If you missed yesterday’s news, here’s a quick re-cap:
- There are women who struggle with lust
- It’s really hard for a lot of women to talk openly about that fight
- We can be a part of changing that
If you, like me, want to be a part of creating a culture where we can encourage one another to share our struggles, here are four things to keep in mind when responding to friends.
1. Acknowledging the struggle, don’t belittle it.
What does it look like to belittle their struggle? “I’m sure that’s tough. But your struggle is so different from the way men struggle with lust. Their struggle is really hard.” “I’m sure it’s not that bad! At least you haven’t acted on your desires!” “Don’t beat yourself up! At least it didn’t go too far!”
Believe your friend when they tell you they are struggling with sexual sin. Don’t try to convince them the struggle isn’t that bad. Believe it is a dangerous and deadly fight.
I’ve experienced every angle on this one. I’ve belittled my own sin; convincing myself it wasn’t that bad unless it involved really visible consequences. I’ve allowed others to belittle my sin, convincing me that I wasn’t that bad. I’ve also been the girl who knows how bad her issue is but can’t seem to convince anyone around her.
I remember at one point in my battle with lust feeling like no one around me could grasp the gravity of the situation. No matter what I said it seemed like they didn’t hear me. I felt like I was drowning and people kept patting me on the head telling me it would get better.
I think sometimes we can belittle sin if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end in physical consequences. I often wonder if people would respond differently to my struggle with lust if I was married; would my struggle be taken more seriously? Do we actually believe the Bible when it says God is concerned with the heart and a thought is equal to adultery.
Be the kind of friend who believes the danger is real, regardless of your friend’s stage of life, regardless of the physical outplay of their fight.
2. Treat them like a sinner, not a freak. No matter what someone tells you they’re struggling with, treat them like they’re no worse than you.
Of course, that’s only really possible if you believe they’re no worse than you.
If you think they’ve just confessed something truly evil, you’re right, what they’ve confessed is evil. Just like the way you judged them in your heart; just like the way you made decisions today in order to secure your employers approval. Look at them like you’re looking in a mirror. Their heart has darker things in it than they’ve confessed, and so does yours.
3. Engage them, don’t avoid them. So often you love you friend, and you want to be there for them, but you just don’t know how. You listen to them, but you feel awkward and embarrassed; the last thing you want to do is talk about lust.
Counting someone as more significant means that you put what’s best for them above what makes you feel comfortable.
Be someone willing to ask questions. Be a learner. Ask your friend how you can help them fight. Ask them how you can pray for them. Ask them what questions you should ask them to follow up later. Ask them how you can reflect Jesus to them in this.
4. Give them effective tools to fight. When I think back on how I behaved at the start of my ministry, I cringe.
I would meet with a girl struggling with sexual sin and I would roll my internal eyes and think: ‘just stop! It’s not that hard!’ That thought revealed pretty gross things in me, not them. If you believe the power to overcome sin comes from discipline, you’re preaching a different gospel than the one that involves Christ on the Cross. Preach Christ crucified to your friends. Preach faith. Preach the power of God.
Does discipline have a role? Of course. Discipline and accountability are awesome. They are the river beds that God’s grace flows through. They’re just not God Himself.
Give your friend effective tools to fight, but remind them the power to defeat sin and satan is found in the Spirit working in us through faith.
I’ve included below an awesome tool from John Piper’s ministry.
I think this a great tool whether you struggle with lust, anxiety, fear, approval of man or any kind of unbelieving thoughts.
Let me know what you think!
A – AVOID as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire. I say “possible and reasonable” because some exposure to temptation is inevitable. And I say “unfitting desire” because not all desires for sex, food, and family are bad. We know when they are unfitting and unhelpful and on their way to becoming enslaving. We know our weaknesses and what triggers them. “Avoiding” is a Biblical strategy. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
N – Say NO to every lustful thought within five seconds. And say it with the authority of Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus, NO!” You don’t have much more than five seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable. Say it out loud if you dare. Be tough and warlike. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Strike fast and strike hard. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” ( James 4:7).
T – TURN the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction. Saying “no” will not suffice. You must move from defense to offense. Fight fire with fire. Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ. The Bible calls lusts “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They lie. They promise more than they can deliver. The Bible calls them “passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). Only fools yield. “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter” (Proverbs 7:22). Deceit is defeated by truth. Ignorance is defeated by knowledge. It must be glorious truth and beautiful knowledge. This is why I wrote Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. We must stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus. Then we must turn to them immediately after saying, “NO!”
H – HOLD the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). Here is where many fail. They give in too soon. They say, “I tried to push it out, and it didn’t work.” I ask, “How long did you try?” How hard did you exert your mind? The mind is a muscle. You can flex it with vehemence. Take the kingdom violently (Matthew 11:12). Be brutal. Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes. Hold it. Hold it! Don’t let it go! Keep holding it! How long? As long as it takes. Fight! For Christ’s sake, fight till you win! If an electric garage door were about to crush your child you would hold it up with all our might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.
E – ENJOY a superior satisfaction. Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal. We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. Don’t say, “That’s just not me.” What steps have you taken to waken affection for Jesus? Have you fought for joy? Don’t be fatalistic. You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart – more than you treasure sex or sugar. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph. Plead with God for the satisfaction you don’t have: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Then look, look, look at the most magnificent Person in the universe until you see him the way he is.
M – MOVE into a useful activity away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviors. Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure. Find a good work to do, and do it with all your might. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Abound in work. Get up and do something. Sweep a room. Hammer a nail. Write a letter. Fix a faucet. And do it for Jesus’ sake. You were made to manage and create. Christ died to make you “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Displace deceitful lusts with a passion for good deeds.