From childhood, I always had a vivid imagination. With little outside influences from TV or movies, my sister and I developed plays and stories, sermons and programs. We didn’t need video games—we just had our imaginations!
As I grew into my teens and young adulthood, Satan took that imagination, which was a gift from God, and began to feed me stories and movies that transformed my healthy imagination into a fantasy, romance world. Anytime I had a pang of conscience, he would spin another of his wonderful lies: “Everyone else is watching this movie, and they’re all good Christian girls.” Or, “It’s not a romance novel; it’s a Christian novel with just a little romantic story interwoven.”
I would decide not to read fiction anymore and would keep that promise for months and sometimes years. But the stories lived on in my mind. Try as I might, they were very hard to ignore, hard to forget.
Years passed, and I earnestly sought to follow Jesus. God led Greg and me together in marriage. We didn’t have much money, but we had each other and our commitment to God. Early on, we bought a little thirteen-inch TV. I was concerned because of my attraction to romantic stories and movies, but I rationalized that everyone else in our church watched TV, and they were good Christians. In fact, they preached, taught, and lived the Christian walk better than I did.
Greg enjoyed the news and weather, but I soon latched on to something else—soap operas! They were a good romance novel come to life. The stories danced right from the screen into my mind, to be replayed and reworked in countless different ways. I was hooked.
I hid my addiction from Greg as best I could. In fact, I thought he didn’t know until one evening when he shared how God had called him to be the priest of our home, how he was accountable to God for the salvation of our family. Then he mentioned my cherished sin—soap operas. I was stunned! I knew that what I was watching was wrong. I knew those shows were leading me away from Jesus. But I was addicted! Try as I might, I couldn’t tear myself away.
Greg knew all of this, and God gave him the wisdom, courage, and love to make the right decision for our home. Through the years, I’ve never forgotten his words. “Jilly, God is asking me as priest of our home to disconnect secular TV.” He knew I didn’t have the strength to make that choice on my own, so he led in that decision. We knelt down and prayed, seeking forgiveness as a couple, asking for strength to throw out our TV antenna, pleading for purity of heart and life.
That decision we made together almost ten years ago was one of the best decisions of our lives. It started me on that path to purity and peace, holiness and oneness with my Savior. I’ve never regretted it. And I’ve always blessed my husband for having the strength to make the difficult decision I couldn’t seem to make for myself.
I believe Satan lays special traps for women in this area of purity. While men are visually stimulated—and therefore especially vulnerable to pornography or visual images—women are emotionally stimulated. Just as porn tempts many men, romantic novels, TV programs, and movies are a trap for many women. They may look different, but the end result is the same: a heart pulled away from beholding Jesus, a mind filled with romantic fantasies, a soul polluted with lust, a longing for what isn’t ours.
I don’t know where you are in your journey to purity of heart and life. Whether you’re just beginning this journey or are miles down the road, take heart! Jesus loves you and longs to set you free. I know what it’s like to say, “Lord, take my heart. I’m choosing You!” and the next instant be bombarded with an inappropriate or impure thought from my past. For some people, Jesus gives instant release, immediate deliverance. But it didn’t work that way for me. It was an intense battle, an earnest hand-to-hand combat, but Jesus gained the victory. Here’s how it worked for me—and how it can for you too:
Step 1: I sought forgiveness. Go to your heavenly Father. After all, He already knows your struggles, your heart’s issues, and your lustful thoughts. Ask Him for forgiveness, for the cleansing blood of Jesus. Now get up off your knees, believing you’re the purified bride of the King, cleansed, sanctified, and ready for service! Don’t waste time doing penance. Simply come as you are, ask for forgiveness, and then go forth in His strength!
Step 2: I surrendered my heart, my thought life, and my emotions. This isn’t a oncein-a-lifetime surrender. Steps 2, 3, and 4 are where my battle took place. I would surrender my romantic fantasy to God, only to have it pop back up almost immediately. When a fantasy comes back to you, don’t dwell on it! Cry out to God for help! He promises, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24, NKJV). Cling to Him. Surrender, re-surrender, and then surrender again! Each time it gets easier. Each time it takes longer before those lustful thoughts resurface.
Step 3: I beheld Jesus. Of all the steps, I believe this is one of the most important. After all, how can we sweep our house and keep it clean without replacing what we pushed out with something—or Someone— else (Matt. 12:43-45)? Look to Jesus! See Him in His purity. Study His life. Spend time in His Word and with others who are seeking Him. Behold Him as you work, as you drive, as you talk, and your life will be transformed into His image.
God looks at you and says, “I have a beautiful plan for your life. You’re going to be a princess! You might be wallowing in the mud right now, but I want to transform you into a dazzling woman, radiant with My glory and My purity.” That’s what Jesus can do! Just behold Him.
Step 4: I guarded the avenues of my mind. This is key! We can’t strive for purity of heart and life while we constantly feed our romantic fantasies. What we feed grows, and what we starve dies (Gal. 5:24). Paul tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14, NKJV). Practically speaking, how do we accomplish that? By removing the temptation, as far as possible, from our homes. Are you struggling with watching programs on TV that are feeding your romantic fantasies? Get rid of your TV! Is a book from your bookshelf tempting you? Throw it away! Does one of your magazines pull at the lust in your heart? Cancel your subscription!
I know this seems harsh, but it works. I used to say I was strong enough in Jesus to keep those books in my home, but I wasn’t. I wouldn’t read them for a long time, but then, in a weak moment, I’d look in their direction. How much easier to remove that temptation from your home!
Sometimes, it’s hard to decide what is acceptable to listen to, watch, and read. So submit everything to the test of God’s Word. Compare it with Philippians 4:8. Ask yourself, Is it true? Honest? Pure? As you go down the list, you’ll find that many will automatically be eliminated. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart and life. The more you seek His face and desire to follow Him, the more sensitive you will become to His voice. Open your heart to Him, and your mind will be transformed!
Step 5: I became accountable. If you’re married and your husband is open to God and to talking with you about it, then share with him. Share you frustrations, your struggles, and your need for prayer. If you’re single, or uncomfortable sharing with your husband, then find a trusted female friend to pray with, share with, and be accountable to. There’s power in united prayer!
Step 6: I stopped comparing myself to others. Recently, I complained to my friend about one of the fifth graders at our school and the movie he’d seen. What rankled me was that a ten-year-old was watching something that I knew would draw me back into that romantic fantasyland. Why did I have to be so strict? Why couldn’t I watch it too?
My sister listened and then gently reminded me that I don’t need to compare myself with others. God only asks me to look at my own heart. He knows the way my heart works, He knows my past struggles with impurity, so He has a special guard over my heart—and that’s OK. That’s not only OK, it’s a blessing!
I don’t know where your heart is right now. Lust is a serious topic. I know it’s also a difficult one. Keep an open mind and heart to the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life. Know that no matter where you’ve been or how far you’ve fallen, Jesus longs to stand you up as His purified, cleansed daughter. You’re a princess! Guard your heart. Let our Father hold it in His hands and keep it pure for you so you can stand before the world as a spectacle “both to angels and to men” of His power, His grace, and His glory (1 Cor. 4:9)!