roots of sexual stuff

If you’ve been mowing the weeds of troubling, unwanted, or ungodly sexual thoughts or behaviors and they keep growing back, it’s time to deal with the roots. “Trying harder” to control lust with behavior modification and accountability may be helpful as far as it goes. But for many people, it’s just not working. You may need to deal much more deeply with the roots of sexual “stuff.”

God’s desire for His people all along has been to transform them from the inside out. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

If you’ve read my articles for any length of time, you’ll recognize the focus I often return to of working together with God. God works, and we work. (Philippians 2:12-13) We can’t sit back and wait for God to change us without our cooperation. Neither can we change ourselves by trying harder. It’s both-and.

Prayer works! Don’t stop praying for God to change your heart!

But if you’ve been praying the same thing for years or decades and nothing has changed, it’s time to ask some different questions, perhaps to pray some different prayers. God’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save! (Isaiah 59:1) So, how do you need to cooperate with God differently so that you can experience the freedom and transformation He desires for you?

When it comes to the roots of sexual “stuff,” here are some things to address.

  1. Instant Gratification

Humans have never found it easy to wait. In our modern culture it’s become even harder, with the availability of fast food, on-demand entertainment, and the entire world’s information on a 4-inch screen in the palm of your hand. And are you feeling bad about something? There’s a pill for that.

That mindset rolls over into the realm of sexuality also. Has your spouse said No? Are you without a spouse right now? There are plenty of places to look for instant sexual gratification.

Humans struggle to sit with discomfort or pain or uncertainty. Many pursue sexual release as a “fix” for whatever ails them, be it boredom or frustration or fatigue or insomnia or just plain unhappiness.

The relief may come, but it’s very short-lived. And it never brings true intimacy.

  1. Sense of Entitlement

“I deserve a spouse who will always satisfy my sexual desires.”

Oh really? Did God promise you that? Who said you deserve to have your sexual desires satisfied every time you feel the urge?

Our contemporary culture has promoted the idea that you “deserve” a life of pleasure, and to have all your desires met, usually instantly. If you feel a need, you deserve to have that need met.

God loves to give good gifts to His children. But think of the life Jesus promised His followers. Look at the experience of those who followed Jesus in the early centuries of the Christian church. I don’t think you’ll find anything that remotely looks like a sense of entitlement.

  1. Unhealed Wounds and Trauma

We have all been sexually harmed. Sometimes that’s through sexual abuse or molestation, early exposure to pornography, or in some way being used sexually. Other times it’s through religious legalism or distorted cultural messages about sex. If your family of origin was characterized by rigidity or lack of connection, the implications for your sexuality are considerable.

God created sex as a good gift, but the enemy has so used and distorted that gift that many if not most people have unhealed wounds and trauma around sex and sexuality.

Healing is a choice. But it takes time, courage, intentionality, and support. Until and unless you experience that kind of healing, sexual “stuff” is likely to continue to control you with shame.

  1. The Role of Anger

When you feel entitled and your needs are not met, how do you respond? When the “source” (your spouse) for gratifying your sexual needs is not responding as you wish, what do you do? When you don’t have a spouse but feel sexual desire, what happens inside? Is there anger there?

So the wife whose husband is emotionally distant seeks out an affair – both to satisfy her desire for connection and also to get back at her husband. The husband whose wife repeatedly says No to sex goes to pornography or buying sex; what a great way to both get sexual release and exact revenge on his wife?

Jay Stringer says, “Lust and anger are the primary tributaries to the river of unwanted sexual behavior, be that the use pornography, an affair, or buying sex.”

While anger may often be more external for men than women, it’s a factor for both. It may be impossible to deal with the roots of sexual “stuff” while Ignoring the role of anger.

  1. Heart Emptiness

God created us for intimacy – with Himself, and with each other. When that core need is not met, humans seek it in all kinds of ways. As St Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

God designed us to experience immense satisfaction through the intimacy of connection with a spouse in a covenant marriage. But that one-flesh physical-emotional-spiritual connection is temporary. And it’s not guaranteed. Even at its best, it’s only a partial picture of what God makes available to each person individually – and eternally.

Our needs and desires are God-given. But looking to sexual release to give us something God never intended it to provide will only prove destructive, addictive, and dissatisfying.

(My thinking on some of these points has been expanded by Jay Stringer’s work. If these issues are “big” for you, you may be interested in his book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.)

What to Do Now?

An article like this cannot tell you all you need to know. This is intended to shine some light on the roots you may need to explore in dealing with your sexual “stuff.”

A place to begin?

  1. Own your story. Explore your story. Your story is priceless.
  2. Share your story. Find a safe person to tell, who can be “Jesus with skin on” to you.
  3. Invite Jesus into your story. He created you. And He can re-create you as well.

Doing the work to dig up the roots of your sexual “stuff” is hard, but it will be worth it!

We have a brand new resource to help you do that. The Sexpectations course helps you actually deal with your sexual story, and take the needed steps to find the transformation Jesus offers. I’d love to see you in the course now! 


Your Turn: Do you sense some roots of sexual “stuff” have not been fully dealt with in your life? Does one of these categories resonate most with you? Leave a comment below. 

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  • Has sexual “stuff” continued to mess with you? It may be time to ask some different questions, perhaps pray some different prayers. Here are some things to consider in dealing with the roots of sexual “stuff.”   Tweet that.