True, Lasting Happiness Is Found in Jesus, Not Sex or Sexual Identity

Sex as God intended—in marriage, between a man and a woman—is a pleasure to be celebrated (see Proverbs 5:15-19). Sex outside of marriage brings serious negative consequences—emotional, physical, and spiritual. Promising long-term pleasure it can’t deliver, addiction to sex and pornography enslave and degrade everyone involved. “[The adulterer] follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter. . . . He does not know that it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:22-23).

Research data from 16,000 American adults who were asked confidentially how many sex partners they’d had in the preceding year proved the same point made in the book of Proverbs: “Across men and women alike, the data show that the optimal number of partners is one.” [1] Other research similarly revealed that “people with more sexual partners are less happy.” [2]

Satan would like us to believe that people who have sex outside marriage are happier, but that’s a lie.

Sin Does Not Lead to Lasting Happiness

The unhappiest-looking person I’ve ever seen—face drawn and haggard, eyes vacant—was holding a sign that said, “Gay and happy about it.” I’m not suggesting, of course, that homosexuals can never be happy. God’s common grace offers some happiness to all. But Romans 1:27 speaks of those making these choices as “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Romans lists many other sins God hates, yet that one is singled out as particularly self-punishing.

I’ve had long, honest talks with those living the “gay lifestyle” who are decidedly miserable—just like many heterosexuals who have idols of their own.

Teenagers and single adults often face heavy pressure to pretend they’re having a great time sleeping around, when privately they’re filled with self-loathing and disillusionment, because reality never lives up to the promises. Likewise, there’s pressure on gay people to project an image of fulfillment. Some people—both heterosexuals and homosexuals—go out of their way to publicly celebrate their promiscuous behavior, all while trying to ignore the emptiness and pain. With the Satan-scripted obligatory claim, “[Fill in sin] makes me happy,” they offer false advertising for the father of lies, who relishes their self-destruction.

Little Idols vs. Infinite God

There’s a tragic irony in the positive term gay. No matter how happy gay may sound, these are the facts about the suicide rate among homosexuals:

The risk of suicide among gay and lesbian youth is fourteen times higher than for heterosexual youth.

Between 30 and 45 percent of transgendered people report having attempted suicide.

I didn’t get these statistics from religious conservatives, but from a secular website sympathetic to gay and lesbian issues. [3] A study that analyzed twenty-five earlier studies regarding sexual orientation and mental health showed that “homosexuals and bisexuals are about 50% more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to suffer from depression and abuse drugs.” [4]

For many years, it was widely assumed that this much higher level of unhappiness was due to humiliation over others’ disapproval. Though society has become much more accepting of the LGBQT lifestyle, unhappiness persists even among those surrounded by affirmation. Being gay or transgender may be celebrated in our culture, but that doesn’t change its nature or eliminate the harm to those engaging in such a lifestyle.

Jackie Hill Perry, author of Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been, writes:

All of the dead things I loved—the things I said, thought, did, talked about, watched, walked in, listened to, promoted, and went to bed with—had a measure of satisfaction in them, but they were never enough. I was made for an infinite God, so how could some little idol make me whole or happy?  

Likewise, countless heterosexuals’ lives have been destroyed by believing the false promise of happiness in an affair. I know many people who’ve had affairs and have spent the rest of their lives regretting it.

Radical Steps Required, Great Joy Promised

The god of lust dominates countless lives in our culture. Jesus said, “I tell you that any one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NIV). Then He added, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you. . . . If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you” (Matthew 5:29-30, NASB).

How decisively do we deal with the idol of lust? To find true happiness, radical steps are required to dethrone it and put God in His proper place. Christopher Yuan puts it simply in his book Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: “Our biggest problem is our sin nature, and victory is found only in Christ Jesus.”

This radical solution starts with salvation in Christ, which transforms our nature and dramatically affects our capacity to embrace greater happiness in God. Our justification by faith in Christ satisfies the demands of God’s holiness by exchanging our sins for Christ’s righteousness (see Romans 3:21-26).

In Future Grace, John Piper writes that we “must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust’s pleasures must be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. . . . We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction.”

Once believers are born again, sin is still present in our lives (see Romans 6:11-14; 1 John 1:8–2:2), but we have supernatural power to overcome it since we’ve died to sin (see Romans 6:6-9). God’s Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us obey Him and embrace the deeper happiness  (see 2 Timothy 1:14). The result? We’re free to reject sin and its misery, and embrace righteousness, with its true and lasting happiness.

Beckett Cook, who lived for years as a gay man in Hollywood but later had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ, writes:

Surrendering my sexuality hasn’t been easy. I still struggle with vestiges of same-sex attraction, but denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus is an honor. Any struggles I experience pale in comparison to the joy of a personal relationship with the one who created me and gives my life meaning. My identity is no longer in my sexuality; it’s in Jesus. 

Sam Allberry has spent a lifetime wrestling with homosexual temptation. He writes: “Whatever we give up Jesus replaces, in godly kind and greater measure. No one who leaves will fail to receive, and the returns are extraordinary—a hundredfold. What we give up for Jesus does not compare to what he gives back. If the costs are great, the rewards are even greater, even in this life.”

One day God’s children will look back on this life with complete clarity. When we do, I believe we’ll see that our only true sacrifices were when we chose sin instead of Jesus. The “sacrifice” of following Jesus produces the greatest, most lasting happiness—both here and now, and forever.

For resources on this subject, see Randy’s book The Purity Principle and booklet Sexual Temptation: Establishing Guardrails and Winning the Battle.


[1] Arthur C. Brooks, “Love People, Not Pleasure,” New York Times, July 18, 2014.

[2] Thomas David Kehoe, Hearts and Minds: How Our Brains Are Hardwired for Relationships (Boulder, CO: University College Press, 2006), 132.

[3] Natasha Tracy, “Homosexuality and Suicide: LGBT Suicide: A Serious Issue,” HealthyPlace.com, April 12, 2013.

[4] Nancy Schimelpfening, “Homosexuality Strongly Linked to Depression and Suicide,” About.com, accessed October 30, 2014.

Photo by George Kondylis

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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