Is Your Church a Safe Place for Christians Experiencing Same-Sex Attraction?
Imagine what it would be like to have a tremendous struggle, but you feel you must keep it a secret. The few times this was mentioned from the pulpit in your church, it was in reference to “those people” outside of the church, but never within. This is often only addressed within the context of the culture war going on around you, and it leaves you wondering where you fit in the middle of it all. What does this say about you?
This causes confusion and despair in your heart, because you are not quite sure where you belong. Your struggle is always described as an outside issue, yet it’s a very real issue for you. The thought of telling someone is terrifying, and you imagine you have to be the only one in your church struggling in this way.
This is a reality for many people in the local church.
The majority of emails I receive through my blog are from women who love God and are devoted to Him, but they also struggle with same-sex attraction. They have surrendered it to Jesus, yet they (and others) question their own loyalty to Him if their attractions continue. This is where the struggle comes in. The subject of Christians having unwanted same-sex attraction is rarely, if ever, mentioned in their local church, and they feel incredibly alone.
I am not referring to the need of a local church to be accepting of same-sex relationships. I am referring to the vulnerability it takes for women to share their hearts about this subject.
Someone exposing their experience to someone else can be absolutely terrifying. You don’t know how the other person is going to react, and you don’t want to lose a friendship. You don’t want to have people look at you differently or assume you are living in sin. You cannot bear the weight of any more shame.
Those of us who have struggled in this way know all too well what shame is, because we have heaped enough of it on ourselves as it is.
We all need to be sensitive to the vulnerability and trust it takes for Christian women to share the contents of their hearts with us regarding this subject.
When we combine this sensitivity with God’s truth, we help to create that safe place in the church for those who are struggling.
Without revealing personal details, I want to show you a portion of a few recent emails I have received, regarding Christian women who struggle with same-sex attractions. These are only a few of the emails I have received lately. There have been countless others over the years:
“…I am a believer and I love the Lord. I’m so ashamed and cannot talk to anyone. I’m so fearful that the Lord will expose me to those in my household or family and I pray not as it won’t be understood. I feel as though I will go to hell. I feel guilty, and ashamed and dirty…”
“…I have been benefiting GREATLY from your videos and blog. As a Christian and as a pastor’s wife, your testimony has been a lifeline for me as I have struggled similarly…”
“…I pray a lot, but I don’t feel it, I say the words but don’t feel it, it comes out if my mind but not my heart and soul. It’s so strange because I spent time with God every night, I do devotions in the morning, I only listen to God centered music, I do all these things and still feel nothing. And I don’t know, I’m only 17 years old, but my life has been one big tragedy after another. I read the Bible, I’ve researched help, I’ve listened to sermon after sermon, but I don’t know, I would be able to help someone else in the same situation, but somehow, I can’t help myself. I really need some help, but I don’t know what else to do. All my suppressed feelings are slowly killing me and I’ve so close to my breaking point and so close to just giving in and giving up. I really need some help…”
“…I have made the decision to not pursue a same sex relationship, but I feel like it’s only a head decision, wanting to do right by God, and not a heart decision. It’s not as simple as looking for a boyfriend; I’d rather just work on myself and embrace what I have instead of pursuing what I think I should have. But lately those desires for that closeness with a female (not anyone specifically) have come up again out of nowhere…”
“…I have never watched porn of any kind. And I don’t act on these thoughts or desires but I want God to take away these desires and give me desires for a man. I do fine with having friends that are girls until we connect on a deep emotional level then I start having sexual thoughts. (Gosh I hate even writing this out). I have confessed all this to God and begged him to take it away. But I don’t know what else to do. How do I disconnect becoming close with a friend from sexual desires? How to I retrain my brain to not think this way and desire a man? Do I not need to have close friends that are girls and not share my life and other struggles with them?…”
“…I am currently educating myself on the 9 fruits of the spirit to remain encouraged. I wanted to know how did you overcome the spiritual warfare, because now I feel like before I go to bed and when I wake up, it is constant thoughts of women, sexual images etc. I struggle so badly with my thought process and in my mind because the fantasizing has become a normal part of my daily life. Once I went to college I felt like it was just impossible to stop fantasizing and feeding into my lustful desires. As a result, I have never been in a relationship with a man or woman because of how I struggle internally, it is shameful and I have never told anyone. How were you able to overcome the spiritual warfare, and when did you start becoming courageous to openly admit that this was a stronghold in your life?…”
“…It’s really hard to sum up my struggles with pornography, lustful thoughts, and same sex attraction in one email. I have found since I gave my life to the Lord, very little break through have happened…I find I am constantly battling, with no victory. I am not the type to battle weak either. I know the word, I know how to pray, and I have a few I can confide in….. but all those things are for other types of stuff. Not this…… I know the devil is a liar, I know who I am in Christ. Can you just pray earnestly, please. I want so badly to walk in complete freedom, with no turning back…… I need this miracle to take place in my life….. thanks I really do hope to hear from you….”
Most of the emails I receive are from Christian women who have never told anyone about their struggle. They came across my blog and finally realized they were not alone.
This gave them the courage to tell someone.
Struggling silently can lead someone in many different directions. As this struggle grows in the dark, men and women can often be drawn into gay/lesbian pornography and sexual fantasies as a secret outlet for their attractions.
Thinking they are the only ones in their church who experience same-sex attraction, sometimes they start to search the world for answers to where they truly “fit”. Their faith is often greatly challenged as they wrestle with this alone.
Little do they realize, others in their own church may be struggling as well.
For many years, I hid in my church while secretly struggling with same-sex attraction. I did not know how to tell anyone what I was going through. I was doing everything I could to resist temptations in this area, but keeping it all a secret just magnified my struggle. I felt incredible shame, guilt, self-condemnation and a sense of failure.
I didn’t feel like anyone in my church could ever possibly understand what I was experiencing.
Fortunately, my experience (once I finally told someone what I was going through) was much better than I feared. As a result of telling someone, I had people in my church pray for me, encourage me, and listen to me when I poured the contents of my heart out to them.
The people in my church had never experienced same-sex attraction, yet they helped me tremendously, just even in giving me a safe place to be heard and to be real.
Is your church a safe place for those who experience same-sex attraction?
- Is God’s truth shared, while acknowledging the healing, freedom, and hope available for all of us through Christ?
- Are gay jokes made from the pulpit, or is compassion displayed?
- Does your church provide an atmosphere of transparency where people are encouraged to talk to someone about a secret struggle, sin or temptation they may have?
- Is the subject of Christians experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions mentioned at all?
Maybe your church has not addressed this topic at all. I think this is the case a lot of the time. It might be mentioned in light of a discussion about our culture (or maybe not even in this way) but often it is not mentioned as something those in the church can be dealing with.
I have spoken with so many people who do not think anyone in their church experiences same-sex attraction. This is frustrating, because there are women all over the world, from all different church denominations who have same-sex attractions. People are often not aware of this, though, because the ones who are struggling are silent.
I know of many churches who have brought someone in to share his/her testimony as a way to acknowledge those in the church who struggle in this area, while testifying to what God has done in their lives. This is wonderful! This can break the ice, and it can help open up the doors of transparency within your church regarding this subject.
Sharing my testimony in different churches is something I enjoy doing, because I can testify to what Jesus has done in my heart and life, while reaching the ones who are silently struggling at the same time.
Just about every single time I have ever shared my testimony, I have had at least one woman come up to me (or email me shortly afterwards) to tell me she has been struggling in a similar way.
Those who are struggling need/want someone to talk about this. They are waiting for it to be addressed.
When a Christian experiences same-sex attraction, this is not an indication that they have not surrendered their sexuality to God.
We will all deal with temptations and brokenness in our lives as long as we are on this Earth, but this (in itself) is not an indication of how devoted we are to Christ. It’s not a matter of “if” we will be tempted, but “when” we will be tempted by something or someone.
Jesus was tempted, so we know temptation is not a sin. What we do with those temptations and the brokenness in our hearts that matters. This is a process that we will continue to perfect over the span of our entire lives.
The story does not end here, though!
We, as the body of Christ, can be a tremendous support to our Christian friends and family who struggle with same-sex attraction. Unlike what the world proclaims, Jesus heals hearts and sets people free. We serve a God who restores. He has restored so much in my own heart and life, and He has done the same for many others. There is incredible hope for those who struggle in this way.
In my next post, I will cover the many ways we can each support and help our Christian loved ones who are struggling with same-sex attraction. There are many things you can do, whether or not you can relate to their struggle, or not. The people who helped me along the way, especially at the most critical points of my journey, had no personal experience with same-sex attraction. I was fortunate to be surrounded with people who loved me, encouraged me, listened to me and continually pointed me to Jesus. That is what I needed more than anything.