In a recent conversation with friends, we discussed marital frustrations, failures and faults. In particular, we talked about how to find healthy balance and fulfillment in our respective sex lives. We landed in Proverbs 5:15–19:
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
This passage comes from a chapter of Proverbs titled “Warning Against Adultery,” but the entire chapter is devoted to outlining a healthy perspective of sex and, particularly, showing how sex is a gift intended for marriage alone. Through studying this passage and discussing it with friends, I’ve discovered at least five takeaways that will help us maintain a healthy perspective on sex.
Key No. 1: God designed sex as inherently good
The first and most important thing to understand about sex is that it’s inherently good. God wasn’t cringing and wincing as He created sex. Nor was He “making the best of an evil thing” as He determined the details of how it would work. As with every aspect of His creation, God made sex good within the context He designed and for the purposes He defined.
Proverbs 5 echoes this scriptural refrain by assuming right from the start that the “water” is good and even precious! The problem is not with sex itself but with how sin has distorted how we view it and disordered our affections for the act itself. Let’s set the record straight.
Sex is not inherently shameful, sinful or gross. Depending on your background, you may have “icky” feelings about sex because you were taught that it’s just wrong and enjoying the sexual act means you’re a deviant.
If we’re to have a healthy perspective on sex, we’d be better to embrace God’s view of it alongside His design: Sex is good and right within the context of marriage. You need only read Song of Solomon to see just how good, right and blessed it is to participate in and enjoy the sexual experience.
Key No. 2: Healthy sex requires mindful engagement
Read Proverbs 5:15 again. Notice how Solomon opens with the word drink. This feels like an encouragement to actively engage in the gift of sex within marriage. He compares the God-designed sexual experience to a fountainous source, and drinking is the verb he chose. Not look. Not taste. Not feel. Drink.
If we believe that sex is created as good, then we can feel free to actively participate in it! However, many couples still find difficulty in this area. They feel inhibited by their life circumstances (especially for couples with young kids) or their past.
Life gets busy, and one or both of you become tired. Emotional intimacy erodes as the pressures of career, raising children and fitting into society take your time, energy and money. Finding time for romance — which is an important part of fully engaging in sexual intimacy — seems impossible.
In our years of walking alongside couples, we’ve found that the one thing most couples desire more than almost anything is a deep, intentional connection with each other. They’re thirsty but can’t always drink. If that’s you, ask yourself this: What takes most of my time, money and energy? If you trace how you’re spending all three, and you realize that something is hindering your closeness as a couple, it may be time to make changes so you can find your way back to your cistern regularly.
If you have a past trauma or mental illness that inhibits your marital health, particularly in this area, don’t fight alone. Make sure to seek out a good Bible-based counselor to help you work through your history and find sustainable forgiveness and healing.
Key No. 3: God designed sex to be radically exclusive
Most Christian couples understand that the covenant of marriage is the only place where sex can be all it was made to be. Solomon and his audience would have shared that same understanding. What is he saying when he writes in verses 16 and 17, “Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?” and “Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.”
Given the intent of the full chapter (a warning against adultery), he implored young men and women to understand the full meaning of the sexual act and how living sexually impure, promiscuous lives would only lead to pain, sorrow and death. The streets Solomon referred to would have been extraordinarily dirty—they were places where filth collected.
Given our modern context, there’s a unique application of this concept, and it involves one’s thought life. Couples have asked us if it’s appropriate to introduce pornography into their sex life as a means of arousal. We’ve also heard countless men and women (Christian and non-Christian alike) justify using pornography because “it’s a victimless crime.”
I can’t disagree more emphatically. Introducing pornography into your life and marriage is not only harmful spiritually, it’s also psychologically damaging and culturally corrosive. Scripture instructs us to keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), both for our good and for the glory of God.
Key No. 4: Rooted in friendship
One of the main purposes of sexual intimacy is deep emotional connection. At times, experiencing intimacy can become difficult or frustrating because connection seems to be lacking. However, sometimes intimacy is exactly what you need to reestablish your bond. So, what are you to do?
Proverbs 5:18 says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” It’s almost as if Solomon is giving readers a way back to square one if they feel like their “spring” is drying up.
If ever you lose sight of the person you married and can’t find the way to closeness with him or her, remember and celebrate those first days of your friendship. Rejoice in your history together! Remember the person you love. Reflect on all you admired in him or her when you first started your relationship. There’s something disarming about rejoicing in your friendship, and it would seem that Solomon is harkening readers to move their intimate relationship forward in full light of their history together.
Key No. 5: Sex is to be enjoyed immensely
Have you and your spouse ever been so intensely involved in your sexual experience that you forgot everything else? It would appear that Solomon is urging (not just encouraging, but urging) this type of experience.
Verse 19 contains alarming language. He says, “Be intoxicated always in her love.” Another way to translate the Hebrew word for intoxicated is “led astray.” This phrase, when contrasted with the warning to not be led astray by a “forbidden woman” (verse 20), is especially telling.
Solomon is encouraging young and old lovers alike to get lost in the love of their beloved — to be led astray from your day-to-day existence as you’re found in each other’s arms. He’s urging husbands and wives to enjoy intimacy with their spouse to the point that the surrounding cares and circumstances fade completely into the background.
So, how do we get there? Selena and I have found that the quality of our sexual intimacy is directly proportional to two things: how much time we spend together outside the bedroom and how much time we give ourselves in the bedroom.
For the first, consider seizing small opportunities to connect: Go for a short walk. Catch each other’s eye with a quick smile. Express affection in whimsical ways while out and about. Moments “together” can also happen when you’re physically apart. Take a few seconds to text thoughts of love and encouragement. Small things go far in helping you connect in meaningful ways.
For the second, set aside ample time to be alone together and connect intimately. Consider setting aside one special night a week when you have two hours for nothing but connecting emotionally and expressing your love through physical intimacy. If you have kids, schedule the time so they can bond with grandparents. Or, if needed, hire a babysitter. We’ve done both, and the investment has always been worth it.
The path back to the well
The bottom line is that God created sex, and it is good. If we’re to have a healthy perspective on this amazing gift, we must continually recalibrate our view to God’s Word. Not that sex should be bland or boring (quite the opposite!), but it should remain holy. Remember that your sex life as a married couple is a profound gift, and it’s one that you will continue to unwrap for the rest of your lives. Steward the gift well: Engage with each other, give yourselves time and remember your deep friendship. And enjoy! Doing so is for your good and God’s ultimate glory.
For more from Ryan and Selena Frederick, visit Fierce Marriage.