This article was written by Harvest USA Parents and Family Ministry recipient Kim Taylor.
My story is typical of most parents who’ve faced the heartbreak of discovering their child struggles with same-sex attraction. We were happily oblivious to the darkness just under the surface that would change our lives forever. From the moment I found out in 2007—when our son had just turned 17—until I found help at Harvest USA in 2020, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t cry. I cried for my son, my broken heart, and all the loss—the loss of a future marriage for my son, grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, and simply being a “normal” family.
Suffering in Isolation
I would’ve told you I was trusting in the Lord, but the evidence showed otherwise. I would’ve said God was enough for me and our situation, but I wasn’t living like it. My faith was weak, but I was self-deceived in this area. I had a lot of learning and unlearning to do. Little did I know that this journey would not just be about my son but about God bringing me into a strong faith and conforming me into Jesus’s image. I desperately wanted help but was too ashamed to seek it. I told no one about our son because I feared the condemnation and judgment I would’ve once given to someone in my situation. So, I suffered in isolation, with no hope in my heart.
I bought the world’s lie—hook, line, and sinker—that this was just how things would always be. Hopelessness drove me deeper into my despair, and the cycle of unbelief continued. I knew God could help, but would he?
Little did I know that this journey would not just be about my son but about God bringing me into a strong faith and conforming me into Jesus’s image.
In 2018, when our son sent us a letter stating that he and his partner were married, I could no longer handle my devastation alone. I began to look for help online, and by the grace and direction of the Lord, I found Harvest. I could barely wait to start the first session and had to stop myself from completing the entire curriculum in one day. I can’t tell you what the possibility of hope dangling in front of my heart did for me.
Openness, Healing, and Waiting
By now, the hope wasn’t that my son would turn away from living in alignment with LGBTQ+ values so much as it was hope that I could be free from the feeling of total despair I’d adopted. In the first session, I got to share openly for the first time without fear of judgment! I cried my way through every session.
As the meetings progressed, I was encouraged to share with someone outside the group about our son. This took tremendous courage and strength from the Lord, but I did it! I shared my burden with my ladies’ Bible Fellowship class. They came around me and prayed with me, and I sobbed like I hadn’t in years. I got a surprise that day: I discovered that healing began when I quit hiding. And I got a group of ladies who now pray regularly for my son. I had robbed myself and him of this blessing for many years because of fear, shame, and pride.
I got a surprise that day: I discovered that healing began when I quit hiding. And I got a group of ladies who now pray regularly for my son.
I’d like to tell you that, after 15 years, my son is now a disciple of Christ, but he is not. The surprising thing is that I am! Although I was saved as a little girl, my faith had never been challenged to this degree. I’m now walking by faith, believing against hope that my son will repent before the Lord. I’m no longer in that pit of pride and despair that mired me down for so many years. Now I’m anxiously, even excitedly, waiting on what the Lord is doing and is going to do in my son’s life.
Hope in the God Who Works
Though I see no evidence that God is working in my son, he is working in me. In Romans 8, Paul considers that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v. 18). Don’t you long for “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v. 21)? This is the hope in which we were saved (vs. 24)! And this hope for believers is a solid guarantee, sealed by the blood of Jesus.
God says that hoping for things we can see is not hope. We are to wait patiently for the consummation of God’s plans. In this, we trust our children to him. His timing is different from ours. By God’s grace, running and finishing our race well involves placing 100% of our faith in the God of the universe to move as he will in our children’s lives, believing that he is constantly working (John 5:17).
To hurting and broken-hearted parents: Jesus came not only to save you, but to heal you and give you victory over despair. I’m living proof that you don’t need to live one more day in hopelessness. I want other hurting parents to find what I’ve discovered: Our faithful, almighty God will work in us and our children according to his will. We are called to pray and leave them in his capable hands, whatever the result. I remember the day I fully surrendered my son to the Lord. I went into the bathroom and lifted my hands, imagining my son being in them. I held him up and told the Lord to do whatever he needed to bring my son to repentance.
To hurting and broken-hearted parents: Jesus came not only to save you, but to heal you and give you victory over despair. I’m living proof that you don’t need to live one more day in hopelessness.
Am I still heartbroken? Yes. But now I thank God for the heavy burden he has placed on my heart. For, though it hurts so deeply and still moves me to weep, without it I would not remember to fall on his mercy continually.
Having spent many needless years in gut-wrenching hopelessness, let me encourage you with the life-changing hope that faith will give you. Hold to the promises, providence, presence, and power of the almighty Creator of the universe. Find some passages of hope from God’s Word; write them down and carry them with you to read and meditate on. Trust in the work your heavenly Father is doing. Allow my favorite hope-verse to encourage you: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13, my emphasis).
I’ve been representing Harvest USA at many national Christian conferences over the last two years. We get a lot of traffic at our exhibit tables, and once people find out what we do, most of them tell me about their child, grandchild, or friend who has come out as gay or transgender. Almost everyone I meet has been personally touched by the LGBTQ+ wave sweeping our country. And the overwhelming majority of people identifying as LGBTQ+ are young. What is happening to our millennial, Gen Z, and alpha generations?
In the latest Gallup poll for 2022, only 2.7% of baby boomers and 3.3% of Gen Xers identified as LGBTQ+ versus 11.2% of millennials and 19.7% of Gen Z. Along with that, while there was only a slight increase in the total percentage of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+ from 2012–2020, that number showed a marked uptick from 2020 to 2021. How do we make sense of this data? While there are many factors involved, here are just a few things to consider.
COVID Lockdowns and TikTok
Regardless of what you think about COVID lockdowns, we can’t deny the social impact of forced isolation. Kids were taken out of school and put in front of screens. Not only were many of these children receiving consistent LGBTQ+ indoctrination in their virtual classrooms, but they were also getting heavy doses of it on social media. By April 2020, just as the lockdowns began, TikTok surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide.
Consider what happens when our youth are cut off from the real world and plugged into an attractive, addictive virtual world algorithmically curated to show only one perspective?
Social media platforms specialize in creating echo chambers, with sophisticated algorithms designed to keep our attention as long as possible. The more we click on one type of video or post, the more we’ll see that type of content. Even if we click on just one pro-LGBTQ+ post, we’ll start seeing more of them. The more we click, the more dominated our feed becomes. Consider what happens when our youth are cut off from the real world and plugged into an attractive, addictive virtual world algorithmically curated to show only one perspective?
Hidden Experiences or New Interpretations?
Many will argue that the dramatic increase in people identifying as LGBTQ+ stems mainly from growing social acceptance. They’ll say the numbers have always been this high, but only recently have people felt safe to be public about it. While that may be true for some, it doesn’t account for the large statistical differences between generations. Now that there is social acceptance, you’d expect just as many boomers as Gen Zers identifying as LGBTQ+.
Instead, we’re witnessing a social contagion to which young people are particularly susceptible. Adolescence is a scary, confusing time for everyone. Our bodies and minds are going through countless changes which we struggle to know how to interpret. But now doctors, teachers, therapists, scientists, and politicians are giving new answers for these age-old questions. Consider that 66% of Gen Zers identifying at LGBTQ+ identify as bisexual. Why has bisexuality become so prevalent? Boys and especially girls will often go through seasons during adolescence when they might develop new feelings for a friend of the same sex. Historically, those feelings wouldn’t have materialized into anything more than a fleeting quasi-crush, leading to little (if any) questioning of their sexuality. But today, their radars have been trained and conditioned to see even the slightest attraction toward the same sex as incontrovertible evidence that they are indeed bisexual.
The questions used to be, “How do I live as a man? How do I live as a woman?” But now the question every child is being forced to consider is, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
The same is true for gender identity questions. All boys and girls will ask questions about what it means to be a boy or a girl: What activities should I like? What feelings are masculine or feminine? Fallen humanity has always struggled to live as the men and women God calls us to be. But, by and large, these questions were limited to our roles, not our ontology. The questions used to be, “How do I live as a man? How do I live as a woman?” But now the question every child is being forced to consider is, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
The Battle for a Better Story
I recently spoke at a retreat for a few hundred Christian college students from a variety of secular campuses. I was sobered by the extent to which worldly categories have infiltrated this generation. The deck has been stacked against them. They’ve been fed language, narratives, and parameters that prohibit any biblical categorization for who we are and how we are to live. Truly, Gen Z needs an entire deconstruction of their sexual worldview for a biblical framework to make any sense.
This deconstruction won’t start with logical arguments and statistics; they’ve been captured not by data, but by a story. A story of liberation, meaning, justice, and beauty has captivated their hearts and they’ve found their identity within it. A competing narrative strikes at the core of who they understand themselves to be. This will feel extremely scary; all their defenses will be on high alert against these threats to their identity.
Many who currently find their value, meaning, and identity in an LGBTQ+ label will, in God’s good timing, find Christ alone to be their all-in-all.
But this is where Christians have every reason for unshakable hope and confidence: we have a better story to tell. The gospel is the only narrative that accounts for everything we experience in this life and promises transcendent, everlasting hope and purpose. And we have the best Story-Teller in the universe! If you’re a Christian, it’s because you were told the story of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. Yes, you audibly heard it through a human voice. But spiritually, your ears were opened, and your heart brought to life by the voice of God himself. Jesus, our great Shepherd, calls his sheep by name, and his sheep know his voice (John 10:27).
Jesus died for Gen Z and alpha generation sheep. Many who currently find their value, meaning, and identity in an LGBTQ+ label will, in God’s good timing, find Christ alone to be their all-in-all. Who is sufficient for these things? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). May we fervently pray for the hearts and minds of our youth as we point them to the solid hope of God’s better story.
Watch this brief message and be encouraged by how God is using Harvest USA to comfort and strengthen countless families, individuals, and churches affected by sexual sin. We have exciting plans to increase vital discipleship in biblical sexuality worldwide—will you help us?
Harvest USA exists to point to the light of Christ Jesus amid the darkness of sexual sin and gender confusion. We need the faithful prayers and financial support of donors like you. Thank you for watching and praying!
Caitlin McCaffrey’s post, “Women Are Struggling Too: The Sobering Statistics and How to Respond,” is challenging. After citing various statistics, Caitlin writes, “Single evangelical women are potentially the demographic most rapidly abandoning a biblical sexual ethic in churches today.” That sentence put a pit in my stomach for two main reasons:
1. The beauty of womanhood. My mom and grandmothers, the wives who’ve brought joy and edification to close friends, the women I serve with at Harvest USA, my girlfriend—I hold these women in high esteem. That deep affection largely hinges on their femininity. Our culture has distorted this word, but God defines it: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised” (Prov. 31:30). Biblical femininity is not bound by culturally established “girly-girl” charm, beauty, or behavior. It is about female image-bearers courageously fearing the Lord in whatever role, place, or season he has placed them. Such virtue deserves praise.
2. Men are partly to blame for our sisters’ struggles regarding sexuality and gender. Harvest USA’s Sexual Sanity for Men warns that “Sexual sin not only emasculates us through robbing us of strength and enslaving our souls, it places us outside God’s design and calling” (32). I asked Caitlin why she thought these single evangelical sisters are likewise “de-feminizing” themselves through sexual sin. Men, we hold a piece of the blame. In our apathy as potential servant leaders, in our captivity to habitual sexual sin, we are a stumbling block to our sisters.
Sisters, I want to give you hope and motivation for remaining steadfast to the Lord. And to my brothers in Christ, how can we better serve the women God has placed in our lives? We can begin by remembering some key truths.
We Are God’s Image-Bearers
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
We have human value because the Creator made us in his image. To be human is to reflect God’s image and therefore proclaim his worship. God establishes male and female. Sister, you are, at your core, human—made to worship God. But God has also chosen you to be a woman. As a woman, you uniquely radiate worship to your Creator. Male and female humanity echo distinct praise to our beautiful Lord.
Brothers, how do you value your sisters in Christ? Do you see women as a commodity whose value is rooted in your sexual or relational self-centered desires? God forbid! These are your co-image bearers. Their value is rooted in the same reality as yours—created in the image of God, established by our Creator to worship him.
We Are Seen and Received
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that (Jesus) was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37–38)
Bask in the unique, tender beauty of this woman’s worship—her devoted courage to go into the lion’s den of judgmental pharisees. What honoring consideration of beauty and value to bring exquisitely expensive perfume to pour upon her glorious God. What a humble, tender, and personal act to lay on Christ her own tears, worshiping him with her emotions and serving her Master with her lips and hair. Look at Christ’s response: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). This woman was truly seen by Christ. He received her loving act of faith as excellent worship.
Brothers, we live in a culture of double standards. Has hypocrisy invaded our hearts? Do we view our sexual sin as soberly as the sexual sins of women? We all need to go to our Savior with a broken and contrite heart as this woman did, knowing that Christ receives it as a loving act of faith. He is abundantly forgiving. If we have received his forgiveness, how dare we see sister believers as anything other than his beloved children?
We Are Co-Laborers
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women . . . who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1–3)
Who accompanied Jesus on his mission? The twelve male disciples and some women, who uniquely helped Jesus and the twelve. The worship of the woman washing Jesus’s feet was not a one-off incident or fluke. Women participated throughout the entire unfolding of Christ’s ministry as a vital part of it.
Brothers, are you co-laboring with your sisters in Christ? Are you recognizing your sisters for what they bring to the table as you work in unity to serve the Lord? This passage is meaningful to my heart because dear sisters are the foundation of my financial support here at Harvest USA. I’m a living testament to the necessary value women bring into Kingdom-building efforts.
We Are Called to Serve
(Older women) are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3b–5)
Women were a vital part of Jesus’s ministry and they’re vital to every generation of the church. God is glorified by continual generations of godly women serving as part of his body—part of his bride.
Brothers, when you consider the future of Christianity, do you wonder who will be your church’s pastor or the next generation’s Billy Graham, R. C. Sproul, or John Piper? I encourage you to expand your vision, so it matches Paul’s. Who will be the next generation of godly women? Encourage your sisters with the fact that they are needed, called, and can rise to the occasion by the power of God’s Spirit and the church’s support.
When men and women fear the Lord, it impacts the whole body of Christ. Brothers, let’s open our eyes to our sisters’ struggles with sexual sin and come alongside them as fellow image-bearers, equally forgiven by Christ’s lavish mercy, and co-laborers for his glory.
15 Jun 2023
This post is a contribution from guest author John Perritt, Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries.
I remember a specific day from my childhood all too well. I was in sixth grade. The school day had ended, and a friend invited me over to his house. We were in his brother’s bedroom and my friend got down on his knees to reach under the dresser. My eleven-year-old self had no clue what was about to happen to my heart and mind as I was exposed to a pornographic magazine.
At that point in my life, I really didn’t know what sex was. What my eyes saw that day wasn’t sex, but a perversion of it. I’m now approximately three decades removed from that incident, but I can recall the exact image to this day. It’s seared in my mind. Like a scar, it seems it’s going to be with me until I go home to be with the Lord.
By God’s grace, that image deeply upset me. It was enticing but repulsive. Amid my ignorance and naiveté, I knew something wasn’t right about what I was viewing. Part of what I remember about that moment was the feeling I had—not arousal, but something more akin to sickness. A feeling that made me want to go home immediately. That image hurt me.
The Weight of Pornography
There’s a weightiness to pornography that, I think, gets at a creational good from the Lord. God created man and woman as sexual beings (Gen. 1:26–28). As Christians, we know that sexual desires are to be expressed specifically between members of the opposite sex in the context of marriage. This gift from the Lord carries weight because he’s given us precise instructions for stewarding it. The specificity of the gift points to its weightiness.
There’s another aspect of this weightiness. I never told my parents about when I saw pornography. I don’t even know if I spoke about it with the friend who showed me the image. I took that image to bed with me that night. I carried it with me in the hallways of my school. I’m sure it poisoned the way I looked at the opposite sex. The initial sickness I felt became a weight I carried around, a weight I didn’t allow others to help me carry.
What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?
To be sure, the Lord was helping me carry that weight, but I wasn’t reaching out to the community the Lord had given me. I was too young to know what I should do with that weight. I’m confident I was a Christian at the time, but I didn’t talk to the Lord about this. I didn’t know what accountability was—so I carried that weight with me.
There’s weightiness from the good things of the Lord because they point us to his glory, his immensity and omnipotence. At the same time, there’s weightiness from the evils of a broken world, too, which become burdens we carry around.
As you read this article, you know what I’m talking about. Right now, you’re carrying some burden. It may be a specific sin you’re wrestling with or your marriage, divorce, or singleness. It may be the burden of parenting or barrenness, an illness or chronic pain. The fall birthed endless burdens that plague us.
Our Children’s Burdens
What about our children? Single or not, we’ve all been given children because of the body of Christ—we have spiritual sons and daughters. And those sons and daughters are carrying burdens right now. How many of their burdens are related to pornography?
Some are saying that most teens spend approximately nine hours a day on screens. Even though they’re in classes and have after-school activities, they manage to find hours upon hours to look at a screen. What do they see?
In those nine hours, they’re looking at thousands of images. No doubt, some of them are pornographic. Others may fall in the category of ‘soft porn’ or implicit sexual images: bodies may be fully clothed, but the images are sexual in nature. To state the obvious, this still stirs up lust, and God’s Word doesn’t take that lightly. These images leave deep impressions upon our children.
What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?
Christ, the Burden-Carrier
This entire article may be burdensome to you. While I want this to be a sobering look at the world our children are growing up in, I also want to give you some hope. Remember our Savior’s words:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30)
Jesus not only carried our burdens on the cross and triumphed over them in the resurrection, but he also bore them throughout his perfect life. He is the one human in history who endured temptation without sin (Heb. 4:15–16). He knows our weaknesses. He remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and he will not break a bruised reed nor quench a faintly burning wick (Isa. 42:3). We can come boldly to our Lord and point our children to him in hope.
Talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying.
So, first, take those burdens to the Lord. Voice them to him and know that he hears you and loves to talk to his children. Also know that he loves your children more than you do.
Second, talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying. Even if they don’t open up, let them know you’re in their life to help carry their burdens; they don’t have to carry them alone. Remind them that their heavenly Father is carrying them as well. Remind them he’s always listening, and he always understands.
We can approach our children with compassion, pointing them to Christ and praying for them to know the peace of laying their burdens at the foot of the cross.
John Perritt, DMin, serves as the Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries (www.rym.org) and has served in student ministry for over twenty years. He is the host of “The Local Youth Worker” podcast. John is the author of several books, including “Insecure” and “Social Media Pressure: Finding Peace Alongside Jesus.” He and his wife, Ashleigh, have five children and live in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
08 Jun 2023
Name: Jim Barr
Hometown: I was born in Pennsylvania, raised in Massachusetts, but spent more than 35 years in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia where my wife and I raised our family. We’re now empty nesters living in Lafayette Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia not too far from the Harvest USA office.
Position at Harvest USA: Director of Ministry Partnerships and Stewardship.
Description of work at Harvest USA: Some people would call my job fundraising, but I describe it as friend-raising. One important aspect of my work is to update and encourage those who support our ministry—both individuals and churches. Their prayers and financial support are crucial to our work, and I want them to know how people are finding help and hope, how marriages are being restored, and how churches are being strengthened because of their partnership. Additionally, I seek opportunities to meet with people, particularly pastors, to share about Harvest USA and the gospel-based resources we’ve developed.
I want to expand the awareness of Harvest USA across the United States and into other nations so that more men, women, and families discover how the love and mercy of Christ can provide them the healing and hope they’re desperately seeking.
Fundamentally, though, this is more than a job. You see, my life and marriage were wonderfully changed by the ministry, and I want to expand the awareness of Harvest USA across the United States and into other nations so that more men, women, and families discover how the love and mercy of Christ can provide them the healing and hope they’re desperately seeking.
What is your favorite Scripture? That’s like asking me which of my seven children is my favorite—can’t do it! But I have always been intrigued by how Eugene Peterson translated John 1:14 in his paraphrased Bible called “The Message.” He put it this way: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” I think he captured the reality that God actually became a man and knows our joys and sorrows intimately.
How did you get to Harvest USA? Even though my wife and I had been a part of three churches who have supported Harvest USA, it was when we moved to Philadelphia in 2019 that I visited the Harvest USA offices looking for help with my own struggle with pornography. After years of shame and hiding, I found true and lasting freedom through their biblical support group and discipleship program. The change was so profound that I immediately volunteered to mentor another group of men and was able to provide counsel and accountability for others at my church. Then, when Harvest USA contacted me about working here, I saw an opportunity to use my past professional experience—and my personal testimony—to advance the work of Harvest USA and continue to help others.
After years of shame and hiding, I found true and lasting freedom through (Harvest USA’s) biblical support group and discipleship program.
What is your favorite thing about living in metro-Philadelphia? The city is often called “America’s Garden Capital,” so along with the world-renowned museums, the Liberty Bell, and the iconic statue of Rocky Balboa, we’ve enjoyed visiting some historic estates that have beautiful grounds and gardens. The 1,800-acre Wissahickon Valley Park with its dozens of hiking trails, beautiful stone bridges, and even an historic covered bridge is our go-to destination for getting back to nature.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself? When our seven children were young, Sunday mornings had to be streamlined to get everyone dressed, fed, and out the door in time for church. It became a tradition that I made a big pancake breakfast for everyone almost every week, which included lots of different toppings and yummy variations. At some point one of my kids determined that I usually made 50 to 60 pancakes each week—and at some point (according to their calculations), I had made more than 40,000 pancakes over the 20-plus years that we had children in our home! Even I was surprised by that!
01 Jun 2023
This post is a contribution from guest author Julie Lowe, Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation faculty member and counselor.
Young people are growing up in an increasingly godless world which requires deep wisdom and discernment to navigate. More than ever, they need to know how to traverse the dangers around them. Consider 1 John 5:19: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” God’s Word tells us that “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).
If we only shelter our children and do not equip them to act in wisdom, we inadvertently raise young people who don’t know how to make sense of evil or respond to it wisely. Wisdom sees potential danger and takes protective measures against it.
We shouldn’t be afraid to talk with confidence and hope to our children about evil in the world and the hope we have in Christ. Our willingness to talk about the hard things helps convince our kids that we have something helpful to say. By teaching them well, with God’s grace, we aim to raise kids who aren’t fearful but competent and confident.
So how can we help our children to walk safely through this threatening world?
Discernment to See Right and Wrong
Teach young people to navigate this world by giving them the ability to discern good from evil and right from wrong. Our culture is pressing in on our children, indoctrinating them with false views of romance and love, morality and truth, sexuality and identity. Our world calls intolerant what is good and holy and good what God calls wicked. Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
It’s tempting to shelter our kids, but it is far better to equip them to discern right from wrong and help them practice wise responses.
Safety is built on the foundation of discerning right from wrong—understanding how God created life to be lived. Young people cannot safely navigate this world without this ability to distinguish good from evil. Our goal is that children would know the ways of God and walk in truth; safety skills are a fruit of godliness. Walking by faith and knowing good from evil will be their shield, and I believe that safety skills will be the fruit of teaching our children the ways of the Lord.
Discernment to Name the Darkness
Wisdom and discernment are the substance: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14). Notice that the mature have “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
Discussing the dangers our children might encounter helps us understand how we can begin the process of equipping both ourselves and our children for setting up appropriate protective measures. Name the darkness that exists and equip your children to know how to avoid it and respond to it if it finds them.
For example, proactively teach your kids about pornography and sexting—what it is and why it’s dangerous, with a game-plan for what to do if (when) they see it. Teach them about respect and privacy, the God-imbued value of their bodies, and how they can protect and steward their bodies well. Teach your kids what God says about gender and sexuality. Discuss (age-appropriately) some of the many examples of each of these issues and role play ways they can respond when faced with the wrong view. It’s tempting to shelter our kids, but it is far better to equip them to discern right from wrong and help them practice wise responses. Doing so protects our young people from the temptations that exist and the entanglements of destructive choices.
Our safety ultimately rests in the hands of our God. . . . At the end of the day, God is the one who watches over us.
Knowing good from evil and right from wrong is primary. Safety skills flow from that foundation. Safety skills are a fruit of the way we parent our children. This is important to emphasize, because if we raise children who have been shielded from the worst perils of this world but do not walk with the Lord, do not know right from wrong, or are unaware of the dangers that exist from within—we have failed them miserably.
Discernment to Rest in the Lord
Our safety ultimately rests in the hands of our God. Psalm 37:39–40 reminds us, “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in times of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them, he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” Our ultimate hope is in a sovereign God who is our high tower, our very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1, Prov. 18:10). Consider Psalm 138:7:
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life, you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.”
At the end of the day, God is the one who watches over us. As we explore Scripture, we will understand more deeply the call to be wise, to see danger and run from it (Prov. 27:12), to have courage (Prov. 28:1, 2 Chron. 32:7–9), and to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves (Isa. 1:17, Prov. 31:8–9). We are not to be passive in our engagement with injustice, danger, mistreatment, and evil. We must respond to it, while resting in our ultimate Protector.
Article adapted from content in Safeguards: Shielding Our Homes and Equipping Our Kids ©2022 by Julie Lowe. Available at newgrowthpress.com. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
25 May 2023
This month, Harvest USA Director of Women’s Ministry Caitlin McCaffrey highlights two resources for women. Sexual Faithfulness: Gospel-Infused, Practical Discipleship for Women is available as a free digital download, and Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness is now on sale!
We pray these resources are a blessing to you and your church.
18 May 2023
How can I believe that my heavenly Father truly loves me when he won’t take away my insomnia or chronic pain? How can I trust God with my future when my whole world has exploded at the revelation of my spouse’s infidelity? How can I possibly believe that God knows what’s best for me when he calls me to turn from desires that feel completely natural? How can I entrust my child to the Lord when they’re about to inflict irreversible damage on their body?
Living by faith is difficult. We all struggle every day to remember, believe, and make choices based on God’s Word and his promises to us in Christ. Words on a page can feel meaningless when painful circumstances don’t change. What helps us nurture belief in these hard moments, days, and years?
Unbelief Is a Matter of the Heart
Our flesh looks at these situations and says that God hasn’t given us sufficient evidence that he’s worthy of our trust. But faith is not a matter of evidence. Scripture gives us testimony after testimony of people who had abundant evidence to trust God but still chose unbelief. The Israelites saw God perform over a dozen miracles rescuing them from Egypt, culminating in the parting of the Red Sea. And yet, in a matter of days, they doubted God’s ability or desire to keep them alive in the wilderness. Jesus fed over 5,000 men with nothing more than five loaves and two fish. But later, the crowd refused to believe his explanation of the miracle. His followers drastically decreased after this incredible display of his power and sustaining kindness.
Faith is a matter of the heart, not the eyes. Apart from God’s grace, all of us are born with dead hearts that cannot believe what is evident in all creation (Rom. 1:19–20). But in the new birth, God makes our hearts alive, and we believe. This is saving faith. And yet, this heart transplant does not guarantee an easy road of faith. We still struggle, and so much of our struggle with sexual sin comes down to unbelief.
Every time we give way to temptation, we’re believing those deceitful arguments and choosing to live in a world that’s fundamentally untrue.
Lies about God, ourselves, and others become powerful arguments for giving in to sin. After all, our heart says, God doesn’t care, God won’t deliver me, God can’t meet me in this moment—but sex can. Sex always delivers, sex has never let me down, and unlike God, sex doesn’t ask me to believe, just feel. Every time we give way to temptation, we’re believing those deceitful arguments and choosing to live in a world that’s fundamentally untrue.
Where Does Unbelief Grow?
I’m convinced there’s one primary behavior that keeps us stuck in patterns of unbelief: isolation. A man in one of our biblical support groups worked in the mold remediation business, and he compared sexual sin with mold. It grows in the dark, in hidden places, where nobody sees it, and before you know it, it’s infected the entire house.
Why does sin love darkness? Because in the darkness, no one can challenge your unbelief. Over time, that unbelief has a compounding effect. You don’t only believe all the lies that keep you going back to your sin, you also believe the lies that keep you from confessing your sin to others: My sin is too heinous, too dirty to tell others. I won’t survive the consequences of my actions. I can live a double life without anyone ever knowing.
Where Does Faith Grow?
At Harvest USA, I’ve asked dozens of men what the most helpful thing about their experience with us was. They almost always say the same thing: “Having other brothers to walk with me in this battle.” The most helpful thing wasn’t our staff’s expertise or our profound materials, but other group members, week-in and week-out, hearing their struggles and reminding them of the truths of the gospel.
I just finished a 20-month group with 12 men. At the end, I gave them one specific warning: Don’t go back to hiding. Don’t isolate yourself after this group finishes. That is the fastest way to guarantee going right back to old patterns of unbelief and sin. Hebrews 3:12–13 says,
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Notice the two words accompanying “evil” and “sin”: “unbelieving” and “deceitfulness.” Sin deceives us, leading to unbelief, which causes us to turn away from God—his precepts and his promises.
Isolation is the soil in which unbelief grows. But the body of Christ is the good soil through which our Father causes our faith to go from strength to strength.
One of the most powerful weapons to guard against unbelief is genuine fellowship with the body of Christ. This is where we’re known, exhorted, comforted, and pointed back to the truth over and over again. This passage assumes that even going one day without other Christians reminding us of the truth leaves us vulnerable to sin’s hardening effects on our hearts. Do we give other Christians that level of importance in our lives? You will if you remember that this life is a spiritual battle, and lone rangers are the first to get picked off.
Ultimately, Jesus is your closest friend. He’s the one who never stops praying for you that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:32). He sympathizes with how excruciatingly difficult it is to trust in our heavenly Father (Luke 22:44, Heb. 12:4). And he uses his people as his mouthpiece to remind you of his love, care, goodness, and power over your life. Isolation is the soil in which unbelief grows. But the body of Christ is not only an effective spiritual weed killer, it’s also the good soil through which our Father causes our faith to go from strength to strength (Ps. 84:5–7).
This post was written by Harvest USA Women’s Ministry intern YaPing Li.
The single life has brought challenges for me—maybe you too. Suffering and being misunderstood can take different forms for those of us who aren’t married, whether we’ve never been married or are single again due to death or divorce. I planned to be single, but long-term singleness is still a learning curve. I’m lucky because I don’t burn with desire, yet neither am I cold to the beauty of marital fellowship. I can’t explain why, but singleness is God’s plan; he has chosen it for me.
Sometimes, suffering comes through lost opportunities. I feel this sting when I think about something on my bucket list (if heaven doesn’t come first): standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and taking in the spectacular view of God’s designed colors and majesty. I don’t have a lifelong companion to share this joy with—to say, “Do you see it?! Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This is amazing!” I probably won’t have children to share stories like this with, either. At times, this causes my tears to fall.
I know my sorrow will transform into praise. No earthly wonder can compare to Christ’s own face, presence, and loving kindness. Still, life in this world—single or married—has its sorrows. This feeling of loss keeps me asking a question that can only be answered through the Scriptures: Where is my confidence?
God’s Word makes me want to know and pursue God’s goal for my singleness: that I would embrace Jesus and find my confidence in him.
I believe in the all-sufficiency of God’s Word, which enables me to walk through sorrow when it comes, looking to my hope in Jesus. God’s Word makes me want to know and pursue God’s goal for my singleness: that I would embrace Jesus and find my confidence in him.
Jesus really loves us—all of us. God’s ultimate goal for me isn’t that I paint a picture of a single woman living a perfectly holy and happy life, but that I would delight ever more in Christ. While I’m learning daily that his presence is sufficient, my life is not here to prove that living well single is better than a good marriage. Life is not a competition. It’s not about who can glorify and enjoy God most. In Christ, our fruitfulness comes from being faithful to God in the life he gives us, not personal triumph.
In God’s kingdom, the least is most satisfied. How we measure ourselves and others, including the least among us, says a lot about how we live as Christians.
God’s kingdom requires child-like admiration. We’ve all been children. When infants are separated from their parents, they cry, searching for the attentive gaze of their mother or father. They want to see their parents’ faces and be picked up in their loving arms. Their security and joy come from their parents. And when they’re with their parents, they want to stay in their embrace. That’s joy! Like infants desperate for their parents, all believers need the loving presence of God. As infants receive their parents, single men and women receive our Lord Jesus Christ in this world and the world to come. Our heavenly father is never far, and he will embrace us all the way home. Singles are not measured by their unmarried status, their gifts, or their ministry contributions. All are measured by the loving gaze of our Maker, Redeemer, and Advocate.
While I’m learning daily that his presence is sufficient, my life is not here to prove that living well single is better than a good marriage.
I may never travel to the Grand Canyon. But I can still be so overwhelmed by God’s abundant, loving kindness that a thousand Grand Canyons will not compare. And I can still be brought low. Single or married, we will be undone by Jesus Christ and be made into creatures who admire his goodness, kindness, beauty, gentleness, and compassion. All that he is and has will totally undo our worthless pursuits, competition, and ideas of worldly status.
I wonder if the more we embrace Christ, the more fulfilled our lives will be. Hence, the more content we can grow in our sexuality, relationships, and future hopes. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need” (Phil. 4:12).
I have been brought low. I’ve been unfairly denied jobs. I’ve become more comfortable with the “Joy of Missing Out,” learning that many people, though they have good intentions, are busy and forgetful of a single woman. I’ve had chronic migraine headaches, leading others to think I’m antisocial, and have been unable to think about the future while waiting for two biopsy results. I’ve been misunderstood when requesting a third person in the car if a brother gave me a ride and hurt when people I cared for only wanted me as their counselor, not their friend. When Christmas approaches, I dread being asked about my plans—deciding who needs me most, where I will be blessed, and which family to celebrate with to glorify God. Some of these circumstances feel awful, while some are just inconveniences and opportunities to grow in Christ-like wisdom. In all these lowly circumstances, Christ is sufficient to receive my honest lament.
Encouragement When You’re Brought Low in Your Singleness
Maybe your struggles are more secret and difficult to share. Maybe you’ve thought about seeking help in your suffering or have received counsel that didn’t build you up, leaving you wounded. Maybe your suffering is tangled with big or small enchantments with sin and the flesh. I don’t know all your struggles, but Jesus does. And he publicly proclaims you to be his friend; he calls you his own. Christ’s love defends your honor; who dares to despise you when nothing can separate you from his love (Rom. 8:38–39)?
The time is now. Don’t just gaze at Christ from afar—go to him. Draw close to the God who loves you inside and out. Whether single or married, Christ alone is our confidence. Embracing him is our joy.