Drowning in Shallow Christianity

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I recently met with a friend who shared openly with me about her struggles in marriage. “It’s like living with a robot! He doesn’t seem to know how to connect emotionally. Am I supposed to live the next thirty years with this man? Does God really want me to be so lonely?”

I have heard echoes of this dear woman’s questions in so many other situations. My single friends wonder why God hasn’t brought a husband and children. Others can’t figure out why God doesn’t take away the pain from childhood trauma or unwanted sexual temptations.  At the heart of their pain is this question: why isn’t Christianity working for me?

When sexual issues become confusing, God also becomes confusing. I’ve met many Christians who walk away from their faith because what they know about God isn’t consistent with the pain and loneliness of their circumstances.

Tweet: "When sexual issues become confusing, God also becomes confusing." @DrJuliSlattery

I have been studying Jesus’ last evening with His disciples recorded by John. He gives them much comfort by telling them about the Helper who is coming, assuring them that He would be with them, answering their prayers and giving them strength. Yet in the middle of His gut-wrenching goodbye speech, Jesus clearly warns his disciples of the pain and persecution that is coming. “The world will hate you because they hate me. They will reject your teaching because they rejected me. The time is coming when people who kill you will think they are doing a service to God.” Jesus flatly prepared them for a treacherous life. Why? Because when they experienced pain, rejection and even death, He did not want them to turn away from their faith but to remember He warned them that this would happen.

In the Western world, many of us have been taught a shallow version of Christianity. We have been told that Jesus died to save us and to give us a great life. Our pastors and devotionals sometimes “cherry pick” verses that assure us that only good is in store for those who love God. “I know the plans I have for you... All things work together for good… I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” Then we are promised happy marriages, healthy children, comfortable bank accounts and the respect of a watching world. We believe that a God who loves us would never require us to endure loneliness, suffering or to daily battle sexual temptations we need to say no to.

Then we encounter pain and we wonder why God has failed us. Or perhaps we conclude that we must have failed Him, as so pain is our punishment.

A faithful reading of the Bible (and even of Jesus’ words) bluntly prepares Christians for a life of sacrifice, self-denial and persecution. Not only is every life filled with difficulty, but following Jesus will likely multiply your trials. It doesn’t end well for us here on planet Earth, for this is not our home. Jesus told us that He came to give us an abundant (full) life. He promised to give us rest, comfort and joy, yet those gifts are alongside the commitment to share in His sufferings.To put it plainly, we cannot experience the resurrection power of Jesus unless we are first willing to walk with Him in death.

My life is fuller because I know Jesus. It is richer because I’m surrendered to His Lordship. I have great purpose and comfort in following Him. Yet at times, life is also more difficult, painful and lonely. When I read the Scriptures, I’m reminded that this is right where I should be.  Rejecting Jesus means that you can pursue life as you please. Satan doesn’t ask you for anything, but in the end he will take everything.

If you are following Jesus and your life is hard, be encouraged. If every step towards godliness is met with temptation and doubt, you’re not alone. Press on. Jesus warned us that in this world we would have trouble. But He also told us to take heart because He will always be with us, and ultimately, He has overcome the world. Along with Jesus’ words predicting how His disciples would suffer, He gave them the great promise of the Holy Spirit. He promised He would answer their prayers -- whatever they asked in His name. He promised to prepare an eternal home for them where He would always be.

My friend, don’t wiggle out of the Lordship of Christ because it is uncomfortable and causing you to bear burdens the world would quickly take from you. Christianity without a cross is no Christianity at all. Sometimes carrying a “cross” means enduring seasons of loneliness, loving when no one is loving you back and walking by faith when you can’t hear or feel God. But it is worth it… He is worth it!

He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose. ~Jim Elliot

If you'd like to learn more, listen to our Java with Juli episode #256: Who Is Jesus to You? or read Juli's blog post Have You Forgotten Who God Is?

 

 

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  • Rhonda Franz

    Rhonda Franz

    Thank you for this beautiful and truthful encouragement, Julie. Letting God's truth (that you've written about here) be her guide, I wonder if the friend you reference (and others for whom her story resonates) might also check into the possibility that she (they) could be married to someone with Asperger syndrome. A diagnosis is not the most important thing, but looking into books and articles that have been written about the unique challenges in a marital relationship where one spouse exhibits characteristics, and the other does not can lead to gracious understanding and helpful strategies.

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The neurochemicals released during sex and orgasm reduce stress, help you sleep and make you feel at peace. However, having sex outside of marriage or habitually masturbating is an abuse of the body's natural response to sex. If you are masturbating on a regular basis or use it to deal with negative emotions, I'd encourage you to find other means of coping. God gave us healthy ways to release the chemicals in your body that bring peace and contentment. Prayer, meditation, exercise, talking to a friend or creating something artistic might take more work, but they are alternatives to falling into an addictive cycle. 5) Am I honoring God with my body? "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). 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A husband and wife should talk and pray together about the best way to focus sexually on one another when sexual intimacy isn’t possible.  Masturbation becomes a problem when it is a secret kept from your spouse, if it is a replacement for sexual intimacy or if sexual thoughts go outside of thinking about just the two of you. Many married women can only orgasm if they stimulate themselves. While I’d encourage women in this situation to work towards teaching your husband how to pleasure you (I recommend the book The Married Guy's Guide to Great Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner), there is nothing wrong with touching yourself during sexual intimacy. You are sharing a sexual experience with your husband. Growing sexually requires you to explore your bodies together. Masturbation can even be beneficial for a married couple in cases of sexual dysfunction. A very common form of sex therapy called "sensate focus" helps a woman pay attention to how she responds to sexual touch, first by touching herself and then by guiding her husband's hand as he touches her. This can be an important step in healing, particularly for women who have experienced sexual trauma that triggers anxiety at sexual touch. Final Thoughts: I have great respect for women (married and single) who want to honor God with their sexuality. I believe masturbation is an issue that each woman has to ask the Lord about. While God didn’t specifically address masturbation in the Bible, God did tell us that He wants to give us his wisdom. "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking" (James 1:5). God is the High Priest who understands your questions and struggles. Even in this most intimate (and perhaps embarrassing) issue, don't be afraid to pour out your heart to him and ask for his specific direction and wisdom.   You may be interested in these follow-up resources: Is Masturbation a Sin? You May Be Asking the Wrong Question (Juli's blog) #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual #166: We're All Sexually Broken Why We Don't Experience Victory (Juli's blog) Three Things To Remember About Sexual Sin & Grace (Joy's blog)