We used to blush about it. We used to keep quiet about it. It was personal—too personal and not at all “lady like.” For the most part, it stayed tucked away in the recesses of our inner world—or at least in a dresser drawer away from view. However, after the 2011 summer debut of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, all of that changed. E.L. James’ novice attempt at erotic fiction became an overnight success, selling more than 100 million copies and, most recently, being made into a film opening nationwide this Valentine’s Day.
Despite the book’s glorification of what is truly degrading (never before has the acronym “BDSM” become so mainstream), 50 Shades seemed to fill a void for many women. It spiced up their marriages, eased the ache of loneliness, helped them escape the discontent of lost intimacy, masked resentment over singleness, or just relieved stress. But this pop-culture phenomenon reveals a problem even bigger than the book’s content: Many women are dissatisfied. And they still haven’t found what they’re looking for.
Women are now the fastest growing consumers of pornography. One out of every three visitors to adult websites is a woman. Twenty percent of women say they’re addicted to pornography, and 60 percent of Christian women say they have a significant struggle with lust.
In the same way that visual pornography is a distortion of God’s design for male sexuality, mental pornography (i.e. fantasizing) is a distortion of God’s design for female sexuality. Taking a mental vacation from your husband, casting yourself as the leading lady in a steamy movie scene and nurturing an intimate or sexual relationship in your imagination—all are expressions of lust. Enter online pornography, personal pleasure tools, and books like 50 Shades of Grey, and hidden habits become all-consuming addictions.
An endless cycle
After a while, the temporary high of escaping into the forbidden wears off. Like any out-of-control desire, it’s just a matter of time before women are searching for more.
The best kept secret behind 50 Shades of Grey is that it will never be enough. Women will still be dissatisfied. They still won’t find what they’re looking for.
In his book Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is), Joshua Harris says it this way:
“Lust is always an unholy desire for the forbidden. Its goal is the very act of desiring. The result is that lust cannot be quenched. As soon as the object of lust is attained, lust wants something more. Even when you indulge in every kind of impurity, you’re still filled with a continual lust. You won’t be able to fantasize enough to quench lust.”
No matter how small, insignificant or innocent it may seem, lust will not—cannot—be contained. That’s why Paul describes those who have indulged in impurity as having “a continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:19). Its very nature is to devour, distort and destroy. First Peter 2:11 says that fleshly lust actually wages war against the soul. Tragically, millions of women are becoming casualties, captive to their own desires, craving the very poison that’s killing them and caught in a downward spiral of addiction and shame.
Here’s the simple truth that lust doesn’t want you to know: Only Jesus satisfies. He is the One you’re looking for.
An identity check
Does any of this describe you? Are you stuck in the self-destructive, self-perpetuated cycle of lust, gluttonizing yourself on the very thing that is rotting you? You need to know that it will never be enough. And that’s because you were made for so much more.
First, you need an identity check. Do you belong to Jesus? If so, then you don’t belong in the cycle of lust, and you definitely don’t belong to the demands of your desires. Romans 6 says that, in Christ, you have died to the power of sin and are no longer enslaved to it (vv. 2-6). Even more, it has no right to control you any longer (v. 14). You’ve been changed from a slave of sin to a slave of righteousness. If you really are in Christ, this is who you really are (vv.17-18). And this simple truth is the beginning of breaking free.
The One who made you loves you far too much to share you with any competitor (Exod. 34:14). He knows that, unless he has complete control, desires become destructive. His own desire is to make you holy and conformed to his image (Eph. 1:3-4, Rom. 8:29). And he will not give up until he has all of you.
A reality check
We can only have a reality check about what we do after an identity check about who we are. In the battle of the mind, every woman has trigger points—circumstances that make her vulnerable to stumbling. Do you know your trigger points? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them, then set up boundaries and barriers to help keep you from veering off the path of holiness and over the cliff of impurity. Here are a few suggestions on where to start:
- Set up filters on your computer. Also, consider an Internet Accountability Software (Covenant Eyes is a great one). Move the computer out of your room and into an open space. Ask a trusted friend to keep you accountable.
- Cut out the noise. What girl doesn’t love a reality-defying chick-flick? But if we’re being honest, they leave us feeling pretty dissatisfied. Discontent is emotional enemy number one in the fight for authentic purity. Try cutting out all secular media (movies, TV, music, magazines) for 30 days. These things don’t have to be sinful to cause you to stumble. Feed your heart and mind with what directed it toward Christ, not away from him.
- Ditch the books. Just get rid of them. If they are on your Kindle, delete them. If they lead you to stumble, remove them from your home. Give a trusted friend permission to ask what you’ve been reading lately. And, please, don’t give or sell them to someone else. Throw them away.
- Don’t be alone too long. If you’re a single woman, consider finding a solid Christian roommate. Coming home to an empty apartment can be downright depressing (trigger!) and makes the temptation to escape into lust all the more appealing. You were created for meaningful relationship...with real people. Go cultivate them.
- Replace, refuel, renew. We can’t just stop thinking on the wrong things. We have to replace them with the right things. God’s Word cuts through lies, delivers from temptation, and satisfies the soul. So keep it in front you. Write Scripture on note cards and tape them to your bathroom mirror, car dashboard and computer. Carry them in your purse. Refuel your mind with Word: Psalm 84:11, 1 Peter 2:11, Romans 6:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 and Galatians 5:16-17 are some great ones to start with. Don’t forget that it’s a process. We have to constantly fill our minds with Scripture if we want them to be renewed.
- Get connected. You don’t have to go on this journey alone. One of the biggest lies about lust is that you’re the only one struggling with it. Don’t let the fear of vulnerability keep you shackled to a defeated enemy. Perhaps you’re pursuing the temporary fill of lust to mask a deeper wound or outrun a plaguing pain. If you need someone to walk alongside you, find a biblical counselor (HopefortheHeart.org is a great resource for this) and start the healing process.
You were made for so much more than the never-ending cycle of lust. You were made for the Lord Jesus. He will still satisfy your soul. He is the One you’re looking for.