It can often be overwhelming and intimidating to talk to someone about the topic of same-sex attraction. Where do we start? Can we actually help someone if we cannot relate to what it’s like to have same-sex attractions? Many people feel ill-equipped and unsure of where to even start, and this is understandable. Today I am addressing a question that is near and dear to my heart, because it involves the majority of the women I minister to.
“What are some practical ways to help Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction?”
When I refer to a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction, I am referring to someone who is actively and wholeheartedly pursuing a relationship with Jesus, but continues to experience same-sex attractions that he or she does not want. As I mentioned in my last post, there are many Christians who are truly devoted to Jesus who still struggle with same-sex attraction.
There are many people in the church who struggle with their sexuality, often in secret. Some have never acted on their feelings; others may have been in same-sex relationships at one point but are now trying to honor God with their sexuality. Some have left the LGBT Community and consequently left their friends, family, support system and whole world behind. This can be a difficult and lonely journey, especially without the support of friends, family and a loving church family.
Over the last several years, I have heard bits and pieces of Christian women’s stories as they wrestle with same-sex attractions.
- I have heard about the shame, guilt and self-condemnation they have felt for not being able to change who they are attracted to.
- I have talked with women who have not told anyone but are struggling greatly. These are women you go to church with. (Yes, it is true.) As a result of the hiddenness, many of them end up secretly struggling with pornography and sexual fantasies as an outlet for these attractions. Consequently, their attractions only grow stronger as they continue to struggle in silence.
- I have talked with women who have tried to change themselves for so long (unsuccessfully) that they are on the brink of giving up. Being with someone of the same gender starts to sound better than a life of what feels like failure and utter loneliness.
- I have also been privileged to witness some of the healing journey that God has brought to their lives and hearts as they brought this struggle out into the light!
- I have talked with young women who took the chance of talking to a parent/counselor and are now on a healing journey with God. They are finding intimacy with Jesus and learning how to focus on Him while He shows them what freedom looks like.
- I have loved hearing stories of women who have had layers of shame start to fall off of them as they discover their true identity and how much God loves them. They begin to really know they are loved by the King of kings, no matter what their individual struggles are (we all have them).
As I have walked down this path in my own life and also have had many conversations with Christian women who write to me about their own struggles, I want to share some ideas of how you can support and love your friends, loved ones and even church family members who struggle with same-sex attractions.
While situations may vary, depending on your relationship, these are some practical ways you can help support another Christian who is struggling with their sexuality:
1. Listen. One of the most important things you can do if another Christian confesses to you that they experience same-sex attractions is to listen. They had to make themselves very vulnerable to talk with you in the first place, and what they share with you is incredibly valuable. As they share their heart with you, listen. Don’t worry. This does not mean that you will have to be listening to someone talk about sex all of the time. 🙂 Yes, that might come up, but feelings of loneliness, a deep need for connection and other concerns will probably be brought up much more often. Know that the process Jesus will take them through can be slow and painful at times. (It also looks different for everyone.) It helps so much to have someone trusted to talk to along the way.
2. Build relationships with them and include them. Invite them over for dinner. Get to know them better. Include them in your plans sometime, especially if they are single and/or do not have close family around. People who struggle with their sexuality, especially those who have left everything behind in the LGBT Community, need to experience the connection of a local community of believers, just like anyone else – if not even more so.
3. Remind them how much God loves them. Often when a Christian struggles with same-sex attractions, they can also carry around a lot of shame and self-condemnation. Many of them have tried to change their attractions for years but have been unable to. Many of them also feel isolated from God, out of anger or shame (because He has not taken away these desires). They may feel as though they have failed, because they are still experiencing same-sex attractions. This is not true. We all have struggles that we need to continually take to Jesus. Part of how you can show them His love for them is by loving them as well. Show them they matter to you.
4. Affirm who God created them to be. When someone struggles with same-sex attractions, they are wrestling with an identity struggle. Affirm who God created them to be (in all ways – not just regarding their sexuality). Remind them that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Sometimes they will fall (just like you and I do). It might be easy to believe that if their attractions are not disappearing, they are not trying hard enough or praying hard enough. This is simply not true.
When my focus changed from not ever having another temptation again to being able to throw those thoughts off when they do come (because they will), I started to experience freedom. As I stopped putting so much condemnation on myself for being tempted, chains of self-condemnation and shame started to fall off of me and I was able to approach God much easier when I was under the weight of temptation and craving that deep connection with another woman. I was then able to be much more confident in who God really did create me to be.
I learned how to stand in that reality when temptations or allegations from the enemy hit. This is a process that does not occur overnight! Be patient with them, and remind them to be patient with themselves as well. This is not going to be a perfect process.
5. Don’t try to change them. Point them to Jesus, instead. You and I cannot change or fix their attractions, and it is not our responsibility to do so, either. I have heard it said many times that “the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. It is holiness.” I wholeheartedly agree. People (Christians or otherwise) do not need to fall in love with the opposite sex. They need to build an intimate relationship with Jesus. We need to point people to intimacy with the Lord, while demonstrating what obedience in our own lives looks like.
The way this worked in my own life, is that my desire for a deep connection with another woman became less and less as Jesus healed my heart (in many other areas) and as I developed an intimate connection with the Lord. I was not instantaneously delivered. As my connection with Him deepened, I wanted Him more than being with another woman. I knew I could not have both. I chose Him and continually make the decision to choose Him. As I learned how to be transparent with Him, much of my shame started to fall away as well. I have written several posts about this here. This has been a process.
6. Be transparent with them, and let them be transparent with you. When appropriate, share some of your own struggles with them. Share situations where you have had to continually lean on God, despite the extreme difficulty. When someone struggles with same-sex attractions, the temptations and feelings of emptiness can be very overwhelming at times. I have had people along the way (who haven’t struggled with same-sex attractions) write to me and say they finally “got it” and realized that this struggle was much deeper for people than they realized. This is part of why I write posts on this topic. If you haven’t experienced same-sex attractions, you may not understand how deep and isolating the struggle can be. The sacrifice of choosing to obey God and trusting Him through the struggle can be tremendously difficult sometimes. Keep in mind that if they left the LGBT Community, they most likely left their friends, family and entire support system. The more they are able to have someone “real” to talk to, the better.
7. Treat them like everybody else. We all have struggles, temptations and places in our lives that we need to be actively surrendering to God. We don’t want to talk about them all the time, though. 🙂 When you see this person, please don’t think you always need to bring up the topic of their struggle. Get to know them in other ways as well. There is much more to their lives than what they struggle with!
As you can see, you do not have to personally understand what it is like to have same-sex attraction in order to help someone who does! Showing love, empathy, and having a listening ear goes a long way. Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction need our support and love. They are often silenced (by the world and unfortunately in some churches) in so many ways, but they need to be able to be transparent with another Christian who will listen, love them and continue to point them to Jesus.
Join me for my upcoming post next week, “Loving our LGBT Friends and Family Well“.