Suffering Silently: Lust and the Christian Woman

The Damage

Before I became a Christian, I found myself in many situations where my lust manifested in very tangible actions. At the time, was glad to have those experiences because it seemed like engaging in this behavior was part of a rite of passage into adulthood.

Even so, there were feelings of loss, shame, and embarrassment. I concluded that they were an expected and common response, and that ultimately learning how to navigate through those emotions was an integral part of maturing in the world.

The Aftermath

By the time I became Christian, lust was last on my list of things to meditate on. I quickly gathered it was not something that was discussed much (if at all), and I feared that talking about it would make others think I was perverted. Anyways, I naively believed that the things I struggled with before would not follow me into my new life. I equated conversion to the absence of struggle.

But the more God grew me, the weightier the sin of lust became and the more real it was in my life. Despite knowing that indulging in my fleshly desires was wrong, I still fell time and time again.

I repeatedly fed my flesh’s desires for instant gratification. Even a small release felt worth it until the moment was over and I wallowed in how weak I was. Eventually, I reached a point where I felt like lust had too powerful a foothold in my life for it to not be a routine part of my days. It was a relentless cycle of sin, intense discouragement, repentance, repeat.

I asked God questions like, “Why am I so weak?” and “Why is this something I struggle with?” when I should have been asking Him questions like, “What is your design for sex?” and “What truths should I be fighting these temptations with?” Ultimately, I should have been asking for greater faith to believe that God holds no good thing back from His people, and He calls us to purity out of His great love for us. His rules are but loving boundaries put in place to protect us from ourselves and each other. But I was overwhelmed with guilt due to my lack of understanding of grace and redemption even in what seemed like the dirtiest of sins.

The Silence

Besides small windows of opportunities, my sin of lust really didn’t get talked about. My conclusion was this -- Christian women just don’t struggle with lust, and that made me and the select individuals I found solace in the misfits.
Even now, as someone who has an accountability group I can share candidly with, I still doubt if other women even do struggle with lust in their own lives. We’ve gotten too good at hiding, smuggling the details of our own battles with lust in the confines of our hearts, as if keeping our struggles in darkness for long enough can somehow deem them nonexistent.

I really believe that lust, especially the female experience of lust, needs to be talked about more frequently. Because this sin is muddled with so much shame and confusion, it remains in darkness and secrecy -- the perfect environment for lust to flourish. Since it is such a taboo topic, a lot of girls never have a chance to consider whether it is a real issue in their lives, where it might stem from, and how it can be manifested in their daily lives. From pornography to erotic novels to relationships to fantasizing, the list is endless in how women are met face to face with lust.

The struggle women face with lust is a blatant reality, but we’re shamed into silence. The lack of conversation regarding this topic in the church sends an implicit message that women shouldn’t be struggling with things like masturbation or pornography, and if we do, that makes us deviant or promiscuous.

The Struggle

When I have had opportunities to share in group settings, I’ve generally been met with one of two responses. I’ve sat through awkward silences and “Thank you for sharing” generalities because there was nothing else to be said.

Conversely and more often, I’ve felt sincere warmth, support, and relief that the topic was brought up. I left those encounters feeling genuinely glad to have shared. But rarely was anything substantial or practical birthed out of those moments. With the response being almost always unfruitful, it’s no surprise more girls don’t share about their experiences with lust.

And this isn’t the fault of the recipients of our confessions. A lot of us don’t know how to respond because we haven’t had enough opportunities to talk about this sin in general. When we don’t talk honestly about how lust has and can affect us, even amongst those who seem seemingly unfazed by the ordeal, we leave women defenseless to the temptations of the devil.

Especially in our hypersexual culture, there is some opportunity to be tempted everywhere we look. When women are not equipped with the right resources -- accountability, the truth of the word, faith in greater promises -- we are prone to fall into the desires of our flesh whether we intend to or not. For a lot of women, the first time we ever realize lust is present in our hearts is when we are already in a compromising situation. At that point, there is little we can do. We cannot be prepared for something we never talk about it.

I can only describe my own experiences with lust as feeling like I was plunged in from nothing to everything. Before I could grasp control and clarity of the situation, the deed had already been committed and I was already hungry for more. When I wanted to escape, I felt like I was already in too deep with no knowledge on how to maneuver myself out, until I was completely ruled by it. I wonder how different my experiences could have been if I had had the opportunity to be more on guard by simply being aware that this could be something I might struggle with. Or if it was a more openly discussed topic, perhaps I wouldn’t have spent so much time feeling alone and dirty.

The Solution

I have not yet come out a victor in the battle with lust. Each day is a fight to deliberately choose to silence my flesh and honor God through my thoughts and actions. Some days, I still fall to my desires, and the remorse I feel seems heftier each time.

But I am also reminded that my desires are at the core a good gift from God. The yearning that I have to be physically intimate is really part of God’s design for humans, and point to a deeper desire in us to be intimate with our Creator. When I take this objectively good desire and subvert it for my own selfish purposes, I come up empty every single time because that’s not the way those desires were meant to be fulfilled.

God has a very specific boundary for sex-marriage. That was something I knew even as a nonbeliever. What took me a while to understand was that He gives us this boundary to not only protect us, but to help us enjoy His gift to the fullest extent. As the creator of all good things, including sex, God knows what the best conditions are for this physical act of oneness.

Being a Christian entails that I submit to His commandments because He is worthy to follow. Trusting (or not trusting) that His design for sex is the best and right one is ultimately a reflection of my own faith in God. Only when we live life as He intended us to can we experience the transcendent joy that comes from forgoing the desires of the world and instead trusting in His grander promises for us.

The Truth

I have always found it hard to share about my dealings with lust because I believe that my actions reflect my character. Sharing about my sexual sin allows others a window into a part that I’m so used to keeping hidden. My deepest fear is that people would conclude that I am a gross, perverted, or dirty person. Because at the core, my actions stem from very real heart issues. Sharing about how I am affected by lust is an all-access pass to my innermost brokenness. But it’s also the view that God sees with absolutely no filter and still loves me unconditionally.

Too many of us are focused on the judgment that might come from man, and not focused enough on the response the gospel guarantees -- abundant grace and the promise of restoration. When we allow our sin to send us cowering in shame, it reveals our weak faith that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be set free from the chains of our sin. So, let’s be more honest with each other because we have the absolute assurance that our identity, worth, and value lies not in anything we do, but in what Jesus has already done for us.

Jasmine Ham is a 4th year student at UCI and a member of GLMC.