How Can I Stay Emotionally Pure?
I'm up to my eyeballs in sex research right now. I am writing a book with Josh McDowell tackling the toughest questions teenagers are asking about sex. I'm spending hours every day reading and writing about sex and romance. I've been surprised how much focusing on sex has impacted my thought life. I'm not struggling with acting impure but with thinking about romance in ways that don't always glorify God.
Many of you have also confessed that you are struggling to maintain a pure thought life.
Katie said, "I don't want my desires or anyone else's desires to have a husband, which is God's plan for most of us, to turn in to sin."
Sarah said, "I am a young girl who is striving to live a pure, wholesome life without letting guys take my focus off God, but I have a weakness! A couple years ago I discovered a true enjoyment for girly/romantic movies... The problem is, nothing makes me ache and long for love and romance like they do. By the time I finish watching, I spend hours longing for a Mr. Darcy. My question is: Is there a problem with the movies or a problem with my response to them? Or is my reaction ‘normal'? I think the problem lies within myself, but I'm not sure how to change it."
One girl asked, "Is it wrong to daydream about your wedding, or whoever your husband might be, or what your married life will be like, or what dates will be like, or to have that feeling of wanting to be loved?"
These girls aren't necessarily struggling with sinful behavior in the area of romantic relationships, but they are struggling with keeping their minds pure. I love their honesty. They reminded me that God commands us to strive for purity in all areas including the way that we think.
Second Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
God asks us to be in complete control of our thought life. We don't get a permission slip to keep our actions pure but to allow our thoughts to dwell on love and romance and intimacy outside of God's timing.
Having a pure thought life takes some work. I am always a little frustrated when girls tell me that they are praying for God to take their romantic feelings or lustful desires away. It's great to pray about it if you are wrestling with impure thoughts, but you can't stop there. What does 2 Corinthians 10:5 tell us to do with our thoughts? To take! To snatch up. To lay hold of. When your mind is out of control, you've got to take action!
What actions should you take?
Here's a quick list:
1. Protect your eyes. The bottom line is what you watch, read, and listen to will impact your thoughts. Think you can watch romantic chick flicks and not feel the urge to merge? You can't. Think you can listen to sappy love songs over and over and over and not stir up desires for love and romance? No way! Steer clear of phony stimulants that imprint impure images onto your sensitive brain.
2. Know God. You simply must have a correct understanding of who God is in order to desire a pure thought life. God doesn't ask you to keep your mind and body pure to punish you. He isn't withholding good things from you as a cosmic cruel joke. He desires to protect you and to provide intimacy at its best in His timing. When you know His character, you will want to please Him by doing His will and will be better able to fix your thoughts on Him (Heb. 3:1). How do you get to know God? See Step 3.
3. Read God's Word. In order to avoid emotional, mental, and physical impurity, you have to know God's will in the area of romance. Knowledge of His will comes from studying His Word. You can't trust your feelings to tell you what's right, and God probably won't just download all knowledge of Him into your brain. He has given us His Word as a gift. His will for how we should live and think is in there. But you've got to study it for yourself. I would encourage you to take it a step further and memorize Scripture. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." When our thoughts start to veer away from the things of God, knowing God's Word well helps steer our course back on track.
4. Be held accountable. In Why Wait?, Josh writes, "[We should] place ourselves in an environment of encouragement and accountability. This means we will share our struggle to control impure thinking with mature Christians, asking them to pray for us, to help us plan a specific strategy to overcome the problem, and to check up on us to see how we are doing in this area. Accountability will eventually lead to self-discipline, and in time we will be able to self-monitor our areas of weakness."
Is it possible to keep our thoughts pure? You betcha! God wouldn't require it of us if it was impossible. But God won't just zap you and take all of your impure thoughts and desires away. You've got to work to take "every thought captive." Still need help with a game plan? Here's are some quick action steps you can do right now.
Get rid of the stuff that arouses impure thoughts.
- Delete songs on your iPod that talk about romance in a way that doesn't glorify God.
- Go through your DVD collection and get rid of movies that mess with your thought life.
- Trash magazines and books that paint casual sex and romance in a positive light.
Go read your Bible right now! For verses that teach on love and romance check out Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4; 1 Corinthians 13; and Proverbs 31.
Call a Christian friend or mentor and tell them specifically how you are struggling in your thought life. Make a date to get together next week so she can ask you specific questions about how you are doing in this area.
The bottom line is that you can have a pure thought life! It is worth the work.