The Christian life isn’t always smooth, as Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress vividly illustrates. Sometimes we will be enjoying the gardens and fountains in the Delectable Mountains and other times we will wading through a treacherous bog in the Slough of Despond. Sometimes the result of our own sin, sometimes the result of external circumstances, but most often a complicated mixture of both.
I’ve had times when same-sex attraction has faded into the background. At other times it’s been a painful present reality and I’ve got involved in sexual relationships with other women. When those relationships have ended because we/I’ve decided to turn back to God and be obedient to him, I’ve often found that Christian friends haven’t known how to support me.
It’s ok to grieve the loss of someone who is important to you.
A common response is a relief that I’m ‘back on track’ and a sense that everything is sorted. A ‘Well done, you’ve done the right thing’ is often the only reaction that people make. Of course, it’s really important to be encouraged about doing the right thing, but there also needs to be help working through the grief and pain as well. Giving up someone you love – even when it is the right thing to do – is incredibly difficult and the pain doesn’t go away overnight. Some of my friends have been uncomfortable about allowing me to express sadness, grief and loss over a relationship that was ‘wrong’. But relationships are complicated and even when there has been an ungodly sexual element or emotional dependency, that doesn’t mean everything about the relationship was wrong. It’s ok to grieve the loss of someone who is important to you, has shared deep friendship and knows you on a heart level.
Unless grief and pain are addressed and expressed, they’re likely to remain. Buried grief has a way of resurfacing later. We have a God who understands our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) and wants us to bring them honestly before him, whether they are self-inflicted or not.
Supporting someone coming out of a same-sex relationship is a long process that requires love, patience and wisdom. Here are some practical suggestions for ways in which we can help:
- Ask how your friend is doing and keep asking over weeks and months.
- Talk about the person they were in a relationship with and allow them to express how they feel. Bring the sadness and pain to God together. Pray for the other person together.
- Encourage your friend to be totally open with God about everything they’re thinking and feeling. God knows our hearts (Psalms 38:9; 44:21) and we only experience real healing when we open them up honestly to him.
- Remember that your friend will need community, fun, physical affection and encouragement. This is the start of a hard road, not the end.
- Remember that progress isn’t linear. Your friend is likely to have good and bad days even if they’re generally heading in the right direction.
- Remind them of the never-ending, all-consuming love of Jesus (Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16; Psalms 13:5; 36:5; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 3:1) and that only he is able to meet all our deepest needs.