Written By Raphael Zhang, Singapore
I did not choose to be attracted to people of the same sex.
I had an ordinary childhood in an ordinary home. My father and mother, along with my grandmother, loved me and did their best to provide and care for me. I have a younger brother, but had always wanted an older brother when I was growing up. In upper primary, I looked up to an older boy in my class as a big-brother figure.
I first realized I had these feelings when I was going through puberty in secondary school and found myself having a crush on a guy in my class. In junior college, I was similarly infatuated with a male schoolmate. That was also when I identified myself as “gay.”
There wasn’t anyone I could talk to about this area of my life—not my family nor my friends—so I looked online for local communities of people who were gay, and I found some. I distinctly remember the first time I chatted online with another gay person; I was very nervous and excited.
Initially, curiosity led me to these communities. Over time, however, it was loneliness that drove me to seek out others like me. As I began to struggle more with loneliness, I started to desire a romantic relationship.
Because I hadn’t gone to church since I became a Christian in primary school and wasn’t discipled in God’s truths on sexuality, I mistakenly concluded that it was okay with God for me to pursue my gay desires. And I did so, for the next 10 years. I tried many ways to look for a gay relationship and, regrettably, also fell into sexual sin with other guys many times.
A few years ago, the Lord convicted my heart that it was not part of His will for me to act on my same-sex desires. Since then, He has led me on a journey of deeper healing and pursuit of holiness.
Though I no longer identify myself as “gay,” I still experience attraction to men. There isn’t a day I’m not aware of it. I know in my mind that it is not to be acted upon, and I choose with my will to obey God. But the attraction still feels “natural” and instinctive to me.
If I had a choice, I would make these desires disappear once and for all. That would make my life so much easier. I don’t know if I will find complete healing on this side of eternity or I will receive full restoration, along with my transformed resurrected body, only when I see the Lord.
To borrow the words of Wesley Hill, a same-sex attracted Christian writer who has chosen to remain celibate, I now live in a state that is “washed and waiting.” As a Christian, I’m “washed. . . sanctified [and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11), but I’m also “wait[ing] eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23-25).
Meanwhile, I know that while I have no choice in my sexuality, there are choices I can make that would please the Lord. I believe that experiencing same-sex attraction is not itself a sin; surely a just God would not take me to account for what I cannot choose. But how I respond to it makes the difference: it can either be a doorway to sin, or an opportunity for worship and deeper healing.
I hope that what I share here can also help you to make choices for God’s glory and your good when you find yourself in situations not of your choosing.
I can choose to trust God’s heart for me
There was a time I was angry with God for allowing me to have same-sex attraction, yet forbidding me from pursuing it. It felt cruel, and I blamed Him for putting me in what felt like an impossible situation.
Over the years, however, as I began to understand who God really is—how good and extravagantly loving the Father is, how self-sacrificial a Friend and Savior Jesus is, and how trustworthy a Comforter and Teacher the Holy Spirit is—my anger was slowly replaced with awe, gratitude, and deeper love for the Lord.
I still don’t exactly know why God allowed me to have same-sex attraction. I may know only when I see Him face to face. But until then, I choose to take God at His word that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I know that His heart is for me and He is personally committed to walking this journey with me for my good.
I can choose to depend more on God
Each time my eye or heart is drawn inappropriately to a guy I find physically attractive or whom I might desire romantically, I have to remind myself to turn away from that and toward God. During a period of time when I found it especially hard to battle the lust of my eyes, I asked the Lord why I was struggling this way. I heard Him say, “Your eyes are wandering because your heart is not anchored on Me.”
Indeed, whenever I intentionally made more time to spend with God—to worship Him in song, to meet Him in His Word and prayer, and to be in fellowship with other Christians—I was much more able to turn away from acting on my same-sex desires. Through this, I understood why the Bible tells us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-17).
I remind myself that “[w]hoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8). Whenever I’m struggling, I can make the choice to walk by the Spirit, sowing to please Him, so as to reap eternal life.
I have also learned to consciously bring my pain and my need to God. The Lord led me to understand that beneath my same-sex attraction lies a relational brokenness that seeks the male identity, attention, and affection which I should have received in healthy ways when I was growing up. (I know this may not necessarily be the case for others.)
So whenever I feel the draw of same-sex desires, I choose to bring this longing before God, asking Him to help and comfort me, and to bring healing to my wounds. I remind myself that I am defined by God’s standard of masculinity as revealed in His Word, and not as taught by our culture. And I ask Him to show me how I can seek and receive male attention and affection in healthy, platonic ways.
In these ways, my same-sex attraction has given me rich opportunities to depend more on God. I choose to draw closer to Him and receive more healing from Him by preferring His higher ways above my broken ones.
I can choose to use this for His purposes
Recently, the Lord led me to see how I can choose to use my struggle with same-sex attraction for His kingdom’s purposes.
God has been putting in my path several Christians who also experience same-sex attraction and are seeking understanding and help. I’m very much burdened to reach out to them, and I’m aware that my personal experience was what drew them to open up to me in the first place.
On the one hand, my own experience of same-sex attraction helps me to identify with them. As someone who knows the pain and longing of same-sex desires, I can understand how they feel. That empathy builds a bridge of connection between us, and allows me to share with them what God has taught me in my journey. On the other hand, I have to be conscious of the need to draw healthy physical and emotional boundaries, so that neither of us would be at risk of falling into sin.
As I learn how to balance these two considerations with wisdom, it enables me to use my struggle with same-sex attraction to help others and point them to God, for His glory and their good.
I can choose to hold on to what God says
Many in our culture today would think that I’m not being true to who I am and that I should be free to be myself. They believe that freedom means having the ability to express my sexuality by acting on what I feel.
But as American theologian Erik Thoennes says, “There’s this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn’t hypocrisy; it’s integrity.”
God has taught me that who I am is not what I feel, but who He says I am in His Word. I choose to live with integrity when I hold on to that truth, regardless of how I feel. This is how I choose to be true to myself. “In the Christian tradition,” says writer Richard John Neuhaus, “being true to yourself means being true to the self that you are called to be.”
God has the ultimate authority and final say over my life. And I can trust Him because He who knows best loves me deeply and is able to shape me to become the best self He has called me to be.
I can choose to love God with all I have
I often didn’t feel like I had much to offer God. I wondered how much more easily I could obey Him and how much more effectively I could serve others if I didn’t struggle with same-sex attraction. However, I now believe that God actually cares much more about my heart of giving than how much I can give Him.
There are two stories in the Bible I hold dearly. One is the story of the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4), and the other is the one where Jesus was anointed by a woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). Jesus commended the widow even though she donated just two small coins, because “she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44). Of the other woman, He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Jesus valued the poor widow’s offering just as much as He cherished the woman’s lavish act.
These two stories tell me that God is pleased whenever I give Him all that I have, no matter the quantity, and He finds this to be a beautiful thing. All He requires of me is to trust and love Him wholeheartedly and to offer all of my life—my strengths and my struggles—to Him.
In this journey of trusting the Lord with all my heart and submitting to Him in all my ways, I know that He will direct my paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Although I have no choice when it comes to my sexuality, I can make choices to obey and love Him. As I do that, I know my choices will bring delight to God, lead me into deeper worship of Him, enable me to receive more healing, and allow me to help others with the same struggles.
I await with much longing the day when I can finally see the One I love face to face. And I want to live a life of godly choices so that when the Lord looks at me, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! (Matthew 25:23) You gave everything you had (Mark 12:44). You have done a beautiful thing to Me (Mark 14:6).”
It would all have been worth it for the One who is worthy of all praise and honor.