Augustine of Hippo, the great Christian theologian of the 4th Century, struggled mightily with sexual addiction before his conversion to Jesus. In his autobiography, Confessions, he writes about his problem between figuring out what was love and what was lust in his early life:
Bodily desire, like morass, and adolescent sex welling up within me exuded mists which clouded over and obscured my heart, so that I could not distinguish the clear light of true love from the murk of lust.
I doubt that this is uncommon for most people — especially for nonbelievers, but for Christians as well. So often we “feel” with our bodies and seldom understand what true love is.
In Proverbs, Solomon says to his son, “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it” (5:3-6). Obviously, this “love” is really love. It’s lust. It’s deceptive. It’s adulterous (7:19). This “love” gets you place in line to hell. This “love” will lead to death, not an abundant life. It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy true happiness.
I’m not a counselor, or a doctor, or a pastor yet. But I know that true romantic love is rooted in the gospel of Christ. It is reflective of Ephesians 5:22-33. True love is about service and sacrifice and joy and delight and rejoicing in Christ, not the person. C.S. Lewis talked about gifts from the Lord being “the sunbeam” and God himself as the sun. The beam from the sun is not to be delighted in, the sun is. In the same way, God’s gifts are like sunbeams. They lead us to the greater glory of God himself. That is what true love should do. Lust only distracts us from God and causes us to be idolaters.
Seek your satisfaction in Jesus above all things, and soon the murky fog of distinguishing between love and lust will clear into a bright summer day filled with heavenly delight and joy, not guilt and shame.