Helping Hurting People: Sexual Thoughts and Behaviors


“I can’t stop it. I know that it’s wrong. I ask God to forgive me – but it seems that every day I get caught up again and find myself giving in to sexual temptations.”

Getting Perspective

With the onset of puberty, sexual desires, expectations, and needs begin to take an increasing role in the life of an adolescent or teen. These desires are God-given and relate to the longing to be known and to be loved. These thoughts and feelings come during a time when many teens are already struggling with loneliness and a lack of connection with others. Combining those struggles with the sudden hormonal changes creates a potentially volatile scenario.

During puberty, self-exploration is normal. For both males and females, that can lead to self-stimulation. Self-stimulation in conjunction with illicit sexual fantasies is wrong – and can lead to chronic sexually acting-out behaviors. Pornographic fiction and images degrade people. Viewing them as means of sexual gratification is a clear distortion of God’s plan for sexual intimacy.

Biblical Insights

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Immediate Response

Sex is about connection and intimacy. Sexual urges are God-given. Empathize with those who disclose that they are struggling with sexual thoughts and behaviors. Affirm them for seeking help.

Acting-out sexually is often related to a lack of genuine intimacy.

Share with those in distress a biblical view of sexual intimacy and the God-given boundaries in which sexual expression should occur. Let them know that with God’s help and the support and accountability of a godly community, they can take control over their thoughts and behaviors.

Action Steps

  • Individuals struggling with sexual thoughts and behaviors need to find a godly accountability partner or partners who are safe to support them in confession yet strong enough to hold them to their commitments. If the person has access to the internet, appropriate filters should be installed.
  • Help them to identify the triggers that often result in sexually acting-out. Acting-out sexually is often related to a lack of genuine intimacy. Help them to build healthy relationships with godly peers and mentors.
  • Teach them skills that will help them in times of temptation. Memorizing Scripture should be an integral part of this process. Focus on verses that address God’s love and His desire for a relationship with His children as well as verses that address how sin impedes that relationship with God.
Andrew Graham
Andrew Graham
Dr. Andrew Graham is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor, and board-certified professional Christian counselor providing professional counseling and consulting from a Christian perspective. He serves as Associate Professor of Counseling at Spring Arbor University and as an adjunct faculty member in God's Bible School and College's Graduate Program. Dr. Graham and his wife Lisa live in Hobe Sound, Florida with their eight children.