Resisting desires or stuffing them? As one who has continually dealt with the issue of same sex attraction, I have had to learn the fine balance of dealing rightly with the desires that bubble up from within. There is always a lot of talk about “denying who you are” and “being true to yourself”. I’ve wrestled with these things pretty extensively and have been forced to navigate through the murky, muddy waters that can often be confusing. I’ve also found that this is not uncommon to many believers – have you ever had thoughts and desires spring up and wish they would just go away; you’ve felt shame for even thinking about them and even more shame because you might actually act on them if given the opportunity? I’m guessing if you’re human, you have. [And if you haven’t, keep reading anyway! Maybe this will help some poor soul you encounter sometime ;-) ]
For many, resisting same-sex desires may sound a lot like pretending they don’t exist and stuffing them away. It may sound like trying to push them out of your awareness. However, if any of you have ever tried to push any strong desire out of your mind, you’ll likely agree that the desire only comes back very quickly and with much more force. No? This is like standing at the edge of the ocean and trying to push the waves back with your hands. Pretty frustrating from my experience!
But I believe there is a huge difference and a fine line between resisting these desires and trying to stuff them away. The difference is in your fundamental belief about the character of God. If you believe God is evaluating every thought and the moment you have a dirty one He is shocked, appalled, disgusted, disappointed and enraged, you will likely get worn out trying to “be good” for God. When the desire comes back with twice as much force you will feel twice as much shame. Pushing back the waves of an ocean with your hands is hard!
But if you believe that the moment you have that dirty thought that God is for you and is inviting you to Him, it makes all the difference. In the midst of the dirty thought, lustful motive, or intense desire God is making an appeal for you to “come unto me….”. This changes everything. If you believe that even in the mess God is not disgusted or surprised but He actually, truly loves you just as much as when your mind is free and clear, then the guilt and shame, I have found, dissolve. I could hang on to these (guilt and shame) of course, but why? Why do that when the righteous judge sees me as clean and delights in who I am despite what I think and feel? I believe what God would say to those of us who are trying to push back the waves with our feeble hands is, “Child…..Rest.”
When I hear those words, I’m suddenly free to take my hands off the waves and out of the water and lift them high. In the midst of desire I’m saying, “God you are bigger than all of this that I am standing in and you love me infinitely more.” I start to forget about the waves, although I may be aware that they are there. A particularly strong wave may come and make me stumble or maybe even knock me off my feet for a moment. But I get back up, lift my head, dig my feet in, and rest in the knowledge of His overarching sovereignty, unlimited grace, and perfect strength in the midst of weakness. I know that the stumble didn’t change His love for me.
What I love about God is that when I have sinful desires and thoughts, He invites me to talk to Him. I admit them to Him. “God, you see what is going on inside my head. It sounds good and calls my name. But that is no longer Lord of my life. YOU are Lord. And God I thank You that my faith in Your character at this moment is pleasing to You. And as I submit my thoughts and life to You, you make me free and keep me free.”
There’s no need to stuff desires. There’s no life in that when you do. There’s life in knowing that the perfect God of the Universe is not put off by my inclination toward depravity and rather delights when I choose instead to put on the character of His son and faith in His Word. The real reason I resist those desires is not so that I obey the rules and get a gold star on my chart. I resist those desires because I don’t want anything to be a barrier to the intimacy I have found in simply knowing Him.
So waves may have knocked me down in the past, and if I had my guess, I’m sure there will be more waves to come. But the waves aren’t the issue, neither are they the most powerful thing in my life. Although He certainly has the power to calm the waves or eliminate them altogether, this is not necessary for me to stand and praise Him. I can keep trying to push them back in my own strength or I can dive into the wave and let it sweep me away. I’ve decided instead to stand, resist, and focus on the One that is giving me the strength to do so.
Music for this post: