Sexual purity and good mental health
Choosing celibacy over same-sex attraction is a good thing according to God's infallible word. For me personally choosing celibacy was like a bereavement. Saying "Bon voyage" to my sexual expression and identity, the hope of finding a long term partner and physical intimacy. Feeling that something I loved was being taken away from me. For a number of years I couldn't help but experience this as a major loss.
I experienced thoughts like "I'll never marry”, “never have children”, “I'm alone” and “my family or church won't understand”. They led to anxiety, depression and social isolation.
Thankfully over the years I also experienced Christ's peace while walking with the Holy Spirit and the church. I didn't receive any quick fixes but by talking, praying, capturing thoughts and renewing my mind by the word I am being renewed. I hope my experience blesses and encourages as you too journey with Christ.
It really is good to talk
“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live”. Psalm 116:1-2 NIV
In the psalms David cried out to God. And God heard Him. He hears all of us. I couldn't move on until I expressed my pain, grieved my losses, admitted my fears and the implications that celibacy might have on my future. I had to grieve the loss of my previous identity and accept my reality. On numerous occasions I cried out to God on my own or with loving people beside me, casting my cares on Him. It is important to know people you can talk to who you can trust, who won't judge you and who you can regularly disclose your deepest pain to.
Truth and lies
James 3 speaks of the power of words. They impact our lives, bringing either bring life or death. In addition our thoughts are also powerful influences on ourselves.
“For what he thinks in his heart so he is”. Proverbs 23:7 KJV
We must challenge our thoughts and feelings that don't line up with God's word. As mentioned earlier I experienced painful thoughts that led to anxiety and depression. If we think and say negative words over ourselves then we will not live in God's identity and freedom.
I cannot advocate or dismiss psychological therapies, but cognitive behavioural therapy works by examining thought patterns, breaking them down and challenging them. Our attitudes (thoughts and feelings) affect our behaviour and the way we interact with the world. We must have humility to say "I might be wrong" so that we can explore and challenge our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs about God, ourselves and others. Take time to be still and reflect with the Holy Spirit. Journal your beliefs and find scriptures that either affirm or challenge them. Allow God's word to renew your mind.
One of my negative thoughts was, "God is trying to take away my not-so-bad good and healthy homosexual life". After studying God's word I realised He is a God of protection. He asks me to be celibate because He did not create homosexuality. Celibacy is a healthier way of living. An act of worship. It is good.
Seeking and becoming
The gospel teaches us to think less of ourselves and more of others. This truth is counter-cultural to our self-centered culture. Focusing on Christ isn't about ignoring our needs but seeing Him through our needs. As we focus on the gospel, our needs get smaller. Our attitudes align to His word so we may serve others and build His church.
Consider the story of Job. He was a God fearing man who suffered the loss of everyone he loved. In his suffering he cried out, and God showed up. God spoke and Job replies:
“Before I had only heard about you but now I see you”. Job 42:5
Here I believe Job is saying "Now that I have seen you I know who you are, and I know what I have in you. I lost everything and yet I have gained everything". We are all like Job. This passage overflows with hope of restoration only Christ offers when we know Him. Focus and meditation on God enables us to see past our suffering so that we see Him.
Personally there was nothing as mentally crippling than being in a relationship with Jesus and having a boyfriend on the side. Good mental health requires daily walking with Jesus and His church. Life on earth is temporary but we act like it is permanent. We will be spending eternity with Jesus. No words can explain the wonder of eternally standing in the presence of The Lord. This is our motivation, the hope of glory.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2017 edition of "Ascend", the TFT newsletter.