Too often, self-control kicks in only as a matter of pride. We apply the brakes by asking questions like: Will I look foolish if I have a third slice of cake? Not terribly spiritual, but hey.
Life hands us daily situations in which self-control seems impractical, irrational, and even impossible. And yet, amazingly, at other times:
- While arguing with our spouse, and the phone rings, we answer the call and suddenly we have self-control.
- Our boss lays into us about something that’s totally unfair. We fume, but bite our tongue.
- Our tummies start to expand beyond our belts and bathing suits. So we cut back on sweets.
When our reputations, our jobs, and our physiques are at risk, we apply self-control. Why? Because something more important than immediate satisfaction seems threatened.
But somehow sex is different?
There’s an Old Flame Burning
Some books of the Bible seem, well, irrelevant. Even a casual reading of the Song of Solomon appears that way. But when we understand the erotic metaphors, they become very relevant. For example:
Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you will not arouse or awaken my love, until she pleases. —Song of Solomon 2:6-7
The Bible isn’t prude. It clearly reveals that an eager desire to experience sexual love is natural, normal, and even blessed of God. It would be unrealistic to pretend we didn’t feel that way. (God invented sex, you know?)
But along with the desire should come the wisdom we apply to our reputations, our jobs, and our physiques. It’s called self-control.
The words arouse and awaken stem from the same root word in the Hebrew language, a term that means to arouse to activity as if to awaken someone from sleep. The original wording offers deeper nuances than the English:
- “Arouse” means one causes it or make it happen.
- “Awaken” reflects an intensity, or a repetition, as if over-emphasizing its beginning.
This woman feels a God-given sexual desire but understands that God intends the desire to be expressed in a proper context. She’s warning other young women not to arouse that sexual desire until it’s the right time. And she’s warning not to be so enamored and obsessed with it that it’s all you think about.
There’s nothing wrong with the desire. The problem is the timing—and the context.
Come on, Baby, Light My Fireplace
A fire in the fireplace is a great thing. It warms the house and provides a relaxing ambiance. But a fire on the living room carpet can burn down the whole house. It’s all about context.
God programmed the sex drive to respond to triggers. Unless we tap the brakes, step 1 leads to step 2, and step 2 leads to step 3—and so on. Like a spark starts a fire. You only want sparks in the fireplace.
And although men and women typically respond to the triggers differently, the application is the same. Look again at the wise woman’s counsel:
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field . . . —Song of Solomon 2:7
This wise woman appeals to them “by the gazelles or by the hinds,” not just because they represented gentle romance, but also because they can run fast. Often when we see these animals in this book, it’s in the context of speed.
When you feel the heat outside the fireplace, it’s time to flee.
But Notice One Word
Observe the helpful word in this woman’s counsel: “until.”
That word reminds us we won’t have to keep our wood wet forever. God has a context where He blesses and protects our flames. No need to tap the brakes in marriage.
Self-Control —It’s More than Sexual
The wisdom of self-control extends to all areas of life—not just sex. Restraint is healthy. That’s because:
- Stepping out of bounds financially has a cost.
- Stepping out of bounds with food has a cost.
- Stepping out of bounds with sex has a cost.
Solomon said it this way:
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. —Proverbs 6:27–29
In every area of life, self-control helps us keep what God created as good from cratering our lives. God’s rules have reasons—to protect and to provide for our good—not to hold us back.
Lasting satisfaction is greater than immediate gratification.
Tell me what you think: In what other area of life is self-control important? To leave a comment, just click here.