What is the difference between being attracted to someone and lusting after them? And if lust is a problem, how can we stop?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Physical attraction is natural and helpful in deciding who to marry, though it shouldn’t be the main decider. Lust involves allowing our thoughts about another person to turn sexual outside of marriage [1]. Lust can be especially difficult for men because they are often easily provoked by what they see, but it can still be a problem for women as well. Lustful desires will be provoked by watching pornography, reading erotic fiction or fantasising about a crush. But sometimes lust may be unprovoked, by, for example, letting our mind run in a sexual direction about someone. No doubt temptation is made worse in our society because we are so often bombarded with images and messages which promote individuals primarily as sexual objects.

So what do you do if you are struggling with lust?


Be thoughtful about the media you consume; are suggestive images something that prompt your lustful thoughts? Are there characters you’re being encouraged to fantasise about sexually? Are your phone habits flirting with danger? What about your social media? Do you spend most of your time “stalking” your crush? Think about how your own behaviours lead you into tempting situations and avoid them next time. Christians need to be thoughtful and alert [2] because, as the Bible warns us:

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

However, take care not to allow watchfulness to become an excuse to test your limits! Don’t use it as a reason for ‘exploring’ your boundaries.

How about your friends and their attitudes to sex? Do they encourage you to think about others in a sexual way? Or do they encourage you instead to reflect on the character of the people you meet?

Run Away!

Sometimes though, you can be surprised by temptation, and if this happens, you need to run [3]. This can mean physically removing yourself from a situation, as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him [4], or blocking someone who sends you a suggestive image. The temptation to lust isn’t something you can always avoid, but God promises that if you look to Him for help, He will always give you a way out [5]. Often the only solution is to cut yourself off from what triggers it. Temptation to lust doesn’t just disappear, but how you deal with it is key.

Turn to God

In dealing with lust, you must turn to God. He alone can forgive you and truly help you. He alone knows the true extent of your struggles and He alone can offer you comfort and help. In Psalm 119 the question is asked “How can a young man keep his way pure?” and the answer given is to seek God and live by His word [6]. Praying to God for help, reading the Bible and following the principles laid out in it, such as exercising self-control, are important when it comes to tackling all sins, but especially lust. With God there is forgiveness and grace.


Learning more about God and removing yourself from temptation is the first thing to do. But God has also provided church leaders and Christian friends from whom you can learn (Titus 2) and with whom you can share your struggles [7]. From time to time these people could ask you how you are coping or could give you advice and pray for you.


Remember, always focus on Christ, who challenges us to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace” as 2 Timothy 2:22 [3] puts it. It is important that in trying to stop lusting you don’t just think about lust, but that you occupy your mind with better things such as how you can help and serve others. If you give in to lust, the pleasure it brings is fleeting [8] and often leaves you feeling worse than when you began. Serving God and serving others brings longer term fulfilment.

If this is an area where you particularly struggle, know that God offers forgiveness and help, you just need to ask.

  1. Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
  2. 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
  3. 2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Proverbs 6:27 “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?”
  4. Genesis 39:12 “She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.”
  5. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
  6. Psalm 119:9–10 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!”
  7. Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
  8. Hebrews 11:25–26 “…choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”