(Warning: This article should be considered “not safe for children.”)
In this series, we’re working through the issues surrounding the common sexual sin of depriving one’s spouse. So far, we’ve established that this is indeed a sin. We’ve also considered why it is so dangerous, and we’ve spent the last couple of articles (here and here) looking at some of the most common questions raised about this issue. In this article, we’ll address the question, “How do I change?”
This article assumes that you’ve considered the Scriptures and realize that depriving your spouse is sinful, it is not an option for you, and you want to change. The course of action may depend somewhat on why you’ve struggled with this sin.
It could simply be that you don’t like sex. If that’s the case, you’re not alone. But as you’ve seen from the material we’ve already posted, the sexual relationship, like marriage as a whole, is a forum for serving another person. You must adopt a biblical mindset.
The key to overcoming this issue will be to allow the Scriptures to transform your mind. There are numerous places to go in the Scriptures to meditate on the truth that life as a disciple is one of service. In addition to the ones we’ve referred to numerous times in this series (1 Cor 7:1-5; Eph 5:22-33), perhaps the best place to go is to the Gospels and pay close attention to how selflessly Jesus gave of Himself to those in need. He regularly served to the point of exhaustion and beyond, and He made a point to teach this to His disciples.
There is one narrative in the Gospels that is particularly helpful. It’s the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in Luke 9. That may seem strange given our current subject matter. “What does the feeding of the 5,000 have to do with helping me overcome the habit of depriving my spouse?” The feeding of the 5,000 has lessons to teach us about any area of service. It is very relevant to the situation we’re discussing because it found Jesus in the disciples confronted with a task that, humanly-speaking, they’d rather not have done. The Lord and His disciples were exhausted and desiring some quality time alone together, when this huge crowd crashed their plans. The disciples wanted to send the people away to fend for themselves, but Jesus said to them, “you give them something to eat.” The disciples were incredulous. Their response was essentially, “that’s impossible.” Not only were the disciples exhausted and wanting to get alone with Jesus, but they thought there was no way on earth they could feed such a huge crowd!
The following narrative shows Jesus feeding that crowd through the disciples in perhaps the least efficient way conceivable in order to make a point to the disciples that it is a blessing to serve. Jesus had the disciples themselves deliver the food by hand to all these people – 5,000 men not including women and children. It would have taken hours. And what was the result? Afterward Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
This is significant. By serving with Christ in a less than desirable circumstance, enabled by His power, they experienced Him in a way they had not before, and they knew then who He was.
There are numerous lessons to glean from this narrative. First, as the Lord’s disciples, we serve. Jesus was teaching, “we serve. That’s what I do, and that’s what you do as my disciple.” For those who are married, it could be said that marriage is their primary place of service to the Lord and another. There is no more immediate arena for the expression of one's role as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Second, we should approach all service depending upon the strength of the Lord. That’s what the disciples did in feeding this enormous crowd. They were right to think they did not have the ability to feed the crowd. But Jesus did have the ability. And He did something amazing through them. Regarding your sexual relationship, you may think, “I can’t do this.” That may be true, but you have an omnipotent Savior who enables you by the power of the Spirit to walk in faithfulness. Depend upon Him and He will do through you what you thought was impossible.
Third, when we obey in the most difficult of circumstances, depending fully upon the Lord, we will enjoy a growing intimacy with and knowledge of Him. It was after the feeding of the 5,000 that the disciples finally made the good confession about the identity of the Lord. It was through that intimate participation with Him in His work that they came to experience Him. This is true in every area of life. If you will obey Him by participating with Him in serving your spouse, you’ll not only experience deeper intimacy with your spouse, but with the Lord.
Fourth, consider the great blessing it is to be used by the Lord. What a great privilege the disciples were given to be the ones through whom He performed this great miracle. Did you know that the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of the Lord that is recorded in all four Gospels? (Not including the resurrection, which was technically accomplished by the Father.) Jesus allowed the disciples to participate with Him in this. What a blessing! Now, consider that you are THE gift that God has given to your spouse for sexual fulfillment. He has chosen to use you and you alone to bless your spouse.
While you are allowing the Scriptures to transform your thinking on this issue, pray. Pray that the Spirit will help you think rightly and give you the desire to serve your spouse. Pray that He will give you joy in serving. And pray that He will cause you to begin to enjoy having sex with your spouse. Based upon counseling cases I’ve had, I would say that it is likely that if you will obey the Lord with the right heart, desiring to do the godly thing, and love your spouse by serving them in this way, you’ll find yourself enjoying your sexual relationship like you haven’t in the past.
For some people, it is not simply that sex is undesirable, but it is physically difficult or painful. A visit to your doctor would be beneficial. There may be things that can be done medically to improve the situation. Also, discuss it with your spouse. Express your desire to serve your spouse in this area and brainstorm ways to deal with the situation.
For others, the barrier to regular sexual relations is related to trauma from the past, either you’ve been abused or your marriage has been damaged by infidelity. Such situations don’t lend themselves to easy counsel in a blog article. The best thing to do would be to seek biblical counseling to work through those issues. We’ve got counselors at Providence who would be blessed to help you. Keep in mind that in Christ we have been given all things pertaining to life and godliness. That is, there is no issue of salvation or sanctification that cannot be addressed from the Scriptures. Whatever you’re dealing with, there is hope and help in the Lord Jesus. All you need to do is ask, and we’ll get you connected to a biblical counselor.
Unless I hear from some of you with specific questions related to this issue, this will be the last article in this series. If you do have questions, you can email them to me or ask them in the comments section below.