Many Christians find it hard to talk openly to others about their struggles with same-sex attraction (SSA). If they are still coming to terms with it, there may be the fear that talking about it will somehow make it more real, as though the very act of speaking of it gives it a greater presence and significance.
There is also often a fear of how other Christians might respond: that friends will feel uncomfortable and might distance themselves; that church leaders will think anyone experiencing such feelings and temptations must be a great disappointment; or that admitting such things will only be letting the side down. The battle can feel lonely enough; the prospect that others might reject you if they knew can be enough to keep many Christians silent about their struggles for many long years.
This is all by way of saying that perhaps the first thing to do if a Christian ever discloses personal struggles with sexuality is to thank them. It will almost certainly have been a big deal for them to have shared this with you. They may have been psyching themselves up for months, getting to the point of raising it only to bottle it and put it off. That they have come this far and finally spoken of it – and done so to you – is no small thing. You may be the first or one of only a handful of people to have been told this. Any time someone shares something deeply personal, it is a sign of enormous trust. Acknowledge that. Thank them.
Let them take a few deep breaths and assure them that the world is still spinning, that you’re still there, and that they’re not about to burst into flames.
The next thing to do is to listen – carefully. Experiences with SSA vary enormously. Points of sensitivity, triggers for temptation or despair, the issues surrounding and feeding into the feelings of attraction can differ enormously from one person to the next.
If they’re happy to talk, find out how they are. Ask them how long they’ve known; what its been like; what moved them to tell you. This may take some time. But it will help you get a sense of where they are responding to it as a Christian. Sometimes the experiences of SSA are just the symptoms of deeper issues of idolatry or insecurity. Sometimes there is a family unhappiness in the background. Other times there is no obvious rhyme or reason to the feelings at all.
Gentle probing and careful listening will help to shape what sort of wisdom and counsel they may need. The Christian actively wrestling with these feelings, striving to flee from temptation, wanting to honor Christ and walk faithfully with Him – they’ll need encouragement, prayers and people to talk to from time to time.
Others may not be clear on the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality, and will need some gentle instruction. Some may be in the depths of despair, imagining the presence of these feelings puts them spiritually beyond help, or feeling overwhelmed with guilt from past sins in this area. It may well be that they need some mentoring and help from a more experienced Christian or specialized ministry.
– Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay?, Pg. 84-85
For more resources from Sam Allberry, a celibate pastor who experiences SSA, check out his ministry livingout.org