No, Marriage is Not the Cure for Lust
In 1991, as I stood hand in hand with my soon-to-be wife, Rose, at the altar, I was convinced my life-long struggle with sexual addiction was finally behind me.
I had been a Christian for a few years but was helpless to break free from the lust that had dominated my life since I was a young boy. I really believed marriage was the answer.
As we looked into each other’s eyes that day, Rose was filled with hope, hope that I would love and cherish her, hope that I would meet her needs, hope that I would provide and care for her, hope for a life of happiness and blessing. Rose had no idea of the expectations I had placed upon her and the devastation that was coming her way.
It didn’t take very long for both of us to see clearly. I was the same self-centered, lust-filled man after marriage as before. And Rose’s dreams of a happy, God-centered marriage came crashing down as my history of sexual addiction and drug use reared its ugly head only a few weeks into our marriage.
No, a wedding ring is not some magic pill. The challenges and strains on any new marriage invariably bring disaster when the new husband is self-centered and filled with lust.
Practice Resisting Lust before Marriage
Let me contrast my attitude going into marriage with that of a young man I recently counseled. He too came out of a life of sexual addiction and was preparing to get married. His goal in counseling was to grow in his relationship with Christ. He wanted to be different before he got married so he could be a blessing to his future wife. He didn’t want to bring the baggage of his old life into his marriage. In short, he was willing to wait until he was ready.
As the wedding grew closer, I remember how excited he was, looking forward to his wedding night with his new bride. He was in love and she was so beautiful to him, so of course he was excited. But for him it wasn’t just the sexual intimacy he would enjoy. He was also nervous and hopeful that he could be a blessing and not a curse to her. He was hopeful that sexual intimacy with his wife would be different than the lust-filled experiences he had known in the past.
This young man didn’t fall for the misconception that marriage would change him and fix his lust problem.
I recently talked to him on the phone and asked him how married life was going. He told me he sees even more now the importance of getting his stuff straightened out before getting married.
“It is Better to Marry than to Burn with Passion”
Many Christians quote 1 Corinthians 7:9 to support their argument that marriage is the cure for their lust. Here Paul positions, “if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
We have to go back a few verses to understand the context of what Paul is saying. “For I wish that all men were even as I myself, but each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:7-9)
We can see that Paul is addressing here the question of whether or not someone is willing to accept a life of celibacy as he had done. In Paul’s mind, he had received the grace and power to do so. Others are not so called and empowered. So this passage is speaking to those who are struggling because of their desire to be married. For these Christians, marriage is a way to help them avoid falling into temptation. It is these individuals that Paul is addressing, not the man or woman given over to lust. In other words, Paul is not saying that marriage is an answer for those already succumbing to temptation.
Furthermore, in verse 6, Paul explains, “But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.” In other words, this is not God’s true desire for us. In fact, God commands us, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control…” (2 Peter 1:5-6a) And He promises self-control, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a)
God wants us to learn to control our bodies in holiness and honor, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6)
God’s will is that man exercise self-control until he is ready and called to marry, just as in the account of the young man earlier in this article.
Marriage Is Much More than Sex
To the man or woman who is looking to marriage as the answer to their lust problem, I would also say marriage is much more than an outlet for one’s sexual appetite. God intends our marriages to emulate the relationship Christ exhibits towards His Bride, the Church. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)
In His perfect wisdom, God gave us marriage as a channel for our sexual desires to be fulfilled in a positive and God-glorifying way. Sex is part of the union of marriage, indeed an important part, but it is only a part of the whole. Our marriages should be centered on an unselfish attitude that focuses on the unconditional love of Christ that gives of itself for the benefit of the other.
This is a vastly different outlook than looking to our spouses to satisfy our lustful appetites, and to marriage as a cure for a man or woman bound by lust. All we need to do is to look at the epidemic of porn and sexual sin in the church amongst married men and women to see that it simply does not work for that purpose.
I believe there is a healthy longing that we can have for a future spouse and there is nothing wrong with the expectations that come with marriage including the joy of participating in sexual intimacy with our future mate. God designed it that way, and when we are seeking to please Him, glorify Him, embrace His plans and His purposes, our marriages will be what He intends them to be.
And be sure of this, marriage isn’t the way out of sin, only Christ is. “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed,” (John 8:36) free from sin and free to enjoy all the fruit of a holy marriage that He will bless in more ways than you can think or imagine.
Jeff Colón is a minister of the Assemblies of God. He held various positions during his 22 years with Pure Life Ministries. Jeff holds an MDiv and BA in Biblical Counseling from Master’s International School of Divinity. He recently branched out on his own, launching Lighthouse Biblical Counseling Center in Dry Ridge, Kentucky.
Copyright © 2017 by Pure Life Ministries. Permission is granted to use, copy, distribute, or retransmit information or materials on this page, so long as proper acknowledgment is given to Pure Life Ministries as the source of the materials, and no modifications are made to such material.