First, create a safe, nonjudgmental place where an individual can share his or her painful experiences and ask questions without fear of reprimand, judgment, or shame. One cannot measure the value of a grace-based presence. Jesus has called us to be His hand extended — in essence, “Jesus with skin on.”
In the presence of another empathic, deeply caring, nonjudgmental person, one can find deep comfort and strength to face another day. Provide a sanctuary of safety and let the Holy Spirit use you as a conduit for His grace and healing.
Second, knowledge is powerful. The more you educate yourself regarding the issues surrounding homosexuality, the better prepared you will be to assist those who come to you for help. Educate yourself on the Scriptures regarding homosexuality and differing views of biblical interpretation. Be informed and current about research relating to a biological basis, neurological studies, and prenatal hormonal predisposition to same-sex attraction. Be willing to discuss and grapple with the individual’s questions, anger, and confusion.
Next, instill hope. All of us need hope based in God’s power and love. Scripture affirms God is able to do above and beyond what we could ever imagine. The same God who created the world out of nothing can heal a damaged identity. He can change what a person submits to Him, aligning it with His perfect will for his life. God can redirect sexual orientation. God also extends His faithfulness and grace to those who do not experience change and choose a life of celibacy.
God’s never-ending love pursues men and women who continue to grapple with their sexual identity and wrestle with related Scripture. No matter the stage of healing, God’s grace is sufficient. We can hold out hope that God can and does change people, His mercies are new every day, and He is committed to the process of helping all of us be conformed to His image. He who began a good work in us will complete it. God does not give up on us, no matter how hard or long the struggle.
Another critical key to helping an individual with a sexual identity crisis is to help her find true identity in Christ Jesus. While sexuality is a vital aspect of everyone’s identity, it is only one part of a complex structure of social, familial, biological, and religious constructs. For those struggling with issues of sexuality, desiring resolution or acceptance of the struggle can become their sole focus. They may believe finding their true sexual identity is the ultimate goal and will bring peace and fulfillment.
In reality, a true sense of value and identity only comes from establishing identity in Christ Jesus. Identity based on sexuality, profession, ethnicity, religion, or anything other than Christ will never satisfy the search for wholeness and acceptance. Our search for meaning, significance, security, and hope begins and ends in Christ alone.
Finally, support the person in her journey to wholeness and holiness. One who struggles with sexual identity issues can benefit from a same-sex mentor or friend whose own sexual and gender identity is secure and healthy. A person who can model safe and appropriate same-sex friendship and intimacy can be healing. Find men and women in your church who are willing to walk with people through this difficult, rewarding, challenging, and life-changing process.
Five Things To Avoid when helping someone Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction
First, do not take over the job of the Holy Spirit. Effective helpers do not assume the position of judge. Well-meaning people often employ guilt to force conviction. Let the Holy Spirit convict. Nor is it helpful to implement a behavior modification program. Overcoming same-sex attraction is not about modifying or changing behavior. It is an issue of identity.
Avoid the temptation to separate persons from their homosexuality. God is the only One who can separate a person from sin. Regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, the critical issue is to embrace a true sense of identity in Christ through a personal relationship with the Redeemer. This miraculous experience can only transpire by and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Second, avoid preaching or launching into Scripture recitation. When people approach pastors for help with a homosexual struggle, it is important to realize homosexuals come in a state of turmoil and angst wrestling to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. If there were no internal struggle with their faith,
they would not be coming to see you. They usually do not need to be told their struggle is sinful — most are acutely aware of the incongruence and sin in their lives. They live with a daily, awkwardly painful tension between their sexuality and Scripture. Let the Holy Spirit introduce Scripture and guide the timing of the healing process.
Next, do not invalidate a person’s experience. It is never helpful to tell people how they feel. Your assumptions may decrease your credibility with those who turn to you for counsel. When someone states he has been gay all of his life, disagreeing with the statement disrespects his personal experience and reality. Many people report knowing they were different early in childhood. While many believe sexual identity is fluid and continues to evolve until early adulthood, invalidating an individual’s perception will only result in persons distancing themselves from help and feeling misunderstood and unheard.
Fourth, do not encourage marriage as a remedy for a person struggling with same-sex attraction. After a recommendation and blessing from their pastors, many proceed with marriage plans despite their sexual identity issues. Unfortunately, they enter marriage believing the union will alleviate their
struggle. When individuals with same-sex issues have not adequately addressed their issues, marriage can result in disaster for both parties. Often individuals believe God will honor their faith and heal them. Walking down the aisle, taking a vow, and trying harder do not change an individual’s sexual orientation. In fact, marriage can exacerbate the struggle leading to depression, guilt, and debilitating hopelessness.
Finally, do not break confidentiality. Intimate sexual issues are a difficult topic for most people to discuss. When a person shares her confusion about sexuality, it is a sacred invitation into the innermost part of her being — to be treated with dignity, humility, respect, and confidentiality. We all desire privacy and confidentiality when we share our most intimate battles; this is particularly true for those who struggle with sexual identity issues.