Masturbation: What’s going on?
Why didn’t God bring up masturbation in the bible? I came to Christ in 1971. I came to Christ as a teen as I was struggling with a constant habit of masturbating. Nobody knew that, because nobody would talk about it in those days, so I kept it to myself. But as a young Christian I was told there was such a thing as a “concordance” and you could look up all the words that were in the Bible! I got all excited and when no one was around I looked under the letter “M.” I thought, as I found not a single reference to the act: “Looks like God’s not going to talk about it, either!”
That experience left a big question mark in my heart. Is masturbation right or wrong? All I knew was that I couldn’t stop. I tell people that before I came to Christ I thought a man ought to be able to go to bed and go to sleep without having to masturbate first. The first time I acted out after I became a Christian I thought, “It’s back! It didn’t go away like you were hoping.” That reality was devastating. But God’s silence on the subject made it more of an inward battle than it really had to be. Even if all it was is a habit I can’t stop doing, I need to be able to talk to people about it. Can we talk?
Around fifteen years ago I went to a “Promise Keepers” meeting and the theme was worship. God spoke to my heart that weekend and said “Bob, you are not worshiping me and you know it.” Worship had become a mere formality in my life. I had a check list in my mind and as long as we read the Scriptures, prayed, sang good old hymns and had a theologically sound sermon I assumed worship happened. But that was just going through the motions. It was far from what God had in mind about worshipping him.
A few months after the conference, I started dealing seriously with my sexual struggle. It was then that God reminded me about what true worship really was. Worship is about giving all of you, all of your heart, to something. Worship has to do with what you are living for. It was then that I realized that even though I was not truly worshipping God, I was worshipping something. I learned that my continual movement toward masturbation and pornography was an act of idolatry (false worship).
This discovery helped crystallize what repentance should be about. Now I knew what I had to turn from—and where I had to turn to. I had to be honest with what was going on in my heart. When life becomes confusing or boring or scary or whatever, masturbation and pornography was a place of escape, adventure, pleasure and in a word, life for me. I needed it, like an addict needs his addiction. I had to be honest with my fantasies and my preference for them rather than waiting on God.
It hit me. I didn’t have to know whether masturbation was right or wrong. All I had to know is that what I was doing was wrong because the nature of what I was doing had to do with actively shutting God out of my thoughts and inviting in thoughts that, for the moment, seemed to calm me down and give me a break in life that I desperately needed.
God didn’t bring up masturbation in the Scriptures, but He did say we were supposed to bring every thought captive to Christ Jesus. And bringing my thoughts captive to the idea that my heart truly is an idol factory helps me be honest with the thoughts that go through my head. It seems there is still a desperation in my heart to try and make things work out my way and I do need to repent from that.
Where are your inner thoughts leading you? Do you find that in times of stress, confusion, boredom, loneliness or fear that you turn to find relief in pornography and masturbation? If so, see your behavior as flowing from your heart, a heart that is living for and consumed by a need for comfort and relief and not a life that is growing in dependence upon God and the things He delights in. Repentance is very practical and relevant when we see it from that angle.