Lust is a sin that dominates and never satisfies. This sequence is not random. Dissatisfaction is an intended consequence of lust that was designed by the enemy of your souls. In the last post I asked you to look at 2 Samuel 13 and the story of Amnon. That passage vividly depicts this truth. Amnon was consumed by his sinful desire for Tamar. Yet, after he had acted upon his desire and taken her, instead of being satisfied, he was filled with hatred. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates verse 2 Samuel 13:15 this way:
After this, Amnon hated Tamar with such intensity that the hatred he hated her with was greater than the love he had loved her with. “Get out of here!” he said.
In desperation, Tamar pleads with Amnon not to send her away. But his hatred was so great that he had her thrown out of his house and the door bolted behind her. What caused this reaction? Was Tamar less beautiful and attractive than she was when Amnon lusted after her? No, of course not. His behavior illustrates Ephesians 4:17-19 – lust is never satisfied. Just as importantly, this story also teaches you that lust is fueled primarily by the anticipation of the act it dangles in front of its captives. If the act itself fueled the lust, Amnon should have been satisfied. But instead of being satisfied, he was filled with raging hatred. What he thought he wanted yielded no satisfaction at all.
This is the key to understanding lust, whether you are a businessman viewing pornography or a teenager stealing time to search the Internet or magazines for pornographic images and stories. That is also why remorse about engaging in lustful acts–whether it is pornography, thoughts, masturbation or sexual sin with another person–will not stop the lust. The act itself never satisfies. Amnon’s reaction of disgust and anger is common to most who are caught in the web of lust. Parents, this is an important point to understand if you are going to help your children defeat the power of lust in their lives.
The term ruling desire is right on target as a description of lust. If you or your children focus only on the act that comes from the lust, you will know frustration and failure. You may succeed in changing behavior for a short time, but the burning desires of lust will not have been quenched. This pattern of anticipation, action, and regret is what I call the lust cycle. It works like this.
A young person is tempted by an image or thought that is impure. If that temptation is pursued, the door is opened to the world of lust, and the lust cycle has begun. 2 Samuel 11:2-3 tells how King David was drawn into this cycle.
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her…
While it was not necessarily wrong for David to see Bathsheba bathing (assuming that he was not on the roof with the intention of seeing Bathsheba), it was certainly wrong for him to linger and continue his gaze. He followed up with an inquiry after Bathsheba, and you know how it went from there. It is not wrong to be tempted. Christ was tempted. But when the temptation is contemplated instead of rejected, the lust cycle begins–a pattern of thinking that, if it is not repented of and stopped immediately, will only lead to more lustful thoughts. This way of thinking has the capacity to control one’s life. Such thoughts will become more intense, demanding to be acted upon. This thinking, which conforms to the world’s way of thinking, is the real danger and attraction of lust.
The anticipation of the contemplated act, whatever the act may be, drives the cycle. Lust promises more than it can possibly deliver. For example, lustful thoughts encourage just a quick look at the popular website of a sports magazine featuring pictures of models in swimsuits. Once all the models on this site are viewed, there may be an emptiness and disgust over looking at the photos. But the deceit of the flesh says it’s not a porn site – it’s just part a of sports site. Soon, however, just looking at the “safe” sports site is not enough. Next a Google search yields literally thousands of sites that are possibilities – many of them free. There may be a brief struggle, but then the decision is made just to look at material that is not really too bad. After viewing a few of these not-so-bad images, there may be another period of disgust, and determination not to look at these things again. There may even be prayer about not looking again. But as long as the real issues of the heart are untouched, and only regret and remorse are addressed, the anticipation of viewing such images and ones that are only slightly worse begins to take control. After a while the lustful anticipation wins out. More images are viewed. The pattern holds: images previously viewed don’t satisfy. So images are hunted for until the titillation returns. But these new images eventually don’t bring satisfaction either. Guilt, remorse and regret return. So there is a twin spiral of increasing desire for titillation and increasing disgust with the act of viewing pornography. More intense prayer and regret may come as well. Even so, the lust cycle remains intact.
Several negative, crippling outcomes flow from the lust cycle. The first outcome is that the spiral increases to the point where horrific damage occurs. Marriages can be destroyed, careers lost, sexual perversion and depression can dominate. Crime and any number of destructive acts can occur.
Another outcome is a resignation to living a double life. The level of lustful activity may flatten out, but the desire to participate remains. So a “safe” level of lustful activity remains, perhaps for years. The pattern of lust has become “comfortable.” In this situation, the Christian life deteriorates into an exercise in keeping up a good front – whatever needs to be done to appear spiritual will be done, but internally, emptiness and apathy dominate.
Another outcome can be a life marked by extreme ups and downs. The battle with lust may appear to be won, sometimes for months or longer; but eventually the cycle returns. When evidence of lust is infrequent, an extreme spiritual high develops, but the return of the cycle results in an equally extreme low.
Be aware that this lust cycle does not look the same for everyone. There are those who struggle with lust but are outside of the pattern. Romans 1 speaks of those whom God has given over to their lusts and they do not experience any guilt or remorse, but only the desire to encourage others to participate with them in these shameful acts.
Lust, in all its manifestations, has many within its grip. In the next post we will look at how to break the cycle and build a life based on the power of redeeming grace. Hope and freedom are available for you and your children.