To my Jesus-loving friends who also struggle with sexuality and identity:
Lots of ink has been spilled writing about you. About your “lifestyle.” You’ve listened to Christians who fear you, hate you, or oppress you under the spiritualized guise of loving you. I’m so sorry.
I don’t know what it’s like to be you. To live in your skin. I openly admit this from the beginning: I am not writing from the furnace. But I’d like to learn how to hear you, love you, and be challenged by you. You are not just among the needy that Christ came to redeem. You are also deeply needed in our churches. We need you.
So, in this small place, I want to write to you. Not about you, but to you. I have a handful of gay friends, I’ve worked with several gay and gender dysphoric clients, and I’ve done a lot of research on the LGBTQ community and the church. I’m not an expert, but I do have a glimmer of awareness of what you may be going through. If you’re willing, I’d like to offer some encouragement and hope, from one broken beloved of Christ to another.
And, if you’re reading this as a straight person, could I ask you to keep reading? You may disagree with me, and that’s okay. But in what follows, I hope you hear Christ’s heart toward sinners and sufferers—towards me and you.
Jesus gets you
Jesus sees you, Jesus gets you. He doesn’t come at you first with cold commands: “stop that!” or “I hate that!” or “just be straight!” Any time we see Him interacting with broken, vulnerable humans, He asks questions first (Gen. 3:9; 16:8; 32:27; Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41; John 1:38):
Where are you?
What is your name?
Where have come from, where are you going?
What do you want?
“God shows up to our crumpled, broken places and loves to bring something of kindness, curiosity, healing. Anticipate this amid the heartache of your life.” (Jay Stringer)
A compassionate, curious God is chasing you down. Not to control you, but to know you. He desperately loves you. He doesn’t expect you to transform yourself first (or ever). He loves you exactly where you are, and will lead you into a life of healing and beauty and flourishing—but it’s His work (Isa. 61:1-3; Eph. 1-2; Phil. 2:13)
If Jesus was tempted in every way we are (Heb. 4:15), He likely wrestled unwanted sexual attractions, too. He knows what it is to be longing and lonely. He knows what it is to be misunderstood, misjudged, and hated without a cause. And, if you’re His follower, this same Jesus is in you, with you, and is praying for you (Rom. 8:34). Even if no one else understands, He does.
You are the beloved
The truest thing about you isn’t your sexual attractions or your gender identity. If you belong to Jesus, the most deeply true thing about you isn’t who you love, but Who loves you. You are His beloved, His friend, His poem, His body (John 16:27; 15:15; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 12:27).
If you are part of Christ, you belong in His body. You’re crucial. So, not only are you the beloved of God, not only is that your deepest identity, but as the beloved, you must let yourself be loved.
Maybe you feel unsafe or unknown in the church. That’s understandable. But are there pockets of safe Jesus people who are interested in you, who welcome you into their lives, who you could allow yourself to be loved by? We’re designed to flourish in the context of relationships. Please don’t banish yourself. You are needed, you are a gift.
Your longings are human
Maybe your attractions have been called “unnatural.” Maybe you’ve heard the abomination gospel. Maybe you feel less than human, less than normal. Let me assure you: your longings are profoundly human.
Every LGBTQ person I’ve known longs for connection, belonging, meaning, love, intimacy, acceptance. These are universal human desires. And sexually broken people like me and like you will often try to find those things in places that won’t satisfy us. For me, I might try to find love and acceptance in my performance at work or in the eyes of another person. You might try to find them in same-sex relationships. And we both get the same result—enduring thirst. Because those places are broken cisterns that’ll never quench us (Jer. 2:13; John 4). Both of us are looking for love in “unnatural” places. We were meant to find our deepest belovedness in Love Himself (1 John 4:7-21).
So, please don’t let anyone dehumanize or shame you, and don’t do it to yourself. You aren’t a mistake. And Christ is making you new. Acknowledge your human longings for connection and belonging. Find them first in Jesus, and then in the beautiful places He’s allowed you to healthily pursue them (e.g., friendship, meaningful work, creativity and art, community and Body life, etc).
Close to 86% of the current LGBTQ population was raised in the church. Not “went to church sometimes” but was brought up in church. Sat through sermons, went to Sunday School and youth group, sat in the crowd. Maybe that was you. Maybe you felt invisible, demeaned, or outright hated. Maybe no one knew your story. What could’ve happened if the church created space for you to tell it? To normalize the reality that Christ redeems His people from every kind of brokenness, sexual brokenness included (1 Cor. 6:9-11)?
Your story matters. I know it’s not always been safe to share it. But, if you haven’t already, could you consider telling just one safe person about your struggles with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions and/or sin? If you haven’t experienced the love and relief of being heard by a wise Christian, who could bear compassionate witness to your story?
The gospel invites you to be honest about your experience. Please don’t hide. Trust is earned, and it’s okay if you take your time. But Jesus invites you into the light—willing to be seen and known (1 John).
If you’re not ready for that yet, which is understandable, could you consider reading stories of other Christians who have walked the road you’re walking? Some amazing places to begin: Single, Gay, and Christian by Gregory Coles, Washed and Waiting by Wes Hill, Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry, Impossible Marriage by Matt and Laurie Krieg. These are brilliant, Jesus-loving humans who wrestle same-sex desires, and capture the experience with such honesty and beauty. You might find resonance in a book not written about you or “for” you, but from the perspective of someone who is surviving the same road you’re traveling:
“Much of what I read on depression, on doubt, on suicide, on suffering, on homosexuality, seems written by people who begin with a Christian conclusion and who have never been through the anguished steps familiar to a person struggling with depression, doubt, suicide, suffering, or homosexuality. No resolution could be so matter-of-fact to a person who has actually survived such a journey.” (Philip Yancey)
It’s not over yet
It might be tempting to believe that your life will always be lonely, or you might always feel like you’re living on the outside. Some days you might feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, angry, heartbroken. You didn’t ask for this suffering. You didn’t get to choose this temptation. It might feel immensely unfair. Following Jesus with your whole life, whole body, whole soul, might feel like too much to ask.
If that’s you, I can see how you’d get there.
But can I ask you to consider the long game? The fact that you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow (Matt. 6:32-34; James 4:14)? That maybe it won’t be as desolate as it feels today? That you might slowly cultivate deep, meaningful relationships with humans who love you for who you are and who you’re becoming?
If I’ve learned anything from walking alongside LGBTQ people, it’s that life is change. Not a change in sexual attractions, not necessarily a transformation of gender identity. But life is change in that God is looking at your whole life—not just this split second or this season—and He sees who you’re becoming. He’s reshaping you into someone new, and He’s doing it every single day (Eph. 4:24; 2 Cor. 3:18). This “someone new” isn’t necessarily straight or cisgender. It’s someone who is slowly finding deeper joy and life in Jesus. Who is daily surrendering their longings and fears to God. Even if that includes suffering some days.
The change God is after isn’t a change in your sexual attractions or your embodied identity. God is reshaping your heart to love Him with everything—and your sexual struggles are part of your beautiful story. It’s part of how God is remaking you.
“Being gay didn’t mean God had rejected me. Maybe it was just a thorn in my flesh, an invitation to frailty, a unique kind of weakness…[And] also a unique kind of strength, a unique invitation to delight. There were no fireworks that came with this revelation. I didn’t throw a dance party…I still didn’t want to be gay. There was still wrestling and sorrow and lament that refused to leave, that would perhaps never cease to be a part of my experience of faith. But I began to realize that my sexual orientation was an inextricable part of the bigger story God was telling over my life…Slowly, stumblingly, I learned to take delight in the person God had allowed me to be. Weak. Tormented. Dependent. Strong. Loved.”
You are loved.
Warmly and with hope,
About the author
Anna Mondal is a Soul Care Practitioner living in San Diego, California, with her husband and son. Anna participated in the Twelve Stones Apprenticeship program in 2013. She has a MABC and is currently pursuing Global Trauma Recovery Certification. Anna is the co-author of Help! Our Sex Life is Troubled by Past Abuse.
1) Jay Stringer, “Discipling Teenagers in a Sexualized Internet Age,” webinar interview with Preston Sprinkle, Center for Faith and Sexuality, https://www.centerforfaith.com/programs/leadership-forums/webinar-discipling-teenagers-in-a-sexualized-internet-age (January 24, 2022).
2) “Being attracted to your neighbor’s wife is not ‘natural.’ Being attracted to the same sex isn’t ‘natural.’ We’re all unnatural, we’re all sinners, all fallen beings. We all experience polygamy of the heart.” Greg Johnson, webinar interview with Gregory Coles, “How Should Christians Think About Conversion Therapy?” https://www.centerforfaith.com/
3) See Andrew Marin, Us Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community (NavPress, 2016).
4) Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001), 269, as quoted by Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010, 2016), 22, footnote.
5) Gregory Coles, Single Gay Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017), 43.