07 Sep 2023
Whether you’re parenting toddlers, teens, or both, today’s sexual climate probably concerns you. I once heard parenting described as walking around with your heart outside your body ; that feels accurate. Parents face intense vulnerability as we strive to keep our dear children safe. Now that I have a teen and a ten-year-old, keeping my boys safe looks much different than when they were babies and toddlers. I’m no longer worried about them catapulting out of their crib or flinging themselves into a pool.
But the dangers they face as they grow older are even scarier. Will they cling to Christ amid an antagonistic culture? Will they continue to know who they are as boys—growing into men—made in God’s image to glorify him? Will they resist the dehumanizing and addictive lure of pornography? If they marry, will they commit to women who fear the Lord? Of course, I care about their physical well-being. But will their souls be safe?
More than anything, I long to rejoice in eternal glory with my sons as my brothers.
God Uses Means
It’s easy to look around at the world and let fear shrivel our hearts. According to a recent Barna survey, 73% of Christian parents are “concerned about their children’s spiritual development.” This concern isn’t groundless; our children are under attack (see 1 Peter 5:8). As Mark Sanders highlighted, so many of our youth are deceived and seeking purpose in identifying as LGBTQ+. What can we do to make sure our kids will be okay?
Being not sovereign, not omniscient, and not omnipotent, we can’t guarantee anything. Our parenting can’t secure any particular outcome for our children. Faithful Christian parents might, heartbreakingly, watch their children turn away from the Lord.
Yet God works through means. In his providence, godly parents are a gift to their children and instruments in the Lord’s hands. How can we parent our kids from a place of confidence in the Lord rather than fear? Here are some thoughts and practices I’ve observed in wise Christian parents that my husband and I seek, by God’s grace, to follow.
- Trusting the Lord
Exhausted and defeated when my newborn wasn’t sleeping despite my having read, underlined, and applied all the baby book instructions, I agonized over what I was doing wrong. Don’t we all like a clear “do this, get that” sequence? But children are not programmable robots and only sometimes do what we expect.
Just as we’re saved only by God’s grace in Christ, not by our works, he is the only one we can rely on in all aspects of raising our kids. If they resist LGBTQ+ ideology and other sexual sins, it will be by God’s grace. This shatters my pride and gives me hope. If our children stand firm, praise Jesus—it’s his work alone. If they turn away, God is still good and accomplishing his plan in their lives and ours. I am finite and less good than God, the author of my children’s story as well as my own.
I am finite and less good than God, the author of my children’s story as well as my own.
The Judge of all the earth shall do what is just (Gen. 18:25) and calls himself “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6b). This truth soaks comfort into a believer’s soul, helping us entrust our precious children to the everlastingly faithful Father. We can’t guarantee anything, and we certainly can’t save them—and this is good news, because we make terrible saviors. The hopeful reality is that they’re in the hands of the triune Creator, who is justice, mercy, and love.
I’m happily convinced that praying for and with our kids is the best thing we can ever do for them. It’s better than all the discipline, school choices, family times, and device limits in the world.
Praying for Our Children
In Christ, frail humans are united to the One who spoke the universe into existence and keeps our breath circulating each moment. Prayer acknowledges that we are God’s, his way is best, and he is mighty. Before stating that “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (v. 3), Psalm 127 begins with a foundational truth: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (vv. 1–2). We can rest (“he gives to his beloved sleep”) because God is the builder and the watchman (v. 2).
Yet here lies one of Scripture’s great paradoxes: the almighty Lord chooses to work through the prayers of his people. Our prayers are part of God accomplishing his plan for our children. Let’s earnestly plead for them—for their salvation, their preservation, their delight in Jesus, their Kingdom usefulness, their eternal joy.
Praying with Our Children
Praying together establishes the family as a team, united in seeking the good of unbelievers for God’s glory. It lifts our gaze up and away from ourselves, opening our eyes to a world that needs the gospel and increasing our compassion for the lost. You most likely know a young person experiencing gender dysphoria—as a family, bring him or her before the throne of grace.
Praying with our children also models how believers can respond to intense emotions. In Christ, none of us must bear life’s weight alone. What a gift this is! We’re introducing them to our lifeline—a replenishing stream of communication with the living Lord who welcomes us in our sin, confusion, weakness, and fear. In prayer, directed by God’s Word, our children can run to Jesus with the deep troubles of their hearts instead of looking for hope in sexual sin and misplaced identity. We teach our kids to call 911 in an emergency; how much more to run to Jesus in prayer.
- Christ-Centered Marriage
Marriage in the Lord is holistically beneficial. Instituted by God for his glory and our joy, marriage between one man and one woman leads to whole-family flourishing that ripples out into the church and wider community. The radiating warmth of a godly marriage undermines today’s cultural idea that traditional marriage is oppressive. It’s so good for children to experience the loving stability of a home where their parents’ marriage is anchored in the Lord.
However, families face the reality of sin daily, and sometimes grievously. Your marriage may not be a haven; it may be broken. I’m sorry if you’re carrying this heavy burden.
Marriage, as great as it is, is not a final destination. It exists to illuminate the eternal spiritual reality of Christ and his bride, and, in the church, we bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Being part of a local church also provides the opportunity to see healthy families in action. My husband’s dad had an affair with the neighbor’s wife when my husband was only two years old. Later, his stepfather physically and emotionally abused him. Yet in the church, he saw husbands and wives loving one another and children happy in their security; he began to learn what it means to follow Jesus as a husband and father.
- Christian Community
I’ve learned much from families who are consistently involved in their local church, pursuing the means of grace despite physical obstacles and pain. This communicates to our kids that meeting with God’s people, under the preached Word, is not optional but essential. Taking communion, singing, praying together in the Lord—this is oxygen to believers living in a carbon-monoxide world.
And in the family of God, our children get to experience a truly gracious community. A desire for belonging may often drive young people toward an LGBTQ+ lifestyle. But the church offers a far richer, more diverse, beautifully hopeful community where every individual matters not for how they self-actualize, but because God says they are innately precious image-bearers.
We need not hide from the world, afraid of being infected by its cultural agenda. Exercising wisdom is not the same thing as letting fear guide the way we interact with unbelievers.
Hospitality has always been central to following Jesus, and following Jesus leaves no room for fear, snobbery, or judgment. We were not saved by a superior understanding of male and female chromosomes or because our sexual preferences align with the Bible’s teaching, but by God’s welcoming mercy. We who call Jesus “Lord” were welcomed by him when we were deceived and hopeless. The bedrock of Christian hope is that the triune God loved us when we were still sinners and made us alive together in Christ when we were dead in our trespasses (Eph. 2:4–9, my emphasis).
In a culture saturated by an anemic, clichéd understanding of love—where “love is love” and “love wins”—the biblical assurance is this: God is love and Jesus wins.
When we extend hospitality, our children get to be exposed to a variety of people, lifestyles, and personalities. They see that the transforming love of Christ causes us to love others, even those who are different from us. Especially in our partisan world, this is a powerful apologetic for the gospel. I’m inspired by families who demonstrate their theological convictions through gospel-motivated and Spirit-sustained hospitality.
To begin teaching your kids about sexuality, one friend says, just read the Old Testament during family worship. It will provoke all sorts of questions. She’s joking but also serious—God’s Word doesn’t shelter us from the ugliness of human depravity. It’s right to explain to our kids (age-appropriately) what’s going on and how it points to our Redeemer.
The temptation to avoid uncomfortable topics is real, but if we don’t speak with our kids about sexuality, we can rest assured the world will. Let’s resist any hint of shame culture that would cause embarrassment about the bodies and functions God created. Individual families need to decide when they’ll introduce things like biologically correct anatomical terms, the reproductive cycle, puberty, pornography, LGBTQ+ ideology, and other sexual developments and sins our children will face. But we must own our responsibility to teach them. I pray my boys know that they can come to their father and me with any—any—question and receive a truthful answer.
Our Hope: Jesus Alone
In a culture saturated by an anemic, clichéd understanding of love—where “love is love” and “love wins”—the biblical assurance is this: God is love and Jesus wins. Hopefully these aims encourage you in your parenting. Raising children in a world increasingly hostile to Christianity is scary. But—perhaps you’re feeling this, too—my sin scares me even more than the sin “out there.”
Inconsistency, irritability, distractibility, preoccupation with other things—these are some of the dangers my children face from a mom who claims to follow Jesus yet so often doesn’t live like it. Will they know I love them when I’m half paying attention and half trying to figure out my next task? Will they still see the beauty of Christ when they see me grumbling about chores or restless in discontent?
My hope as a weak and fallible mother rests in Christ alone. His children are clothed in his righteousness, and he will finish the work he started in us (Phil. 1:6). He is faithful; he is powerful; he is enough. Parents: with our confidence rooted in our Savior’s character and victory, we have every reason to press on, courageously raising our kids amid a threatening world.
1] As yet, I’m unable to pin down the source for this quote. It’s commonly attributed to Elizabeth Stone, but I’ve also seen it attributed to Ellen Cantarow. If anyone knows, please contact Harvest USA and fill me in!
06 Apr 2023
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16–18)
Our heavenly Father uses all things for his children’s good (Rom. 8:28). Even hard things from God are better than anything we might wish for. But he’s generous with his feel-good gifts, too. Loving relationships, delicious food, even the glimmer of gifts as simple as birdsong and budding trees point to the unchanging goodness of our “Father of lights.”
I’ve noticed a common attribute in some of my most spiritually mature friends: they pursue joy. One dear friend has been watching her only sister, a mother of two young children, fight recurring stage-four cancer. My friend’s gutsy determination to enjoy the good things that still exist even while her heart aches with sorrow is strikingly beautiful. It’s a resistance against evil, an active rebellion against the forces of darkness that feel so mighty here and now. It’s gratitude, armed and fighting.
This sturdy gratitude—the dogged decision to enjoy what’s good in life—is itself a gift of God’s grace. And it’s a key weapon in the fight against sin, including sexual sins. Behaviors like viewing pornography, sex outside marriage, or fantasizing about someone are all fed by discontentment.
Gratitude and Joy
Gratitude, on the other hand, nurtures joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).
James doesn’t say “snap out of it, guys—feel happy!” but “count it all joy.” It’s a reasoned response grounded in God’s power. Trials test faith and, for one who is united to Christ, tested faith gets stronger. We can count trials as joy because God’s Spirit is refining us through them (vv. 3–4).
Believer, God is at work in your life. Gratitude involves mining for the jewels of his work.
Believer, God is at work in your life. Gratitude involves mining for the jewels of his work. Did God’s promises comfort you today? Did you respond to sorrow or stress by crying out to the Lord instead of turning to pornography? Did you repent immediately instead of waiting to confess sin? May the Lord give us eyes to see his work in us and grateful hearts to celebrate it.
Gratitude and Temptation
Our Father’s gifts compared to sin are like a blazing campfire next to a weak flashlight. God’s gifts bring us warmth, joy, and light where sin leads us into a dark forest—cold, lost, tripping over roots, stumbling off cliffs. Yet temptation would have us grip the flashlight instead of resting in the campfire’s comforting glow.
It’s striking to me that when James talks about trials, he includes temptation (1:12–15). Temptation is tied to deception and feeds on discontent. “Do not be deceived,” James says (v. 16). Our wandering hearts believe the lie that we don’t have what we need in Christ. But sin is a dim imitation of joy and ultimately leads to death. Remaining steadfast under trial has to do with remembering God’s character: “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (v. 17). He is essentially, eternally good; he is goodness.
However we feel in the moment of temptation, if we have him, we have everything. Noticing his good gifts reminds us of God’s character. It feeds gratitude and exposes sin’s emptiness. Only God lavishes goodness upon us; he alone satisfies.
This is true at every level. Consider the wholesome, mundane gifts God gives: biting into a perfect apple. Late afternoon light slanting through a window. Hugging a loved one, laughing with a friend, watching daffodils opening like concentrated sunshine. These are merely common grace good things! Believers get special grace, too—the honey of God’s Word, fellowship with believers in the bond of the Spirit, prayer. We get communion with our Savior. In union with Christ, we get God himself.
Gratitude and Jesus
When fighting temptation, we can make too much of the thing we’re fighting. It looms over everything, casting the shadow of condemnation. Our struggle with sin can appear bigger than our Savior’s victory.
Noticing his good gifts reminds us of God’s character. It feeds gratitude and exposes sin’s emptiness.
It’s right to grieve sin; godly sorrow leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8–11). But repentance means looking away from ourselves to Jesus, trusting that his death is enough. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). He is the pure sacrifice who atones for our sin—the obedient son who clothes us in his righteousness. He gives us his Spirit to empower our fight and helps us in our need (Heb. 4:14–16). It’s particularly in our sin that we have cause for gratitude!
Still, I forget God’s mercy and miss many opportunities to rejoice over the things that punctuate life with beauty, warmth, or humor. You, too? But our hope is in Christ, who always delights in his Father.
We can run freely to Christ in daily repentance because he never needed to repent. And through him, the Father lavishes his unfailing love upon us in small and large ways, every day. What better motivation to thankfulness can there be than the unmerited mercy that’s ours in Christ?
The greatest of earthly good gifts, though, are only little tastes of our Father’s goodness. Even our experience of spiritual blessings is limited by our sin—we see in a glass dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). The greatest gifts now are small bites, just big enough to whet our appetite for the coming feast. Praise God—in Christ, we have an eternity of sinless, satisfying joy to anticipate.
15 Dec 2022
I love Christmas. Glowing tree lights illuminate sentimental ornaments, candlelight glints on red berries—everything gauche and shiny and celebratory. Christmas books adorn the coffee table. My long-suffering family endures endless repetitions of “Carols from St. Paul’s Cathedral.” There’s meal planning, card sending, and gifts.
This—receiving gifts—is where my family’s Christmas celebration can get derailed. Anyone else? We can begin to believe we should get precisely what we want. For all its convenience, the Amazon wishlist can become a petty tyrant, serving our bullying demands. This is self-focused—greedy rather than grateful. When it comes to Christmas presents, we can spot that.
But what about how we respond to the life God gives? We all live in a reality that, in some way, is not what we wanted. I never expected my husband to face young-onset Parkinson’s Disease, yet he does. I don’t want to see him growing weaker, yet he is. You may not want to struggle against sexual sin or singleness or discontentment. And family gatherings can make the season extra difficult, highlighting estranged relationships, grief, or loneliness. In all this heartache, do we see God as the tight-fisted arbiter of our life’s wish list—holding out on the good stuff? Or will we trust our heavenly Father?
God’s plans are better than our wish list life, even when we can’t see it and don’t feel it. He is good. He’s able and willing to do us good. Whether or not we believe this truth impacts everything.
Four realities about God’s providence nourish our belief:
1. God Works for Our Good
You may be happily married or aching with loneliness, struggling to care for a gender-dysphoric child or enjoying family life, daily fighting sexual sin or living victoriously. Whether you’re facing the best or the worst things, God’s Word says, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, my emphasis).
It’s hard to think of trials as gifts in God’s hands. And it’s true that evil itself is evil. Yet God sovereignly works even evil things for good to his children. In this light, we can receive all things as gifts tailored to us from the wise hand of our good Father.
What a mystery and miracle. In his providence, God fits our life’s circumstances to purpose, for us.
“Do not mistake me,” writes Puritan Thomas Watson. “I do not say that of their own nature the worst things are good, for they are a fruit of the curse; but though they are naturally evil, yet the wise, overruling hand of God disposing and sanctifying them, they are morally good” (21). Joseph answered his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20a).
What a mystery and miracle. In his providence, God fits our life’s circumstances to purpose, for us. Whatever the pain, your wise Father is using that very thing for good in your life. As William Cowper wrote,
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
2. God Gives What Is Necessary
Our Father also takes the worst things and uses them as medicine to refine us. “Out of the most poisonous drugs God extracts our salvation,” writes Watson (22). This is not an optional treatment. It’s spiritual chemotherapy—a violent cure, without which we die.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:6–7, my emphasis)
Our framework for this hard truth is the reality that our greatest need is spiritual. Apart from salvation in Christ, we are eternally lost. The best gifts of this world will vanish like mist in the morning sun. But Christ, and him growing ever dearer to us, is everything we need for all eternity. Truly! Anything that helps us let go of this passing world and cling to the One who lasts forever is essential medicine.
3. God Gives Abundantly
But this medicine is not only bitter. It also carries the sweetness of union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Our Father is merciful and generous—he gives us himself.
He provides all we need each moment to walk through this vale of tears, and he is himself our eternal, undefiled, unfading inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3–5). Fernando Ortega’s song “Give Me Jesus” says, “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” What better gift can we have, for life and eternity, than fellowship with our Savior?
Our Father is merciful and generous—he gives us himself.
And believers—we have Jesus. He is ours and we are his, now and forever. Jesus walks with us; he does not leave us alone in suffering but comforts and guides us as our sympathetic High Priest. In our suffering, Lord, give us Jesus. In our painful circumstances, our lost hopes, our discouragement—give us Jesus.
4. God Gives What He Requires
God delights to answer this prayer! Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10–11). Our Shepherd Savior is our hope and rest.
In our sin and sorrow, we default to wishlist thinking, but Jesus never did. We question our Father’s character and work—but Jesus trusted his Father unto death. We are weak, but Jesus obeyed in perfect strength. And those who look to him in faith are united with him in his righteousness. This is good news! Even as we doubt, we receive Jesus’s perfect track record and Jesus himself—what can compare to this eternal reality?
God is good. See the cross of Christ and the empty tomb for proof. Whatever you face today, your good, caring Father is working good for you in all things, and you’re headed for an eternal glory more satisfying than any earthly wish list.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9–11)
Sexual intimacy in marriage is one of God’s gifts. It furthers humanity, cements the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, and fosters love and joy in their union.
Christians confess these things. But do we truly, deep-down, believe sex in marriage is pure? All too often, I don’t. Many factors can taint the purity of marital sex in our minds and hearts. Sexualization seeps into almost every part of western culture, and the world’s view of sex as base and animalistic surely affects us more than we realize. We may feel hesitancy and shame about enjoying marital sex. And if we’ve been abused or struggle with sexual sin, it can be difficult to believe that sex can honor God or be safe.
The world, the flesh, and the devil all conspire to convince us that what God says is good really isn’t good, and our battle-weary hearts struggle to accept the purity of this gift.
And what we believe impacts how we live. It’s harder to engage with your spouse in a loving and vulnerable way through intimacy if sex feels sinful. We may know the truth with our heads, but how do we respond to rogue feelings?
Christ Is Enough
Being a Christian means hiding in the righteousness of Christ, always. If we’re trusting Jesus, every single wrong belief and warped motivation has been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) that we may live in him (Rom. 5:18)! Our hope doesn’t rest in our behavior or feelings, but in Christ’s finished work. If God says sex in a loving marriage between a man and a woman is good, and if you’re married, then intimacy with your spouse is good—regardless of your feelings.*
Here are four truths to help us “talk back” to our feelings.
- We’ve been declared righteous according to Christ’s death and resurrection.
Faith in Jesus alone justifies us, not our works (Rom. 3:23–24). Apart from Christ, our hearts are twisted. We may bring sexual sin and its accompanying shame, or the shame of sins committed against us, into the marriage covenant. We’ll be fighting sin and feeling the pain of sins committed against us until heaven. This is why justification is such liberating news—our souls are safe because of Jesus.
God has set his favor upon us. He sparked faith in our warped, corrupted hearts, making them new and empowering us to walk in good works (Eph. 2:4–9). If you’re married, your marriage relationship is one of those good works. Marriage illuminates the all-surpassing gift of Christ, our Bridegroom, to his people. Being justified by faith means we can take our worried eyes off ourselves and fix them on our Savior. We’re united with Christ, reconciled with the Father, and helped by the Spirit. We can walk in good works because of Jesus.
- Christ’s righteousness covers us.
R.C. Sproul illustrates this doctrine of imputation in his children’s book, The Priest with Dirty Clothes. When Jonathan irreparably stains his robe, he goes to the great prince desperate for help to clean his clothes so he can stand before the king. Shockingly, the prince puts Jonathan’s filthy clothes on himself and gives Jonathan his own royal robes. He smiles, saying, “These are the clean clothes I promised you. They are yours forever. They will never wear out. There is not a spot of dirt on them and nothing can make them dirty. They are perfect for you.”
Think about that! Nothing can mar the righteousness that’s ours in Christ—not our sin (past or present), not sin done against us, not our feelings.
What does this have to do with sex? We can wrongly believe purity is rooted in our behavior. If we’ve sinned or been sinned against sexually, that’s it. Game over. We’re “used goods.” But the gospel truth is that our purity is found in Christ—it’s rooted not in us, but in the spotlessly pure robes of Christ’s righteousness covering us.
At the end of Sproul’s story, Jonathan wants to be good enough to wear the prince’s clothes. “But you cannot be good enough, Jonathan,” the prince says. “You must live your whole life trusting in my goodness while you wear my clothes.” We will never be pure apart from Christ. Yet, in Christ, we’re adorned by a purity more shimmeringly beautiful than we can imagine.
- God uses ordinary means to sanctify us.
Day by day, by the power of his Spirit, God is doing extraordinary work in us through ordinary means—reading his Word, prayer, fellowship with believers, partaking of communion, suffering, relationships. For believers who are called to it, marriage—in all its dimensions—is part of that process.
As we learn to submit to another, preferring them before ourselves, seeking their wellbeing, and caring for their emotions, God is sanctifying us. As we embrace the vulnerability of sexual union, committing ourselves to our spouse again, knowing and being known in all our imperfections, God is sanctifying us. God will use even marital sex to work out our sanctification. Christian, you can enjoy sex with your spouse not only as something good in itself, but as part of the Lord’s sanctification in your life.
This is good news, but we still sin against God and each other. Have you ever thought, “I can’t even have sex with my spouse without sinning in my mind!”? The frustrating reality of ongoing sin can tempt us to avoid sex altogether. But that’s not the answer. As Jim Weidenaar said, simply avoiding sex would be like saying, “I can’t pursue relationships with people in church without my pride and anger surfacing, so to avoid more sin I’ll be a loner.”
“Instead,” Jim said, “it’s as we pursue loving relationships that we recognize sin and true growth happens. The path of sanctification, in sex or any area of life, requires us to exercise faith. Though the road is rocky, our Savior will help us grow even as we grieve, confront, repent of, and work through sin day by day.”
- We’re headed to eternal glory.
Neither marriage nor sex within marriage are ultimate or eternal—like all God’s gifts, they’re signposts pointing to the greater realities of Christ and his love for his people. One day we will physically be with Jesus, our heart’s satisfaction, forever (Ps. 16:5–6). We’ll be free from sin and shame, delighting in the consummation of our souls’ deepest longings.
Paradoxically, this frees us to treasure our earthly marriage more than ever and to not take it too seriously. The intimacy of marriage is a lovely gift, but it pales compared to that great day when we see our Lord face to face. Christ himself is our joy! He is our inheritance. He is our tender husband. The marriage union is a temporary gift; spiritual union with Christ is our eternal reality.
How does this head knowledge work its way into our hearts, so our felt experience matches the truth we confess?
We may still feel that sex with our spouse is impure. Feelings are stubborn and must occasionally be given “a stern talking to.” But that doesn’t always change them. In this fallen life we will sometimes be overset by feelings that run roughshod over us, leaving no reprieve, no peace. But amid all the turmoil of all the feelings, we have a sure and steady refuge for our soul in Christ our Savior. We can shelter in him, crying with the psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
And as the Holy Spirit continues to work in us, our belief in Christ’s sufficiency will grow. The answer, if we’re married, is not to avoid sexual intimacy with our spouse* nor to ignore the feelings. Neither can we examine ourselves thoroughly enough or purge ourselves of sin! No, our hope is found in Jesus.
Who Jesus is and what he has done triumphs over our feelings. Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ” (293). Let’s look to Christ, our Savior, and hide in his righteousness. We can trust him with every part of our lives.
*This assumes your marriage is not abusive. If you’re facing harm from your spouse, remove yourself to safety and seek guidance from a trusted counselor.