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Friday, July 22, 2005

Dealing With Lust - The Rest of The Story

There's been some interesting dialogue in our conversation about lust, and the discussion keeps returning to a common theme: what do we need to do to actually experience change? I shared a real life example of a friend (I'm calling him Steve), and then I invited folks to offer their suggestions:
Steve is happily married to a godly wife, he loves her, they have great sex, etc. The only problem is, Steve also finds himself attracted to another woman - a common friend they both know. He takes Mt 5 seriously, he wants to stop feeling this way, he prays, he tries to overcome his desires, etc...but it just gets worse - to the point where he's gone all the way in his mind.

I'm not making this up - this is real, this is the reality of sexual desire. And it's strong. Now you tell me: what does Steve need to know or do to experience change in his heart? Where does the rubber really meet the road?
So that's the heat. And now I get to tell you the rest of the story.

In the face of this pressure, my friend Steve did something crazy. He decided he loved his wife too much to keep deceiving her about what was going on inside. So he confessed - he told her about his desires for this other woman. He told her everything. He held nothing back. And her response was amazing.

She didn't get angry. She didn't lash out. She didn't tell him never to speak to this woman again. She didn't say 'try harder'. She didn't say that he better 'fix it or else'...

Instead, she said, "Steve, I love you, I forgive you, and I am with you - you have to learn how to overcome these desires, and I am going to stand beside you and help you do that, because you are my husband, and I am committed to you."

In other words, she didn't say "I will love you because you are faithful, because you are sensitive, because you a good provider, a good leader, a good lover." She didn't say "I will love you because you get it right" (performance). Instead she said "I will love you because you are my husband (relationship). I will love you because of who you are."

Wow. How would you like a wife like that? Can you imagine being a wife like that?

Listen, this is precisely how God deals with us in the gospel - he loves us, and is with us, because of who we are in Christ: sons, not slaves (cf. Gal 4:7). If God's favor is based on what Christ has already done, then nothing you can do - not your greatest triumph, not your worst defeat - nothing can change the way he feels about you.

He loves you because of who you are in Christ.

And recognizing that reality is tremendously liberating. It frees us from our bondage.

Steve told me, "You have no idea how this affected me! When my wife responded to me this way, my heart melted! I was guilty, and instead of the judgment and condemnation which I deserved, she loved me in spite of myself, she gave me grace!"

Real grace rightly seen decimates our desires for sin. When Steve saw clearly the nature and extent of his wife's love for him (because of her commitment to him, not his own fidelity to her), it changed his heart, it tamed his lust. On a scale of 1-10, his desire for this other woman plummeted from an 8 or 9 down to a 1 or a 2.

Why? Because seeing his wife's love for him rejuvenated his own love for her; recognizing why she loved him (relationship, not performance) changed the affections of his heart. His desires for this other woman were revealed for what they were - infatuated titillation, cotton candy for the glands. He finally saw clearly just how much he already had, and it far surpassed the cheap thrills of his own imagination.

What I'm saying in all this is that we don't conquer our lust merely by trying harder (although a heart set free by love most certainly will try hard) - rather, we conquer our lust by learning to love something better, by realizing how it is that Christ loves us. We conquer our lust by seeing the grace of the gospel. That's where the desire to obey actually comes from.

That's why Rom 6:14 says "Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." That's why Jesus said "the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32). That's what you and I need, and that's what Jesus Christ offers.


At 10:31 AM, July 29, 2005, Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

That's a wonderful story. Although the wife's response changed his heart, it's important to remember that she wouldn't have had the chance to respond if her husband hadn't taken the risk of confessing. I find that destructive thoughts are more likely to run rampant in my mind when I am unwilling to admit them. We play a part in bringing our weaknesses out into the light, whether in our relationship with God or with other people.

At 1:39 PM, July 29, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Great point, Eileen - it's always risky to bare our souls this way, and yet the alternatives are even more dangerous (we get worse not better when we hold it all in). Thanks for the comment...

At 9:27 AM, August 03, 2005, Blogger Gift From Virgo said...

Hallelujah and praise God for you. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I needed to read this and I know I will visit you again the future. God bless you.

At 8:53 PM, August 03, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

And we're glad you visited! Hope to hear more from you in the future...

At 4:40 PM, September 30, 2006, Anonymous Beth said...

As much as I love this story, I am frustrated when people use this logic. We need to be able to overcome lust by taking our thoughts captive whether or not our spouses respond appropriately. Also, what if we do not have a spouse? This story seems to serve to strengthen communication as opposed to dealing with lust.

At 9:01 AM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband of 10 years and I have been separated for 2 yrs. God has recently touched our lives together again and we are talking. He has confessed to being unfaithful and I must admit I have been struggling with this for several days now, because he admits to missing this woman and still wanting her. Coming across this story is an answer to prayer and will help me in the times ahead.

At 2:54 PM, October 05, 2007, Blogger Christian said...

Hey Anon - I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to comment, and I want to encourage you as you walk through this hard time.

God is good, and he promises to be with you if you call on him. He doesn't promise to take away our problems, or even guarantee that he's going to fix them, but he does promise that he'll fix us (and sometimes he uses the hardest of circumstances to do this).

So I'd encourage you to hang in there and be encouraged. God is the one who changes hearts, and he can change your husband's. But he might also want to change yours, and that may not be pleasant. But it'll be good in the long run, I promise.

I'd encourage you guys to keep talking, not just to one another, but to a pastor who understands the power of grace (If that raises more questions than it answers, ask me to clarify). I'd also encourage you BOTH to read a book by Nate Larkin, called Samson and the Pirate Monks. It's a beautiful picture of how the gospel can free us from our lusts, through repentance and confession. It just might change your lives and help save your marriage.

Please feel free to holler if you have questions or find yourself discouraged.


At 7:47 PM, November 14, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome job keep up the Good (God) work. This really helped me in a time when I needed help and guidance.

At 4:22 PM, January 13, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This same exact thing has happened to my and my fiance. we have been dating for five years and we are getting married in less than 3 months and he just told me that yes, same thing...a friend of ours...he went all the way and struggles with thinking about other woman. This all is very hard because I never ever ever knew any of this was even remotely a problem...he says like problems have been going on the past 5 years. i love him and i am with him to the grave and i forgive him but i am absolutely crushed. i feel like our whole relationship is a lie. i dont know what to beleivve or expect anymore. i cant talk to anyone about this because we are about to get married and i dont want to dishonor him. i really need help. i have no idea what to do...

At 10:25 PM, January 13, 2009, Blogger Christian said...

Hey there Anon,

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me how this post in particular seems to strike a chord (or perhaps a nerve) in people. It's amazing how many of us struggle with these same things.

From your description, it sounds like all this is still very much 'in the present' - I'm not entirely sure whether your fiance has actually 'confessed and repented' or just 'informed' you that this is going on. That's a detail that will probably influence your response.

I also don't really know where you are coming from spiritually (and I don't want to presume), but again, this is a detail that influences the situation.

Couple of thoughts:

1. First and foremost, you need to know that God really cares about you in this situation. It may feel like you're all alone, but you're not. You need to know that God is intimately aware of what you're going through right now. He doesn't promise to make it go away (or to even make it work out a certain way), but he does promise that he'll be with you through it, and that this is not something that needs to define you (as a failure, or whatever). If you're not already doing so, I'd encourage you to ask him to help you. Because you're going to need his help to walk through this.

2. I'd also really encourage both of you to sit down and talk to a third party about this - someone who's honest, someone who's wise, someone who will love both of you well enough to ask hard questions and help you guys get to the heart of the matter. Because you need help. You're not meant to walk through this on your own. And you need more honesty at this point, not less.

Ultimately, I think you need someone to help you who really understands God's message of grace, and how that can make a difference for both of you in something like this.

That's a pretty short response to what is probably a huge deal in your life right now. It's hard to know what to say without knowing more details. If you'd like to talk further via email, please don't hesitate to ping me - christian dot cryder at gmail dot com.


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