Years ago a friend named John met with a group of young men. He was the only married man at the time, and the rest were dabbling with pornography. In a moment of brutal honesty, one of them said to John, “I just don’t understand how you can have sex with the same woman all the time. That seems boring.”
Without hesitation, John said with a straight face, “I don’t have sex with the same woman all the time.”
Their silent stares begged for explanation.
John explained that his wife was not the same woman he married. She was always growing and changing as a woman, and he was always growing and changing as a man. They were not the same people they were when they got married, and neither was their sexual intimacy. Like a fine wine, they and their intimacy had matured over time. Sex was not always filled with flames of passion — but that’s not all sex is intended to be.
Sex Strengthens with Time
God created sex to be a bond between a husband and wife that strengthens over time. Married couples make love on their honeymoon and after a miscarriage. They make love to conceive children and after they bury them. They make love when bodies are healthy and during battles against cancer. As a husband and wife pursue each other through intimate service, sacrifice, and struggle, God blesses them in a way the world can never know.
John explained to his friends that by continually neglecting God’s good design for sex, they were settling for flashes of sinful passion instead of the valuable white-hot coals of enduring intimacy. God designed sex to be best enjoyed when it is based on something other than appearance or performance. He bases it on committed love that reflects the unending love he has for all those who trust in Christ.
The world portrays pleasure as flash-in-the-pan passion that moves from lover to lover and fantasy to fantasy. But does this sort of pleasure really fulfill? Or does it actually deepen our discontentment? Who clicks on one pornographic picture and stops, satisfied? Who fantasizes for a few seconds and stops, satisfied? The offering of worldly pleasure can’t satisfy a heart that was created for a deeper, lasting pleasure.
Sin provides the sort of pleasure a parched man feels when he sees a mirage of water. He feels a thrill of hope, yet in the end disappointment only amplifies the emptiness.
Pursuit of Pleasure
But God has designed sex to be different for a husband and wife. In Proverbs 5:18–19, Solomon tells his sons,
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
God uses vivid imagery to communicate that he intends husbands and wives to deeply enjoy intimacy with each other. Sex is a good gift from a good God who delights in our joy.
That doesn’t mean sex is always enjoyable or easy for married couples. Because marriage is the union of an ever-changing and ever-growing pair of fallen people, we can expect that sexual intimacy to have both sweet and sour days and seasons. That is part of God’s wise design.
He has called a man and a woman to be committed to each other and to make love with each other during every season of life. Lovemaking on a honeymoon may be wonderful or awful. Intimate times are shared when buying a new house or burying a parent. It is pursued when God gives conception, and when he withholds it.
God Is Better Than Sex
God ordains lovemaking for couples when we are richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, when life is better or worse — until death do us part — because it reflects his enduring love for us.
We discover a depth of pleasure when we laugh and cry and pray and trust and weep and mourn and hope together. Lovemaking is more than just erotic pleasure; it is a soul-knitting intimacy that deepens with time. God designed this soul-level intimacy to reflect the deep, intimate, committed, faithful, servant-hearted commitment between Jesus and his bride, the church.
The goal of sex isn’t ultimately just enjoying your spouse, but it is enjoying God as the giver of good gifts. God is better than the best sex. We know this because for all of eternity we will live in a new heaven and new earth better than this one, a world in which we will not experience marriage or sex as we do now, but we will have a better and lasting pleasure with God (Matthew 22:30; Psalm 16; Isaiah 51:11; Revelation 21–22).
To the Married
1. Trust God when intimacy is absent.
At times, sexual intimacy may seem stagnant or nonexistent. Do not give up. Pray together. Press past the awkwardness and pain. Confess bitterness. Plead for God to help you.
Please do not hear me saying that if you just trust God and obey him, all your sexual struggles will vanish. That is not true. What I am saying is that true pleasure comes from receiving what God has given us by faith, and trusting that he is good, and intends it for our good (Psalm 119:68).
True pleasure is not found finally in having an amazing sex life, but in an amazing God. Bring your sexual satisfaction and sexual dysfunction to Jesus, because that is the ultimate goal of it all: to bring you closer to him.
2. Communication makes intimacy more intimate.
Simply making love in days of joy and sorrow won’t bring you closer to your spouse. Intimacy is cultivated through communication. Have regular conversations about how things are going in this area and how you can serve each other better. Talking honestly and listening to each other about intimate issues is part of God’s plan to draw you closer together.
3. Contentment in sex comes from delighting in God.
You can have the best spouse on the planet and enjoy the most fulfilling sex life imaginable, and still this fact remains: if our hearts are not satisfied in God, they will never be satisfied. Spouses can be wonderful helpers, but they are sorry saviors. The best way to have a blessed sex life is to delight in the God who gives the gift. Jesus is always better than any gift he gives you, including sex in marriage.
To the Unmarried
1. Don’t buy counterfeit pleasures.
Satan will provide many opportunities to satisfy your sexual frustration. But the fleeting flames of pornography or empty flings of premarital sex only end up stealing the very pleasure you are looking for. I realize it feels crazy to resist, especially when no end is in sight, but God promises to help you. By clinging to him in the battle, you will find the true joy that sexual sin can never provide.
2. Protect your future marriage.
Marriage is tough enough as it is. But if you fill your heart with sexual images and experiences, you set yourself and your future spouse up for unnecessary added difficulty. If God gives you a spouse, that person will be what you really need. Filling your heart with unrealistic or unfair expectations can end up hindering the intimacy God has for you in the future.
3. Find contentment in God today.
Remember that your fulfillment as a person is not dependent on being sexually or romantically fulfilled. Jesus was never married, never romantically involved, and never had sex. Yet Jesus was the most fully human and complete person who has ever lived.
Now you might think, Yeah, thanks, but I’m not Jesus. I get it. But please hear this: sexual pleasure will never ultimately satisfy you. A wonderful spouse will never fulfill you. Neither sex nor spouse can do what only God can. Seek to be satisfied in him, and if God gives you a spouse, you’ll be free to enjoy him or her all the more.