Found in Cosmo, not Christianity…
The overwhelming response to our Summer Series so far has been that of gratitude for God's grace, and to the brave girls who have explored painful, messy issues for us in a grace-centred way. Amidst the struggles of eating disorders, mental illness, and the everyday insecurities about body image, skin and relationships, it has been amazing to see girls pointed to Jesus and able to reconcile life's challenges with God's perfect love for us.
Today we have one of the bravest posts yet - encouraging us to be honest, open and Christ-centred in the struggle with sexual sin and masturbation. Even these words are such a taboo amongst Christian girls, and while they are completely at home on the pages of Cosmo, or in a boys-only accountability session - Christian girls are often left alone and ashamed in their struggles. We're praying that Eve's post will break that first taboo and allow you to pursue Jesus wholeheartedly in this area of your life - releasing you from shame, equipping you to fight sin and pointing you to the grace of God.
Everyday I walk around wearing a cloak of shame. It weighs heavy on my back and grasps hold of my thoughts and feelings, determined not to let me loose. Perhaps the feeling is familiar for you too. For me, my shame is a result of my struggle with sexual sin. The burden of past mistakes with guys. Oh, and the habitual sin of masturbation. There. I said it. I'm a Christian, I'm a girl, and I masturbate.
For those of you who have absolutely no idea how this could be an issue for a girl who seems to do all the right things – who goes to church every Sunday, prays and reads her bible, does a theology degree, longs to be a Godly and sacrificially loving wife and mother, but above all else seeks to glorify God and fall hopelessly in love with Him – then this is to give you some insight.
To the girl who is peering at the screen, face bright red, heartbeat racing, filled with shame from her own mistakes but finally somewhat comforted that someone else is struggling too, then this is for you.
In church circles - particularly with Christian girls – this is something we NEVER talk about. However, I refuse to believe that I am alone in my struggle with sexual sin and masturbation. If you also struggle with this, then you should refuse to believe it too. I'm right here! I want you to hear me declare that I'm struggling! We are not alone in this.
Now, honestly, would you be quite so shocked to read this if I was a guy? Or if I was in a relationship and struggling with my boyfriend? The fact that we have these preconceived misconceptions means we unfairly pin the blame for sexual sin on men, expecting them to be the culprits or at least the instigators of such behaviour. But I'm a single girl. Surely I wouldn't be struggling with sexual sin, right? Oh how I wish.
Several years ago, I proceeded to work my way from base to base with guys – using the cringey teenage baseball analogy – attempting to justify myself with the weak assurance that at least it wasn’t a home run. Surely that meant that it was ok? I left each relationship with a few shallow promises to myself that it wouldn't happen again, and a renewed fervour to seek a considerably better guy next time. For a time I would glimpse a sliver of God's glorious freedom from that sin and shame, but I would never feel completely set free.
I knew that what I had done, what I was doing, and what I still do is wrong, but I could never bring myself to even utter a whisper of my sin to someone else that could help. This was partly due to the weight of shame I had piled on myself, partly due to my fear of being judged by whoever I told, but also mainly due to the shameful part of myself that still desired to wallow in my muck because, let's be honest, it feels good.
However, admitting this to you should be no different to admitting that, in Year 4, I stole another girl's purple flexi-ruler and lied that it was mine, when I'd actually broken my own and didn't want to tell my mum. So why am I so terribly afraid of your judgement? I don't mind you knowing about the ruler incident. Why have we so steeped this one particular sin in shame that it is the unforgivable sin above all other sins, never to be spoken of? ‘For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) God doesn't see a hierarchy of sin. Why do we?
'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.' Romans 8: 1-3
Through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, he has taken that cloak of sin and shame, stamped on it, spat on it, stabbed it with a pitchfork, poured petrol on it, set it ablaze, and fed the ashes to a lion so that I never again have to wear such shame. This is a feat that none of us could ever do on our own as our flesh is so weak it is incapable of not sinning. Hence why God did it for us out of His immeasurable and everlasting love for us to release us into His spirit-filled freedom.
This is a beautiful truth. One that has the power to transform lives the world over, and yet somehow, it wasn't quite fully transforming mine. Somewhere in my heart there was a divide between the knowledge that God can remove my sin and shame, and, honestly, a lack of desire to combat sin and see real change. This is the age-old battle between desire for God and the desires of the flesh.
Reader, I wish I could be the one that hands you the key, shining on a silver platter with a chorus of angels in the background, to bridge this gap. I wish I could give you tips like 'don't lie down together', 'leave room for Jesus' or 'just don't put anyone's hands near anyone's pants' and that would solve it. I could even go so far as to say 'don't date', 'wear a chastity belt', 'don't even look at the opposite sex'. But this will not solve the problem.
The only way I know of to practically solve this problem is not really that practical at all: it is a change of heart.
From my own experience, this is the twofold plan of action that I believe will best help you to remove the shame and combat the sin of masturbation:
Stop viewing God as the enemy, who sees your sin and turns His back on you. Understand that He is for you and meets you with grace. Surrender yourself to Him and then prepare to wage war against sin and Satan, with God as your ally. Refuse to let this sin rule over your life, hindering your ability to glorify God and enjoy Him. Once you begin to take this battle seriously, you will start to experience God's strong, mighty, majestic power to combat Satan, but also His gentle, patient, loving power to attack the sinful desires in your own heart. God longs to draw you close to himself so that he can work in your heart and release you into great freedom and joy:
'The Lord appeared from afar saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you to myself with loving kindness. I will build you up again, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your timbrels and dance with the joyful."' Jeremiah 31:3-4
Phone a friend. Tell someone. There is huge power and freedom in simply saying something out loud. I know it's scary; it makes you incredibly vulnerable and open to judgement and rejection, but please, find someone that you trust and have them alongside to hold you accountable. Get them to challenge you monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, whatever it takes.
The bible instructs us to seek out this accountability because God knows how valuable it is: ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’ (James 5:15)
The only reason I am able to write this post now is because I eventually got to a point where I had to tell someone who could help. While it hasn't magically made the problem go away, it does mean that I've got someone else in my corner, mopping my brow and making sure I'm still swinging the punches. If you can't think of anyone that you trust then perhaps you need to be investing more in your Christian friendships to allow you to be more honest and open. Alternatively, speak to someone in your church, your CU or even contact myself or one of the More Precious team. We would so love to support you in seeking God's glorious best for you in a life that is no longer ruled by shame and sin:
'Do not be afraid, you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is His name - the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.' Isaiah 54:4-5
Obviously this post is not going to single-handedly stop masturbation in the church. If only it were that simple! Realistically, what I want to see is a change in our attitude towards it.
Sex is a good thing. Wanting sex and having a sex drive is a good and healthy thing - even as a woman, though it is so often frowned upon both in church and culture. However satisfying that sex drive with anyone but your husband (including yourself) is not the way God intended. So, I don't suggest we accept it or say it isn't sin. But I do propose that we stop pretending this isn’t a problem for girls too, cloaking it in shame to the extent where people, particularly girls, feel unable to admit their struggles and be released into God's beautiful freedom, won for us on the cross. Our job is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as they receive God's conviction for their sins, not to heap more shame on top of what Satan is already hissing to them.
As such, I urge you to share this post. Even if it reaches just one other person who feels cloaked in shame, to tell them that there is grace, freedom and joy found in God through accountability to others, then this horrifically painful display of honesty will have been worth it.
I’m a Christian, I’m a girl and I'm struggling with masturbation, but God, the mighty warrior, is on my side and I'm determined to live in His freedom, not the devil's shame. What about you?
Hi, I'm Eve, a Durham Theology student about to start her second year, who dreams of travelling, making the perfect quilt, having a family, and starring on The Great British Bake-Off. More importantly though, I'm passionate about loving God above all else, getting excited to see His Kingdom come, and encouraging other girls to pursue their beautiful God-given identity in Christ.