What I Told A Teenage Boy Struggling With Lust
Not too long ago, I had a talk with a teenage boy who admitted, with his head in his hands, that he was struggling with lust. No matter how many years I have spent studying and writing about biblical sexuality on an academic level, nothing quite prepares you for moments like this. Real-life moments. I quickly prayed, “God, let your Holy Spirit answer. Give me the words.” I started by telling him, “You are not alone.” I explained that lust is a common struggle, something that I and almost everyone I know has dealt with at some point in their lives. And I told him that I was encouraged that he cared enough to do something about it. “It’s a good sign that you aren’t okay with this—that you want to change,” I said. And with this, he lifted his head a little.
I asked if he was referring to pornography, and he was quick to say: “No, I have been free from pornography for six months.” I told him that was a huge victory, but my heart broke a little inside. He was so young. The fact that these precious souls are exposed to pornography at such tender ages grieves me deeply. “Girls you know, then?” I asked, and he nodded.
Immediately I started thinking about all the advice that has come out over the years for Christian men struggling with lust, advice like: “look away,” “bounce your eyes,” and one popular book that even advised men to “zap” women in their minds, like a bug. None of this felt right or biblical. How can we view one another as brothers and sisters in all purity while “zapping” one another? Dehumanization will never be the solution to lust.
So I told him, “I have an idea.” He looked up. “What if, every time you think about a girl you know, you ask yourself this question: How does God see her?”
He nodded, thinking about it. “How does God see the girls you know?” I asked him. Recalling his answer makes me tear up, because it was so immediate and so earnest:
“He sees them as daughters,” he said. “Would thinking about that help counter your lust?”
He nodded, again, so earnestly.
“And what if, after that, you prayed for her?”
This struck him. And he nodded again.
“It’s pretty hard to sin against someone you are praying for.”
He agreed. And we sat with the idea for a moment, in silence.