When I was a teen girl, I remember having moments where I viewed God’s boundaries for sexual purity as a bit…well — annoying. Striving for purity in my heart and mind wasn’t easy, and I struggled to keep my thoughts pure. I would find myself grumbling in my heart about how tough the single life was.
Why would God give me all of these sexual desires as a single woman?
What if I never get married? Then what?!
How am I supposed to honor God when it’s so hard?
Deep down, I knew God’s design for purity was good.
I knew sexual intimacy was reserved for marriage alone, but I struggled to view that as a blessing. I struggled to count my singleness as a gift. My mind seemed to be a magnet for romantic fantasies and I struggled to keep my thoughts pure.
As I wrestled through my questions and struggles, I started noticing an ongoing theme in my heart…and this negative theme was directly affecting my victory against sexual sin. Rather than choosing to thank God for my season of life, I was grumbling and complaining about it. I was zeroing in on what I didn’t have, rather than choosing to focus on what I did have.
Instead of cultivating a heart of gratitude, I was cultivating a heart of ingratitude.
What I didn’t realize then, but do now, is that a heart of ingratitude paves the way toward a heart of greed. And a heart that is greedy is quick to look for personal pleasure in the form of lust and sexual sin.
My heart of ingratitude was leading me down a greedy path of selfishness. My eyes weren’t focused on honoring God, and then sexual temptation came along, I was easily swayed toward sin and pleasure.
It may seem strange to talk about gratitude in the same context as lust, but it’s not. Choosing to pursue a heart of gratitude is one of the biggest (and most under-recognized) weapons that we can use in fighting our lust.
Ephesians 5:3-4 hits the nail on the head. Check it out:
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (emphasis added).
As out of place as “thanksgiving” might seem in this verse, it’s not.
It’s exactly where it needs to be. Instead of allowing sexual sin to take root in our greedy hearts, this verse is exhorting us to choose a heart of thanksgiving. Paul is essentially saying, put off your greedy lust by putting on a grateful heart!
Because greedy lust and sincere gratitude cannot exist at the same time. We cannot pursue gratitude toward God and greed at the same time. We must choose one or the other.
I love how Heath Lambert puts it in his book, Finally Free: “Greed covers more than just a powerful desire for money. Greed has to do with covetousness, sinful desires, and evil lusts. Not only should we avoid sexually immoral behavior; we should avoid having a heart that is greedy for them.”
For me, as a single woman, I was trying to win the battle against lust but wasn’t recognizing the greediness in my own heart. As a result, I wasn’t experiencing joy in my singleness.
It wasn’t until I repented of my greedy heart and intentionally chose gratitude that I saw any consistent change in my life.
As Heath Lambert also says, “greedy lust undercuts gladness, while gratitude produces it. Gratitude fuels gladness and multiplies it. It is the logic of gratitude to be thankful for what you have instead of longing for what you don’t.”
The more I focused on gratefully serving God right where he had me, the more joy and gladness I saw in my heart. And the more I focused on thanking God for specific aspects of my singleness, the easier it became to reject lustful thoughts.
Fighting lust with gratitude is a powerful and biblical weapon.
If you’ve been struggling to stay pure, I want to challenge you to do what I did. Search your heart for any patterns of ingratitude and greed and repent of those. Instead, ask God to change your heart to become one filled with gratitude for Him.
As you intentionally strive to cultivate a grateful heart, you will see God do a beautiful work in your heart and mind!
I’d love for you to comment below by answering these two questions:
- How are you struggling to be grateful to God in your life right now?
- Instead of giving into a heart of lust, what are three specific things you can thank God for right now?