Grief is a natural response when we hear bad news of human sin and suffering. But sometimes my grief has taken me too far.
Recently, a friend confided in me that his daughter is now identifying as a boy. He’s heartbroken, and I am heartbroken with him. He looks at pictures in which his daughter looks happy, strong, healthy, bright and beautiful. Now she insists she is he/him, dresses differently, and goes by a new name. He said it is like looking at a different person sometimes. When she turns eighteen, she plans to begin taking testosterone (“T”). My friend does not know if his daughter will pursue surgery, but he fears she will.
Abigail Shrier’s 2021 book, Irreversible Damage, documents the alarming rise especially among young females experiencing a kind of late onset gender dysphoria. Just as alarming, the number of parents and professionals who are encouraging these young people to “transition” also seems to be on the rise. Shrier’s title includes “irreversible” for good reason, since some of the interventions have lifelong consequences.
(Meanwhile, this year in Sweden—where puberty blockers had been an unquestioned go-to for gender dysphoric youth for many years—the Swedish Board of National Health and Welfare this year changed its guidelines, citing evidence-based research indicating that natural puberty is a healthy part of a developing identity and hormonal interventions pose more risks than benefits.)
As those who follow Jesus, the One “well acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), and as His body, it is right that we would grieve every kind of pain, sin, loss, and death on the earth. So certainly, it is a right response to grieve for those who are in conflict with their own bodies, grieve when they pursue medical interventions that combat their God-given biology, and grieve any irreversible damage being done.
Even so, we must pray against despair. Despair takes grief too far. Grief acknowledges loss, but despair believes all is lost. With God, this is never the case. Even when someone makes irreversible decisions about their life or their body.
Remember that Jesus’ followers despaired what happened to Jesus physically.
“As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he sprinkle many nations.” (Isaiah 52:14-15a ESV)
For all intents and purposes, the scourging, crucifixion, and bodily death Jesus experienced was irreversible. His disciples understood it to be the end of the story. And yet it wasn’t.
If you have a loved one experiencing gender dysphoria, identifying as someone other than the male or female they are, pursuing medical interventions, or even hardly recognizable to you now, know that we grieve with you and pray for you. If you yourself are experiencing gender dysphoria or any kind of inner-conflict, you are not alone and you are deeply loved.
No matter your situation today, I have no words to make all you’re going through better in this moment, but if you can, turn your eyes toward the crucified and risen Jesus, pour out your heart to Him, and hold to His living body.
He is our hope and the hope of those we love!
Friends, let’s pray today for all those with gender dysphoria and for their family and friends.