, I am praying for you right now. Understand that there is freedom in Christ, and the Holy Spirit IS more powerful than your temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that the Lord gives us a way of escape in the middle of our temptations, so that we can not fall into sin. Preach that truth to yourself and begin to look for His “escape-hatches” when you’re tempted! -Bonnie

  5. Felicia says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! For this blog

  6. Deb says:

    Thankyou so much for this article. For 34 years I gave struggled with lust and masterbation since I first found a magazine in my brothers room at the tender age of 14. At age 21 I gave my life to Christ and I no longer fornicate and I’ve been married to the same Christian man since age 23 but I’ve never been able to get beyond six months without falling into this sin again. God showed me masterbation is in His eyes as bad as adultery. I often tend to isolate myself and feel I’m not really saved because I go back to this again and again. Reading the article I now see I’m not alone in this secret sin and freedom really is possible. Thank you again for this timely article. Deb

    • Dear friend, I am praying for you! I KNOW how hard this struggle can be, and I would encourage you to talk to someone about what you’re going through. It has helped me immensely to be able to confess and talk about my sin to another person and seek out the Lord’s help. Victory. Is. Possible! 🙂 -Bonnie

  7. Nat says:

    Thank you for this! It’s exactly what I needed to hear during this time. This has been an ongoing struggle and one that I’ve tried hiding from others for many years. Please pray that the Lord works in my heart and mind.

    • Hey, friend! Bonnie the author here. I am praying for you right now that you will find victory in this area of your life through Christ! He worked in my life and I know He can work in yours! <3

  8. Katie Raeann Copen says:

    Was saved at a young age but the way I deal with grief and stress is different and it became a way of escape. I have been addicted to this and trying to quit for thirteen years I have not been the person I want to be and with me getting married soon this is a weight I want to remove but ik I can’t do it myself anymore I’ve tried please pray for me and any advice would be helpful

    • Hi, friend! Bonnie here–I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this particular sin, but I am here to encourage you that there IS victory to be had in Christ! I am walking in freedom and it is possible. First of all, my biggest advice is to confess it to the Lord, then confess it to others. Chances are, you have already confessed this to the Lord a million times. (I know I had!) But with this particular habit, it mustn’t stop there. For me, a lot of the power masturbation had over me was broken when I told someone about my struggle. Once it was brought to light, it didn’t seem so big, scary and unbeatable. So find someone you trust that you can share this with and get to work on being honest, identifying your triggers and replacing masturbation with a godly habit. Prayer, reading your Bible, taking a walk with worship music on, etc. I pray that you’ll be free from this soon, and be able to walk with joy as you follow Christ! -Bonnie

  9. Queen says:

    Thanks Bonnie for this post. I could have literally written the exact same thing. I have also struggled with lust and sexual desire from the age of 14. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I lost my virginity to a complete stranger in a one night stand. Now, I have a daughter that was also conceived in this manner. God used this unplanned pregnancy to show me how destructive those habits are. That was more than 4 years ago, and I am still single. I’m 29 and I hate being single and I desire to be married above all else, but I have to remind myself that marriage isn’t going to solve all of my issues in this area, although it would make it easier if I was allowed to have sex by being married. This week, I have struggled specifically with being in contact with a man who is only interested in a casual, no strings attached encounter, and I can’t say I’m not tempted to, because it sounds appealing to me. I just need a lot of prayer because I don’t see how being abstinent is worth it anymore if God isn’t providing me with a husband. I know what the right thing to do is, but it is tough, nevertheless.

    • Hey, friend. I’m so glad this could resonate with you and your heart. It is SO hard sometimes to resist temptation! But remember–Jesus Christ is the goal! Not relief from temptation, not a husband, not even abstinence and purity by themselves! JESUS and a relationship with Him is our ultimate goal, and He will *never* disappoint us. We will always be satisfied in Him. <3 Much love to you, friend! I am praying for you now! -Bonnie

  10. Charis says:

    I’m sixteen and have been struggling with lust and masturbation for about six months now. it all started with curiosity and trying to find a way to relieve my constant desire, since I’m saving myself for marriage. I feel disgusting and guilty for this sin, I feel like I’m betraying God and he hates me. I’ve been trying so hard to break free but I always come back no matter how many times I turn away. You said more than once in your article to talk to someone, but I don’t know who to talk to. I could never bare telling my parents, our family is SO close to God, I can’t imagine what they would think of me. I don’t have a mentor, therapist, teacher or friend I really feel comfortable with either. I feel completely stuck. Do you have any type of accountability partner/community on your page? anyways, please pray for me.

    • Hi, Charis! I am praying for you now. There is no judgment here–I completely understand the struggle. Here’s a few pieces of advice based off your comment: 1. Don’t let fear of what people will think keep you from dealing with sin in your life! I found that when I got honest with others about my sin, they were gracious, understanding, and some had even struggled with the same thing! 2. God loves you, even now. He does NOT hate you! All He wants for you is freedom and redemption through His Son. Don’t let the enemy use your sin to twist your view of God. He has not changed–He still loves you and only wants the best for you. <3 3. Here is a website where you can find a certified Christian counselor to speak with. https://biblicalcounseling.com/find-a-counselor/ Don’t let this secret fester in the dark–bring it out into the light by talking with someone. It’ll be scary and hard, but you’ll feel so much better after it’s done. (And if your family is as wonderful and godly as they sound, your parents might be the first people to talk to!) 🙂 You can have victory over this, friend. Jesus can redeem it. Much love–Bonnie

    • Amanda says:

      I relate to your struggle with who to confide in, Charis. In addition to turning to a safe and trusted friend, a Christian counselor referred me to a 12-step group that holds women-only meetings (Sex Addicts Anonymous). Turns out going to these meetings was a place where I felt LEAST alone, could share my real struggles, and women would nod in understanding. My safe, trusting friend could pray with and support me, but she couldn’t necessarily relate to my struggle. In SAA I have been able to find accountability to abstain from my addictive sexual behaviors as well as work through the root issues that led to my acting out. Thanks be to God, I have been free from masturbation, pornography, and infidelity for over four years now. In this process, I’ve found God, His mercy, and love more and more. Prayers for your freedom and recovery, Charis! p.s. SAA is located all over the world and, as a result of Covid, there are many meetings online you can join to check it out.

  11. Adele says:

    Thank you so much for this post.
    I’ve been struggling for quite a long time in this sexual sin. Especially with my significant other. We both are active in our church community and we have tried to get out of this sin but often we fail. Since we are saving ourselves for marriage, we often get carried away by rocketing hormones and temporary lust. I feel disgusted with myself and I have this bad habit of pulling myself away from God every-time I sinned. I ended up feeling like a failure and a hypocrite. I serve Him in church but my life doesn’t reflect what He teaches.

    Please pray for me and for my significant other to break free from this lust prison.

  12. Fortune Chipata says:

    Well this is so encouraging

  13. Allysa says:

    I just came across this article because my heart is heavy. I’ve been divorced and celibate for 3 years. To the end of my marriage I was unfaithful and haven’t been in touch with this guy. But in may of this year I met someone new and we hit it off. He was pressuring so much for sex that i gave in and we did it 3 times and then the relationship ended. I was so hurt. Then at the very time I lost both of my closest friends and I feel like such a mess. So the guy I was unfaithful with to the 3end of my marriage started talking with me again. It was harmless and before long I was back in bed with him. I have struggled for years getting over him and now he’s back I’m struggling with celibacy. Most days I’m alone and I feel like God is so displeased with me right now because I know better. But its just that loneliness and hurt has ripped me apart in a horrible way and being in contact with him is helping me to cope. I want to resume my journey of celibacy but I feel really weak and broken and despite I say I am not going down this route I end up back in the same boat.

    • Allysa, I’m so sorry to hear about such a burden on your heart. For situations that involve habitual sin patterns, it would probably be helpful and healing for you to find someone in your community that you could go through this with. A trusted and godly friend, your pastor’s wife, or a biblical counselor in your area would be able to come alongside you during this time! Laying your sin before the feet of Christ, knowing He has overflowing compassion and forgiveness for us when we confess our sins, is the first step toward walking away from ungodly habits. He is so faithful to forgive, and so mighty to redeem areas of our lives that feel unredeemable. There is hope in Christ, dear friend! He can wash us clean 🧡

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