by Marsha, Friends and Family Director
“I’m not supposed to be here!” This comment came from a new Friends and Family group participant several years ago. I wonder how many of us involved with Living Hope have had this same thought? It could be described as “saying the quiet part out loud” or addressing the “elephant in the room.” Nobody involved here – not the men, women, or friends and family members – ever dreamed of needing a ministry like ours. The men and women who come didn’t ask for this struggle, and the parents usually think raising their children in the church should have safeguarded them from having struggles with their gender, sexuality, or identity. We didn’t ask for this, and we shouldn’t have to be here! God has let us down.
Just be happy, right?
A pervasive but seldom admitted belief among churchgoers is that once you are a Christian, life becomes easy and blessed, and struggle with sin becomes fleeting, if not almost nonexistent. Didn’t Jesus say, “I have come to give youlife, and have it abundantly” in John 10:10? That verse somehow has become synonymous with the idea that “God wants us to be happy,” as if that was His highest desire for humanity. Once we are in Christ, His highest desire for us is to make us more Christlike, which should result in joy and contentment, but not necessarily fleeting happiness. The reference in John 10 is part of Jesus’s description of the sheep who hear and follow His voice. Following Christ and letting Him choose our path is the reason we can have abundant life. Our vision of an easy, happy life is not how God defines the abundant life. In fact, the Bible never promises us happiness. In Matthew 10, Jesus spends a great deal of time telling the disciples that life will be difficult. In verse 34, He warns them, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” When life is easy, we often don’t depend on the Lord or see Him work in amazing ways in our lives. In challenging times, when we have nowhere else to turn except God, we see His strength, provision, and kindness.
If we concede that abundant life doesn’t guarantee happiness, can we at least agree that God promises to remove all temptation from us? After all, it says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” A closer look reveals that this verse doesn’t guarantee we will have no temptations, just God’s provision to provide an escape so that we can endure it. He doesn’t deliver us, but He gives us Himself. He is our escape and will be with us through it, helping us to endure and be victorious. The verse in 1 Corinthians only promises that God will help us when we experience temptation. There is no promise that we won’t be faced with it.
We are NOT the problem.
There is a tendency for friends and family participants to feel that “we” are not the problem, since our sin struggle looks different. Our struggles may be the more hidden or culturally “acceptable” types of sin. We feel that if only our son, daughter, spouse, or friend didn’t have this issue, we wouldn’t have to be a part of a ministry like Living Hope. Some come with the mistaken notion that they will attend for a short time, find the secrets to “fixing” their struggling loved one, and then be on their way to whatever they considered to be their normal life. The concept that God might have something in mind for them in this journey doesn’t occur to them.
What takes a while longer to realize is that the struggle our loved one is experiencing is not just their issue. Usually, it is a family issue involving unhealthy relational patterns that are now bearing fruit. This doesn’t mean that the parents intentionally nurtured an unhealthy pattern of relationships, but there are no perfect parents. Not only do well-intentioned parents make mistakes, but even good parenting can be misinterpreted by flawed perceptions on the part of our child. God wants to help the whole family become healthy, not just the person experiencing same-sex attractions. Once we realize that God is highlighting some broken areas in our own life that He wants to transform, the focus changes from a desire to change someone else (which is God’s job, not ours) to allowing God to conform us more fully to the image of Christ. This is an endeavor guaranteed to be blessed by God.
A person attending any support group wanting to change someone else will soon be disappointed. God only works with those who desire His help. We can pray for someone else to be open to help or to change, but if we are willing to ask God what He wants to do in us, He will show us things in ourselves that we never recognized needed to be changed. Some of these hidden issues might never have come to our attention if it were not for our struggling loved one who caused us to come to Living Hope.
Many in the friends and family group have been surprised to realize that they have made either their child, spouse, or family an idol or that they have been more self-focused than God or other-focused. Also, the recognition that their anger, pride, or perfectionism has affected their family can come as a surprise. We tend to think these are “little” sins until God forces us to face the fact that our little sins have enormously affected those around us. Once we acknowledge that God also has some work to do in us, our focus shifts, and we begin to see fruit in our prayers for change because He is changing us. It is also not unusual for our loved ones to see the changes that God is making in our lives, giving them renewed hope that God really is in the business of transforming people. And as a result, He might even be able to make changes in them.
So, what are we, as Friends and Family, doing at LHM? We are here because we love the Lord and our struggling loved ones. At LHM, we found a place to connect with others who were seeking to understand their loved one’s struggles and support them in a God-honoring way. Nothing in our lives is ever wasted – God has a plan for anything that comes into our lives, a plan for good and not for calamity, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). We can trust that our God is good and that His plans always prevail. We didn’t ask for this struggle, nor did our loved one, but God has a plan to use it to bring glory to Himself and to bring blessings to us and our family. When we are able to see how God uses this difficulty for good in our lives, we will say, like the psalmist in Ps. 145:4, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”
If you are looking for support as you seek to love, understand, and speak truth to a family member, loved one, or friend, please contact us for how you can join us online or in person. Marsha serves as LHM’s Friends and Family Director, leads our Friends and Family small groups, and has been a part of LHM for over a dozen years.