The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Hi,

This past year has been rough. I'm a thirteen year old boy, and I just feel overwhelmed by these new feelings that are flooding in me. I've been a Christian all my life. I don't have any friends in the state I live in, mostly because I'm home schooled. My parents have been fighting the past two years. I want to talk to my dad about this, but my connection with him isn't what it used to be. I just feel alone in this problem. I want to have sex, and I envision myself having intercourse with women who are not my wives, or other people having sex together. I'm terrified of these thoughts and what they're doing for me. I'm terrified that I'm lusting when I think about these things. What is lust? I've seen so many definitions and interpretations of it, that I don't know which one to believe.

I've prayed a lot to God over this past year, begging Him for help, but I'm even starting to have constant nagging doubts that God isn't real. Picturing a life without God in it is impossible for me, though. I want to be good and faithful in the Lord.

Please help me.


Answer

I'm sorry that your parents are struggling in their marriage. But unless there is more to the situation that you haven't mentioned, I do urge you to talk to your dad about your struggles. You are, of course, also welcome to discuss any questions or concerns you have with me if you so desire. I do understand about home schooling since my wife and I home schooled our children (they are adults now).

In regards to lust, the word technically means a very strong desire. It is almost always used in a negative sense as a strong desire for something that is sinful. But if we left it at that it would be hard to distinguish between being tempted and lust. Lust is wanting something so badly that you are telling yourself in your mind that it would acceptable to sin -- at least in some circumstances.

James details the process of sin in this fashion: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). The steps are:

  1. Desires: Each of us is born with a normal, natural set of desires. The physical desires are the consequence of the operation of our bodies, such as hunger, thirst, or sex. We also have spiritual desires, such as not wanting to be alone, wanting to be liked by others, or wanting something pretty.
  2. Temptation: Satan tries to place us in situations where it appears that the satisfaction of a desire will require the breaking of a law of God. Temptation is the forcing of a choice to be made: either to break a law of God and satisfy a desire or to forgo satisfaction in order to keep God's law.
  3. Lust (desire conceived): When a person mentally consents that breaking a law of God is worth satisfying the desire, then the person has moved into the realm of lust. This is when the person justifies to himself that breaking God's law can be excused, at least in some situations.
  4. Sin: This is when a person seizes an opportunity and actually breaks God's law.
  5. Licentiousness (sin full-grown): Sin is rarely done just once. The excuses to sin come fast, such as "I've done it once, doing it again isn't going to make much difference." Eventually the person becomes calloused to sin and no longer feels guilty about what he is doing. He doesn't care what other people think. He may even convince himself that he has the right to sin. (Licentiousness means thinking you have a license to sin.)
  6. Death: A person fully convinced that he ought to sin and doesn't care what even God thinks about his actions won't be persuaded out of his sin. Since he won't leave his sin, he will die in his sin.

As an example, hunger is a desire -- it is neither right nor wrong. Temptation is when you are in the convenience store and see a candy bar, but realize you don't have enough money to pay for it. Lust is when you tell yourself that the store can afford to lose some items and that they are expecting some loss, or telling yourself that you could pocket it now and pay for it later; and you accept that these are adequate justification to steal. Sin is when you walk out with the candy bar without paying for it. Licentiousness is when you think it is fun to take things off the shelf even though you have adequate money to pay for it. And from there it is a short step to spiritual death.

Wanting to have sex is normal for a young man in his development. It is how your body is designed to work, but God intends sex to be with your wife.

Love for another requires trust and commitment to that individual. Sex without love is not spiritually satisfying. The act can be performed, the body's cravings can be sated for the moment, but a person is left wondering if there isn't supposed to be something more to a relationship.

A permanent commitment is supposed to be required before having sex, yet if you are willing to forgo that commitment, how will your partner know you will honor that commitment after marriage? What proof could you offer? For that matter, how would a person know that your partner isn't having sex with other people? After all, when a person is willing to have sex without a permanent commitment, there is nothing stopping them from having sex with multiple partners.

When you encounter someone who is willing to have sex without commitment, then the likelihood of multiple partners is very high. But multiple partners also means the likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases is very high. People often talk about "safe sex," but there is no method existing that makes sex completely safe. Condoms can reduce the risk, but it cannot prevent the spread of diseases. For some diseases, condoms -- even if used correctly -- cannot stop the disease from being transmitted.

Solomon explains why multiple sex partners is unhealthy by comparing sexual desire and intercourse to thirst and having a drink of water. "Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?" (Proverbs 5:15-20). Thirst is a strong desire within the human body. It is not one that we can easily ignore. Yet, when we are thirsty, our favored place to quench that thirst is from the tap in our own home. Why is that? It is because we trust our own water source to be free from impurities. Back in the ancient days, open gutters were used to carry waste water out of town. No one in their right mind would quench their thirst by taking a drink from the gutters -- no matter how thirsty they might be. Why is that? Because we know the water is dirty. It is filled with disgusting things. You don't know where that water was been or for what it has been used.

In the same manner, sex is a very strong desire in the human body; a desire that is not easily ignored. Yet, why would a person quench his sexual desire with a loose woman? How many other partners has she had? How many diseases has she picked up? Why would anyone expose themselves to all those diseases just to have sexual intercourse? It ought to be as repulsive to our minds as drinking a glass of sewage.

As teenagers, you need time to adjust to our new found ability. A toddler, who has just learned to walk, needs practice at walking before he can run. A toddler who attempts to run too soon is likely to take a few spills. A teenager needs time to get comfortable with his new bodily functions. Even though the ability to have sexual intercourse is present, it still takes several years for the entire mechanism to develop.

Puberty also brings rapid changes in hormone levels, which trigger the physical changes in our bodies. These hormones affect how we look at the world. In addition, our brains are completing the last major push in developing connections. When you look back on your thoughts and ideas you see the great strides you made in recent years. What many teenagers overlook is that these changing views continue to mature as you grow into your early twenties. You need time to come to grips with who you are before you engage in a life-changing course of marriage and raising children.

The natural consequence of sex is children. I know there are things which can be done to limit the possibility of having a pregnancy, but none of them are perfect. They reduce the odds, but they cannot totally eliminate the possibility. And we are dealing with teenagers who rarely have a good track record of paying attention to details and doing things with precision, especially in matters they have almost no experience in doing. A question I often ask teenagers is: Are they ready to become a parent? Most are shocked by the thought; yet, if you are engaging in sex, the possibility of becoming a parent exists.

Finally, it sounds to me that you firmly believe in God. It is just that dealing with these new issues has shaken your confidence in yourself. You asked God for help, and now you have found someone willing to help.

Hi, it's me again.

I want to thank you for helping me with my other question. The examples you used made it incredibly easy to understand.

Thank you very much. I feel comforted now. I'll try to see if I can talk to my dad about it.