Series: Marriage East of Eden.
“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11).
From the first two chapters of the Bible, it’s clear that God created sex to be a blessing to married couples. In fact, our love life is a very good gift from God, the Designer of the universe, and it’s a gift that married couples should not neglect. If God made us sexual beings, then a good sex life colours our marriage. It may take a little work and forethought at times. It may require that we stand up to our own feelings when we’re just not in the mood. But the dividends of a good sex life are more than worth the effort.
When God created Adam and Eve, He joined them as man and wife. Then he blessed them and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:31). He actually commanded them to have sexual relations! Moreover, when God looked at all that He had made, including the sexual act, he pronounced it “very good” (Gen 1:31). So then, we can say with absolute certainty that sex within marriage is not embarrassing or unspiritual, but a God-given gift to express and strengthen the covenant of marriage itself.
Intended for pleasure.
If you ever doubt that God designed the sexual bodies of husbands and wives to experience lifelong pleasure together, the Bible is not prudish or embarrassed about this divine intention:
“Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love”. (Proverbs 5:15-19).
I’m not sure how relatable the ‘lovely deer’ and ‘graceful doe’ imagery is, but it’s clear that God created husbands and wives for enduring sexual pleasure! This is a poem of pure sexual delight, blessing, fulfillment, fun, joy, even intoxication. But the Bible is equally clear that sex is a divine gift, not for strangers, but for monogamous, faithful, committed, lifelong marriage partners (Prov 5:15-17). Isn’t God’s design amazing? He gave us a little slice of sunshine amidst the grey humdrum of domestic responsibilities! And He means us to bask in the sunshine, not stay inside the house all day!
But sex is not only a pleasurable gift. It is also a powerful glue that God has given to married couples to bond us together.
Sex is divine glue.
Of course, common beliefs, interests, hobbies and children also bond married couples together, but sex is a very unique kind of glue.
Sex is about knowing another human being and being known, in the deepest Biblical sense of the word (Gen 4:1). “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen 2:24-25)…Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (Gen 4:1).
Lovemaking is the beautiful, tangible expression of being united as husband and wife physically, emotionally and spiritually. There is great vulnerability in the two becoming one. They have entrusted themselves to each other. They are unashamed, known, understood, safe, accepted, cared for.
I find it fascinating that God designed our human bodies to release oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone) when we make love. It’s the same hormone released when a mother is breastfeeding, to strengthen the maternal-infant bond.
Amazingly, oxytocin is the hormone that underlies trust in the most intimate of human relationships. It’s been shown to be a powerful antidote to depressive feelings, and takes the edge off our emotions. Oxytocin makes it easier to resolve conflict and overlook offences in your partner. So, you see, sex doesn’t just bring momentary pleasure, but also bonds us together as husband and wife. It makes us more loyal, more committed, more forgiving, even a little irrationally fond of each other! And oxytocin is a totally natural hormone, with no unwanted side effects!
Study after study has shown that a sexually fulfilled wife will have less stress and more joy in her life. A sexually fulfilled husband will normally be more dedicated and confident as a husband, father and employee. So, a fulfilling sex life is about more than procreation and erotic pleasure. It actually knits us together in greater intimacy that deepens over the years. Sex gives us a spring in our step so that we can manage more difficult areas of our lives. Therefore, it makes sense that husbands and wives shouldn’t neglect our love life.
It’s interesting that even secular researchers have reached these conclusions. In 1995, one of largest studies ever conducted on sexual practices showed that married couples report considerably higher rates of sexual satisfaction than singles. Among women, conservative Protestant women have the highest rates of orgasm. I enjoyed this comment on their findings:
“The young single people who flit from partner to partner and seem to be having a sex life that is satisfying beyond most people’s dreams are, it seems, mostly a media creation. In real life, the unheralded, seldom discussed world of married sex is actually the one that satisfies most people” (Robert Michael and John Gagnon, Sex in America: A definitive survey: P127-131).
The Psalmist seemed to understand this 3000 years ago:“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11).
Sex is a mysterious mirror.
And yet, even more mysteriously, God created sexual intimacy to mirror the faithful, committed servant-hearted relationship between Jesus and his Bride, the Church. As John Piper rightfully reminds us, “the goal of sex isn’t ultimately just enjoying your spouse, but it is enjoying God as the giver of good gifts. God is better than the best sex. We know this because for all of eternity we will live in a new heaven and new earth better than this one, a world in which we will not experience marriage or sex as we do now, but we will have a better and lasting pleasure with God (Matthew 22:30 Psalm 16; Isaiah 51:11; Revelation 21–22).”
For all these reasons, sex outside of marriage is repugnant to God and damaging to ourselves. Sex was never created to be a mere function of biology, as human beings are not animals, driven by biological urges. If we’re to be blessed by the roaring fire of sex, we must use it within the mantelpiece of marriage. Outside of this covenant boundary, the fire of sex will burn the house down.
Five ingredients to sexual fulfillment.
Most of us complain that men are from Venus and women are from Mars! We may be different, but together, we’re better. God created the sexual differences in us to make our marriage more fulfilling. We fit together as we should. And if we truly believe that sex is a good gift from a good Creator, then it is a rejection of God himself to neglect this good gift. We cannot use our differences as an excuse.
So, let’s get intentional about fanning the flames of our love life. Here are 5 practical commitments that you and your spouse can make to each other today:
- Commit to meeting your spouse’s needs in a faithful and intentional manner. Since our bodies belong to each other, we should never use them to punish, manipulate or withdraw from each other (1 Cor 7:5-7). Remember that men and women respond to sexual stimulation at different rates and our needs are different. But it really doesn’t matter who is more sexual in the relationship. What matters is that you each commit to meeting your spouse’s sexual needs, provided that they do not violate your marriage covenant or your conscience.
- Commit to communicate your sexual needs and reservations to one another, freely and without fear. Make sex an open topic in your marriage and don’t be ashamed or prudish. Never ridicule or shame your spouse. If you talk things through respectfully, you’ll have a great time in bed.
- Commit to sexual purity in your marriage. God’s parameters are wide, but there are some boundaries which God’s word lays down:
For starters, don’t allow fantasy lust into your marriage (Matt 5:27-30). Take every thought captive to Christ, as the most ferocious spiritual battlefield is your thought life. Flee from pornography, as it is lust-centred and invites other parties into your marriage bed. Don’t let any person but your spouse into your mind or your heart. Don’t develop an emotional or sexual attachment with any person except your spouse, either on the internet or in real life. Trust Jesus to fulfill your unmet needs and do not turn to sin. Get help and be accountable to someone you trust when you face temptations.
- Create an atmosphere of sexual pleasure in your marriage. Lovemaking won’t just happen! Remember that sex begins in the kitchen, not in the bedroom! If a husband is impatient, angry and inconsiderate all evening, he’s crazy to think his wife will be eager for sex when they go to bed. Romance happens outside the bedroom. Plan a date night, and make sure the kids and housework are taken care of. Set aside times just to enjoy each other in a non-physical way, to talk and build trust and friendship. Become BFF’s (Best Friends Forever), as relational intimacy spawns sexual intimacy. If there’s no connection on the soul level, there’ll be no connection on the physical level.
- If you have sexual problems, deal with them together. At some point in nearly every marriage, there will be obstacles to sex. Lack of desire, chemical, hormonal, unresolved conflict, stress and fatigue are all part of our broken existence. Go to the Doctor; pray together; go for counselling for past abuse; go on holiday; do whatever you’ve got to do. Don’t strand your spouse sexually because of a problem that you need to deal with.
Finally, make a worthwhile investment into your sexual life by buying and reading together Kevin Leman’s book, Sheet Music—Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. This is a wise, hilarious, straight-talking author, who understands sex from a female point of view!
“If you and your spouse work in tandem”, says Dr Leman, “you’ll create some of the most stunning music ever heard! All it takes is practice…and the right attitude. Sex is about the quality of your entire love life, not just the alignment of your bodies. So why not put inhibitions aside and give your spouse the best gift ever— a sexually enthusiastic mate?”
Dr Kevin Leman, Sheet Music—Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.