Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Addiction destroys life. Over time, with each acting out experience, a little more life is drained from the addict. Eventually, all that remains is a walking dead person.
Easter is the celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He conquered sin on the cross and then crushed death by His resurrection. Many addicts are Christians, they believe Jesus Christ is their only hope of salvation. So, how come many are not experiencing freedom and victory from their addiction?
The story of the resurrection of Lazarus might give us some insight into why many Christians are not experiencing freedom from addiction, and how they can.
The full story is found in John 11 in the bible. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. His sisters, Martha and Mary, were too. Lazarus gets sick and his sisters ask Jesus to come heal him. Jesus doesn't come immediately, and Lazarus dies. Not exactly what the sisters expected from Jesus. And that's the first thing we need to understand about recovery: God's path to freedom and new life won't be what we initially expect.
Most addicts who enter recovery expect the process to be quick, easy, and not terribly uncomfortable. But such expectations are just the underlying lies of addiction. ("If you smoke this, drink this, or look at that, all your dreams will come true.") God has a far better way for addicts, but many never realize it because they can't get over the initial challenge of recovery not being what they expected or hoped for.
Jesus eventually arrives on the scene after Lazarus has been buried. Martha and Mary express their grief and disappointment to Jesus. He responds to both with truth and grace. To Martha he gives a theology lesson (v. 20-27). To Mary he offers his tears (v. 32-36). This is the next thing we need to understand about God's path to recovery: Jesus responds to our pain personally.
No two addicts are identical in their stories or suffering. Each one has unique pain. Some addicts are hardened cynics. To these God may bring a hard truth to break their pride. Other addicts are crushed victims. To these God offers tears of understanding to lead them home. God knows that we need and when we need it on our journey of recovery.
Now the moment comes when Jesus is brought to the tomb where Lazarus was buried. This is the scene that will take our breath away -- literally!
"Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.'" (v. 39a)
You cannot walk out of the grave of addiction until the "stone" locking you in is removed. And you need a community willing to move it.
Dead people can't move stones. Yet, so often addicts are preached at to "get up" or "stop it" or "just make better choices." If Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead without moving the stone, Lazarus would have been "alive" but living in a locked tomb. The stone had to be rolled away for him to come out of the grave. The "stone(s)" in the addict's life must be rolled away before they can come out of their addiction.
Some common "stones" that keep addicts imprisoned are:
And many more. Each of these stones require the help of others to remove. The addict drowning in shame cannot remove that stone by sheer willpower or "positive thinking." Other people need to speak truth and hope and grace in order to remove that stone.
But even after the stone is removed, Lazarus is still a dead man. And he stinks.
"Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him [Jesus], 'Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.'" (v. 39b)
Addiction stinks. The people who come around the addict to help remove the stone need to know this: What lies on the other side of grave stones is a stinky dead person. And depending on how long the addict has been dying in their addiction, the stench can be quite putrid. But it's good to smell the stink. Here's why.
Many addicts, especially those addicted to "non-substances" like porn and lust, are great at hiding their addiction. Their grave stone is securely in place and therefore the "stink" of addiction isn't easily recognized by others. This means friends and family may not know that their loved one is dying, or already dead.
When the grave stone is moved and the horrible smell of death hits you in the face, it is a powerful moment. Don't rush past it. Yes, it hurts when the stinky truth about a loved one knocks you over. But you can learn from it. Breathe it in so you can become familiar with the stench, so that when you pick up that scent in others, you know what to do to help them break free from their grave of addiction.
Finally, the moment has come for Jesus to do the miraculous; to raise Lazarus from the dead.
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. (v. 41-44)
When Jesus, the author of Life, speaks, death must flee. Death could not hold Lazarus when Jesus called him out of the grave. And addiction cannot hold the addict when Jesus calls them out. But an addict might ask, "Why, then, don't I feel free?" Easy, you're still wrapped up in your death clothes.
There are a lot of "walking dead" in recovery groups. They are "alive" in the sense that God has given them new life, but they are still bound by their former, familiar grave clothes. This, again, is why we need a strong, loving community around us to help take off the death garments.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (v. 44b)
Jesus alone can call a dead man (or woman) back to life. Jesus alone can break the deadly power of addiction. But Jesus expects the community around the addict to "unbind him, and let him go." Addicts need the power of community to loose them from the familiar, stinky clothes of their old ways.
Are you struggling in your recovery? Do you still feel "dead" on your journey? What is God trying to show you from the resurrection of Lazarus that needs to be applied in your life?
Remember these words of Jesus, "...everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Do you?
May you, by the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ, and the presence of a loving community, walk today in freedom and victory over addiction.
For help finding a group in your area, visit Groups.Bebroken.com.
I love Christmastime. From the time I was a kid I have loved everything about this end-of-year holiday. The gifts, the eggnog, the lights, the movies. All of it is "merry and bright." And it should be! Christmas is the celebration of God's gift of hope and redemption, the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.
But why all the excitement and celebration? What could cause such a response of joy and jubilee? What is so significant about the birth of Jesus? It is really quite simple: Jesus is the Savior of the world.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin (independence from God) entered the human race. Every subsequent generation has been progressively distancing itself from its Creator. And God was under no obligation to have to remedy this problem. Except for one little wrinkle: He loved us!
The only reason a Savior was even needed was because sin orphaned us from God. We effectively spit in our Creator's face and headed for the distant country to live however we pleased. And though our hearts have grown colder and colder toward God, His love for us remains bright and warm. His love compelled Him to make a way for our redemption; He wanted to adopt us back into His family.
But sin stood in the way. How could we be rejoined to our Maker, the holy and righteous God? God's solution was simple. He would enter into His own creation, taking on the very flesh that sin had corrupted. He would then live the sinless life we couldn't and pay the full debt of our sin by dying the death we deserved. And to prove His power over sin and death, He would rise from the grave and freely give this victorious, righteous, eternal life to anyone who trusts in Him.
This is truly Joy to the World! Why? Because sin no longer has the final say on your eternal destiny. You do not have to remain separated from your Creator. You can be forgiven, washed and made new in Jesus Christ. And what is the requirement for such salvation? Faith. Just faith.
Is this message too good to be true? Maybe. But it is true nonetheless. And it matters to your life, not only for eternity but right here, right now. Jesus offers not only the forgiveness of your sins, but also the power of His very life to enjoy freedom from the deadly effects of sin in your life right now.
Christmas is still my favorite time of the year, but its meaning is deeper to me now. It is not merely about gifts and food and merry holiday movies. It is about the grace of God, for He gave the only gift that truly matters in life: Himself.
Will you receive it?
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken Ministries
I MISS prison?!
If you know me personally, you already know I have recently transferred from one Federal Prison to another. As I sit here at my new temporary residence I find it odd that I miss the old one. Don't get me wrong, many of the things I miss are good, godly things: friends, church services, activities.
I think what I miss most is familiarity. I am having to learn a new schedule, a new way of doing everyday things. There are new officers, new inmates; all new faces. There are new programs, new classes, and new activities. None of these are good or bad, in and of themselves, they are just new.
I am having to find new ways of doing things, because I am separated from that old place.
When we finally separate from sin, or a particular sin, we must have new ways of doing everyday things. Going to work, using our computers, meeting people for business lunches. These things, too, are not good or bad. Some of these things are just necessary things in order to function.
For those of us struggling with sexual brokenness, new ways must be found for functioning in our everyday world. Heading to work will require us to use an alternate route that does not take us by that sex shop, strip club, or suggestive billboard. Our home or office computers will have to be moved to common areas and kept from private use. Or perhaps our computers will need to be password-protected and accountability be had with a family member or a trusted godly friend. Business lunches must be held in groups of three or more when the opposite sex is involved.
If we leave our old prison of sin we MUST be ready for new faces, new activities, and new ways of doing everyday things. Of course, it's not easy. Leaving behind sin never is. We must be ready and WILLING to make compromises and concessions. We must be ready and WILLING to make new acquaintances and associate with new people. We must be separated from that old place.
Yes, I miss that old prison, but I know I am in a better place. I know that this is the next phase as I prepare to re-enter society. When I finally do leave prison, will I miss it? Many inmates do, as is evident by recidivism rates. Brokenness and sin will be a prison for us if we lack the will to change.
I am broken, but I am separated from that old place.
Written by Dennis
Friend of the ministry
by Jonathan Daugherty
Life is hard. Sin is real. Death is inevitable for us all. And for those in bondage to sexual strongholds, it is easy to feel alone, hopeless, and unworthy of anything good. It is often in such a state that the weary soul of an addict glances toward heaven and cries out the question so many in this world ask, "Is God really good?"
Because of the universal struggle that life is, it is common for us to try and define God through our cloudy lens of circumstance. When illness strikes, or resistance to the same temptation collapses for the 1000th time, we often make assumptions about God based on our brokenness and pain. But to do so is to miss two very important factors our heavy soul actually needs to deal with such pain: truth and hope.
Jesus said that God is good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19). Either Jesus was lying or he wasn't. If he was telling the truth, then God truly is good -- all the time. Our circumstance, no matter how painful or difficult, cannot affect God's goodness. But how does this truth help us in our pain and struggle with the very real challenges of life?
The truth of God's unwavering goodness brings hope to our daily struggle. Because God is good, he is trustworthy to do what is good, even if we can't always perceive it. And because he loves us (John 3:16), the good he does is for our benefit (Rom. 8:28), not our harm. This idea is best understood from the perspective of a loving parent.
My son recently came down with pneumonia. It really knocked him out. I love my son, and to see him in such physical agony ripped my heart out. In order to help him heal, we had to give him medicine that quite frankly made his whole face contort because it tasted so disgusting. He dreaded each application of the medicine, even asking to skip doses. As a loving father, would I stop his treatment because he didn't like the taste of the medicine? No! The medicine was the very thing helping him to heal.
God is our loving heavenly Father; a better dad than any human! He longs for our healing, and he knows the best "medicine" we each need. I'm not suggesting that every painful circumstance in life is God "giving us medicine," but I am suggesting that because God is good he has the best vantage point for knowing what we need at any moment of our lives, in any circumstance. And his goodness is worth celebrating, despite our hard circumstances.
Psalm 34:1 - I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
The practice of praising God "at all times" is the practice of a heart that knows God is good in spite of life's difficulties. And such a heart discovers another great truth about God: he is close to us in our suffering.
Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Life is hard. God is good.
Sin is real. God is near.
Death is inevitable. God is life.
May you find rest for your soul in the truth of God's goodness and love. While he may not remove you from your difficult circumstance, he will be with you through every moment of it -- like a good father caring for his sick child. Trust in the good hand of your loving Father...
It is with some difficulty I begin this posting. Over two years ago Be Broken invited me to contribute to this blog and I did so enthusiastically! For those who may not remember or may not have read the posting it was not much more than an introduction and an explanation of where my sexual brokenness had brought me -- namely, to a Federal Prison.
I was excited! I was finally being called to serve in the very area that was my downfall. Be Broken had been a major factor, or rather, the major tool used by the Lord to minister to me and to get me to recognize and embrace my brokenness. Of course I was excited! I finished that first article and quickly began working on my second...
Life inside these walls can be quite similar to life outside. We, the incarcerated, are faced with daily struggles and problems. And just like you, the "free world," we have to decide to turn to God or to ourselves in these times. This fact is probably no surprise to anybody, incarcerated or not. Perhaps what the incarcerated do know better than those not incarcerated is the way life in prison can drain a person of hope.
Hope. Two years ago hope was going to be the subject of my next posting, my second posting. I contemplated hope. I prayed for understanding of hope. I formulated words to express my understanding. As I sat down to put my words on paper a dark cloud settled over me. I began to understand that I was not convinced that I believed all I was saying about hope.
To clarify, I believed it all, but even as I wrote the words I knew I was not living as if I did. I did not have hope in and for my future. I did not place all my hope in the Lord. In referring to the words of St. Augustine, I was not living as if I already received that which I hoped for.
I was spiritually smashed by the revelation. I had my pen in hand when this realization came to me. I literally put down my pen (and article) for the last two years.
Prison seems to do that to a person -- in my experience, at least, and many of those around me. You may not have steel bars, concrete walls, or razor wire imprisoning you, but what holds you prisoner? Is it the desires of your flesh; selfishness that allows you to discount the feelings of your spouse or family; your sexual brokenness?
We are all held prisoner, it seems, by something. These bars and razor wire are not the things that make me a prisoner, but my sin. The dark one holds the other end of a noose placed around our necks. What outcome could one possibly hope for when tethered to the noose-end of that rope? Struggle as I might I cannot remove this noose myself. Only One can free me: Jesus.
But will He do it if I continue to run the other direction holding on to my noose as if it were a comfy scarf protecting me from the cold? And is this not the real issue with sin? We hold on to it because we think it comforts us, make us feel good in our flesh, or worst of all, feels like home because of its familiarity.
It is my sincere prayer that one day you and I can enthusiastically say with Paul, "I (insert your name here), a prisoner for Christ..." Perhaps one day my thoughts on hope will be fully realized in my heart and mind and my thoughts-set-to-paper will see the light of day. Until that day I at least know that I cannot hope for anything I am not willing to make sacrifices for, nor can I put my hope in myself but in the Lord.
Be broken, but be hopeful.
by Jonathan Daugherty
We rarely, if ever, put the idea of blessing into the same realm with pain. They seem opposed to one another, like trying to mix oil and water. But having worked in addiction recovery for the past dozen years, I have discovered uncanny links between them. And if we pay attention to these links, we might find that our pain can have a purpose that is good and redemptive.
Everyone who knocks on the door of our ministry for help does not like the circumstances surrounding their addiction. There are broken relationships, unfulfilled promises, histories of trauma and abuse, and too many lies of self-deception to count. In other words, they are drowning in pain. And they all want one thing: relief!
Of course, we don't like seeing the devastation of what their addiction has caused. It grieves us to see broken families, sexually transmitted infections, and all else that can come from a life of sexual addiction. But if we really want to help these hurting people find true relief, we need to guide them into a bigger understanding of pain's purpose. Otherwise, they may spend the rest of their lives only trying to avoid pain, rather than acquiring the rich blessings that can come from facing their hurt head on.
There are three primary blessings that I believe can come from pain, if you will allow it. And that's the key: to listen to your pain, and thereby receive the blessing hidden within it.
1. Pain ALERTS us of danger.
I previously wrote a blog post that addresses this idea of pain being a warning system, but I want to highlight it again here in the context of blessing. Imagine if unhealthy choices, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual were allowed to occur without warning. What an incredible mess of destruction would follow!
And what if horrible atrocities were conducted against humanity and nature without any feelings of hurt, anguish, or grief? What a sad existence. What a loss of hope for anyone suffering abuse. We need pain to alert us that something is wrong; something needs correction. This is a blessing, because without such pain, we might not even know what kind of trouble we're in.
2. Pain ANNOUNCES our weaknesses.
Similar to alerting us of danger, pain also (and sometimes in very demanding ways) announces where we are weak. I recall a surgery I underwent a couple years ago in which two major incisions were required across my abdomen. For several weeks after the surgery it was excruciating to move; simple actions like getting in and out of chairs became endeavors that required every ounce of energy and attention. The pain was a constant reminder of my weakened condition.
You might be wondering how "announcing our weaknesses" is a blessing. Well, it is a blessing because we were not made to live independent of our Creator, or one another.
Genesis 2:18 - Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him."
Galatians 6:2 - Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Our weakness is opportunity for fellowship with God and one another. When we admit our weakness, it opens us up to the grace of God more fully. We recognize that we don't have to carry the burdens of this life alone. We can't carry them alone. We need help; our frailty in body and mind regularly confirm this.
3. Pain ARMS us for compassion and service.
When you travel the difficult road of heartache, or illness, or addiction, or persecution, or fill in the blank with whatever pain you have faced, you are being trained for compassion and service to others who are in similar pain. Your pain does not have to be seen as a "waste of time" or meaningless.
I started my journey out of secret sexual addiction in August 1999. At that time I couldn't see any good coming out of what my life was up to that point. I was selfish, angry, depressed. I hurt everyone who loved me -- I betrayed them all. I was living in pain, and I had inflicted untold pain on to others. How could anything good come out of something so bad?
Through recovery God started to show me how He could redeem what I had destroyed. He could remake my life, rebuild my relationships, restore my innocence, and even give me a purpose in all of it: to help others who were carrying the same burden.
Believe it or not, when people ask me if I could change anything about my past, I actually say, "No." Why? Because there is no way I could help sex addicts recover like I do today if I had not walked through "the valley of the shadow of death" of my own addiction. The blessing I receive when I look into the tear-stained eyes of a broken man as he embraces hope for the first time just because I shared my story with him is worth all the agonizing tears I shed on my own journey. I could not have the compassion I do for sexually addicted men if I had not lived that pain myself.
What have been your "valleys of death" on your life's journey? What pain have you endured? Are you heeding the alarms your pain might be sounding? Are you allowing God and others to share your burden, acknowledging where you are weak and need help? Will you allow your pain to be used for the good of others, as compassion grows for those with similar weaknesses and struggles?
There is blessing in the pain. May you have the courage to embrace it...
by Jonathan Daugherty
Everyone knows addiction is unhealthy. Even workaholics (often considered an "acceptable" addiction) who make it to the top in their career and finances inevitably admit that they sacrificed many important parts of their lives to get there (namely, family relationships). And most addicts have had someone in their life tell them they need to get into recovery, but few are ever told the real benefits of doing so. Sadly, they are often left to conclude that recovery is as good as any other alternative because addiction clearly isn't working.
I believe there are countless benefits to recovery, but for the sake of space and time I am going to only share the following 5 major benefits. Maybe these will help you or a loved one have a better picture of why recovery is the best alternative to addiction.
1. Recovery leads you out of secrecy and deception.
Every addict has lied. It is Addiction 101 -- you must lie if you want to keep doing what you're doing. Lying becomes like a dialect of addicts. They become highly skilled in the art of deception so as to not let the truth of their addictive ways leak out. Their fear of being truly known is so overwhelming that they believe their only option for survival is to hide and lie.
This is why it is so difficult for addicts to enter recovery: they fear being known. This is also why it is so important for those seeking to help addicts to respond with kindness and encouragement when they finally do take that first step and tell their full story. The last thing an addict needs at that point is someone beating them up for telling the truth. That's a certain recipe for sending them right back into hiding and more addiction.
Recovery invites an addict to tell their whole story, every bit of it. No secrets. No lies. No hiding. It is a journey of disclosing the depths of the heart and learning what the power of the truth can do. The truth is the only way to defeat a lie. And the Truth (Jesus Christ) is what ultimately sets the captives free. It is a beautiful thing to see an addict share their story and discover that they can still be loved in spite of their terrible failures. Such grace turns many addicts from liars and cheats into men and women of great integrity and compassion.
2. Recovery leads to better physical health.
Much has be learned in recent decades about the impact of addictive behavior on the brain. Roughly eighty percent of sex addicts suffer from some degree of depression, which makes sense when you discover that repeated overuse of the brain in one area causes an imbalance of underuse in another. Such imbalances can cause all sorts of symptoms, from depression to anxiety to rage, etc.
The irony is that many sex addicts by overstimulating sexually are actually decreasing their ability to experience sexual pleasure. Neurologist Serge Stoleru has found that overexposure to erotic stimuli exhausts the sexual responses of normal, healthy young men. Many sex addicts we have helped in our ministry are actually impotent!
Recovery helps an addict regain balance in their brain (click here for a free e-book, Your Brain on Porn). By eliminating the practice of overstimulation, the addict's brain begins to reshape toward what a healthy brain should look like. This is called neuroplasticity; the ability of the brain to change shape based on usage. This is good news for addicts! Their brain doesn't have to stay stuck in the rut of addiction and all the garbage that comes with it. Recovery is a process of learning to live in a healthy way, which includes physical, as well as emotional, health.
3. Recovery leads to healthy relationships.
Every addict has poor relationship skills. There can be many reasons for this, but as it pertains to addiction this is due to selfishness, imbalance of brain chemistry, anger problems and a general lack of care about anything or anyone (addicts often describe themselves as "numb"). Addiction draws the addict more and more into themselves until all that is left (at least in their mind) is them; a sort of "god" unto themselves. This is why it is so frustrating to be in relationship with an addict; they are good liars who worship themselves. This doesn't make for strong relationships.
Recovery, however, is good because it helps expose the addict's selfishness and learn how to connect with others in healthy, caring ways. The addict discovers they are not the center of the universe and that being connected to others is not a distraction from their lives, but rather an enhancement. They come to embrace that relationships are necessary for health and growth.
But not all relationships are healed in recovery. Sometimes the damage is so deep and so overwhelming that family and friends might walk away. The addict can't do anything about this; there are often painful consequences to addiction. This doesn't mean, however, that the skills for healthy relationships in the future cannot be acquired. Recovery is a pathway to these skills.
4. Recovery leads to freedom and joy.
I have never met an addict who hasn't immediately answered 'Yes' when asked the question, "Do you want to be free?" All addicts know they are in prison (even if they won't verbally admit it, they know it in their soul). But not all are ready to be free. Not all are broken and weary enough to give up their way for a different way. This is why patience is so important when trying to help someone break free from an addiction. Freedom only comes to those desperate enough to die for it.
Jesus once said regarding life in His kingdom, "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." (Luke 17:33) Some addicts keep clinging to their life of addiction, all the while losing it more and more. But when an addict chooses to give up control, to submit their life and future to their Creator, they finally discover the life of their dreams.
Freedom is a beautiful thing; to no longer be controlled by impulses and temptations and false ideas of happiness. This freedom, however, is not found in recovery, but rather along the way. You see, freedom isn't a place, it is a Person, Jesus Christ, and the freedom He offers is more than simply cleaned up behaviors and properly firing synapses. Jesus offers freedom for eternity. He said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
The freedom that God offers leads to joy, something an addict has rarely known. Addiction and joy do not mix. But recovery can lead to freedom, and freedom brings joy. We believe that the goal of recovery is to lead an addict to a place of true love and joyful community. This is the way God made us to live, and recovery is a pathway for addicts to discover this.
5. Recovery leads to purpose and service.
If addicts are increasingly selfish, you can be certain they aren't serving others out of a caring heart. They may be involved in "service," but it's probably with an agenda or a sense of duty to cover up the truth about their raging addiction. This is another reason why addicts don't have deep joy: the greatest joy is only realized through giving.
As an addict progresses in recovery, there comes a point when a "nudge" starts happening. It's similar to a nesting bird when she senses it's time for the baby chicks to spread their wings and fly. The early stages of recovery are like the incubation and hatching period; a total dependence on the protection and nurture of the mama and papa birds (sponsors, mentors, counselors, etc.). But no bird is meant to live its entire life in the nest. And no addict is meant to live his or her entire recovery in the "nest." There must come a time to fly.
"Flying" in recovery is when an old-timer addict simply takes a few newbies under their wing and mentors them. He share his story with them. He encourages them as they tell their story and face all the fears of starting this awkward journey. He passes along insight and wisdom as one who knows through experience the highs and lows of the recovery process. And most importantly, he reminds them that recovery is worth it because there is a God who loves them and made them for something special, something beyond addiction -- something even beyond recovery...
If you, or a loved one, need help in overcoming a sexual addiction, visit Starting Point to begin your journey today...
by Jonathan Daugherty
Do you ever wonder if the changes you hope for in your life will ever come? Many in recovery struggle with the imperfectness of the journey, frustrated that lasting change seems to be so fleeting. Some even bail out altogether, unwilling to continue on a path they conclude isn't leading them to a better place.
I believe that God is able and willing to transform every addict's life from one of self-centered idolatry to that of joyful service. His timeline, however, for this change rarely coincides with ours. We seem to always want what we want faster than God is willing to give it to us. Sadly, some then determine this to mean that God doesn't care much for them, but they are wrong. He actually cares so much that He is willing to withhold what we aren't yet ready to receive. He is aiming at lasting freedom, while we are simply wanting immediate relief from our pain and consequences.
I have been on this recovery road since 1999. Some days I feel like I have traveled a million miles from where I was at that point in my life. Other days, though, I feel as though I have barely moved an inch. On the good days I can vividly see the changes that God, by His grace, has placed in me. But on the bad days I wonder in agony if anything has changed at all. Thankfully, God is more faithful to my transformation than I am! You see, change is a gift, not an achievement.
If you are struggling with the slow, tedious, and often frustrating process of change in recovery, then I want to encourage you with 4 key insights to experiencing lasting change. These are the elements that lead a person to true freedom in recovery, not simply better "management" of behaviors.
1. God promises to transform you, and He keeps all His promises.
Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:2 - Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
Everything about recovery changes (no pun intended) when we realize that it is God who causes transformation, not us. We have a long history of demonstrating that our power, our wisdom only produced a compulsive life of addiction. Why do we then assume that it will be by that same power and wisdom that we become a selfless servant of God? We are either changed by God, or we aren't changed.
The good news about this is that God has promised to see this process through to completion. And God never breaks a promise. Take a deep breath. The God who loves you and gave you the free gift of eternal life is the same God who will bring you into His presence in heaven totally transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
2. By definition, change is a process.
Every addict enters recovery in hopes of changing; desiring to become someone they currently aren't. I find it fascinating that we addicts want change, but get frustrated when we haven't "arrived" where we want to be. Change, by its very definition, is a process.
change (cheynj) - to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc. of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
Change cannot occur apart from a process, something that involves time and stages. Although I am many years down the road in my own recovery, I am still in the process of change. I may not be in the first stages of that change, but I am certainly not finished with the process. Or rather, God is not finished with the process of change in me -- or you.
3. You become who you focus on.
God's work in us is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. We cooperate with His plan when we choose to focus on Jesus. The more we focus on Him, the more we become like Him. If you and I are not becoming more like Jesus, you can be assured we are not focusing on Him.
Have you noticed when you're driving your car and you glance out the window to look at something, you will unconsciously steer the car in the direction you are looking? This illustrates the principle of focus. We naturally drift toward whatever (or whomever) we focus on. This is why it is so important that we engage the discipline of daily focusing on Jesus.
When we focus on Jesus, we see the life God has called us to: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). Such a life is a far departure from addiction, but it only comes by way of Jesus and the power of His Spirit in us. Focus on Him!
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)
4. Grace will carry you over the finish line.
It is God's kindness (grace) that completes the change process in our lives. Too many in recovery buy the lie that if they just work hard enough at resisting temptation and controlling urges they will transform into good, godly people. This isn't true. They will only change into clean, self-righteous people, the very people Jesus openly chastised (i.e. Pharisees).
When we understand that we are saved, sealed, and sanctified by the grace of God, we can finally rest in the work God is doing in our lives, instead of just "trying harder." We begin to live out of the identity God gives us (beloved sons and daughters of the King), rather than one we try to create or one others create for us.
There is a day coming when the change in you and me will be complete, a day when we see our Savior, Jesus, face-to-face. In that moment, the journey will make sense. For now, may we learn to better trust Him with this process we are in. He knows what He is doing, and by His grace we will make it over the finish line.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)
by Jonathan Daugherty
If you were a soldier captured in enemy territory and held prisoner for 5 years by your enemy, would you not long to taste freedom? Of course, right? Suppose, then, one day your comrades pull off a spectacular rescue mission that bursts wide your prison door and carries you back to your home land. Could you even begin to describe the joy, the elation, the pure abundance of grateful emotion from no longer being under the dominant, oppressive restraint of your enemy? It would be heavenly. I used to think this would be the case for those in recovery from sexual addiction. I was sad to find that I was wrong.
I've lost count of the numbers of men I've met in recovery who still live in a cloud of hopelessness and despair. I mean, they're doing the work, attending groups, setting up appropriate boundaries, everything a well-meaning recovery program teaches them to do. But somehow there's no sense of freedom, of the chains being removed and them coming home to a land where loved ones have long awaited their rescue. Why is this the case for so many in recovery?
I believe much of this hopelessness can be boiled down to a terrible phrase that gets tossed about in recovery circles as if it were the holy grail of what one must understand if they are going to do recovery "right." The phrase?
"Once an addict, always an addict."
I cringe every time I hear it. It's toxic, false, and a primary obstacle for so many longing for the freedom that recovery seems to promise, but isn't delivering. The phrase drips with despair, placing a label upon you that you must carry the rest of your life. It's probably just a matter of time until addicts must ring a bell and shout, "Unclean!" before entering public places.
If you adopt this statement, and embrace the philosophy behind it, you will never taste freedom. You can't know hope or joy or peace. Such a belief of despair will hang around your neck, always reminding you that you're "marked," diseased, unchosen. It becomes a prison unto itself, no need of real walls or steel bars or shackles. It is plenty strong to paralyze you in despair, setting you adrift farther and farther from true recovery.
The craziness I find in this statement is that we would never apply it to other areas of life. Imagine a doctor diagnosing a patient with obesity and issuing a prescription of diet and exercise only to conclude by saying, "But, as we all know, once a fatty, always a fatty." What?! Or suppose a 6th-grade math teacher tells one of her students who is flunking, "Here's some extra work for you to make up your grade, but the truth is, once a failing student, always a failing student." Do you see the absurdity of such "logic?" All it can do is prevent freedom and growth, not promote it.
So many want to point to human nature, sociology, even psychology, to support the "once an addict, always an addict" idea. Example after example can be given of people in recovery from any kind of addiction who relapsed. This becomes their conclusive evidence that it is in the "nature" of the addict to always function as an addict (forget the fact that thousands of addicts are living free from their former addictive compulsions). And many who promote various recovery programs support this "it's in their nature" idea. Which, to me, is diabolical exploitation. In one breath, an addict is being told to sign up for their recovery program to break free from the dark shackles of addiction. In the next breath, they are being told freedom is actually an impossibility because "once an addict, always an addict." Detestable!
Freedom is possible! There is hope of a new identity, not one wrapped up in porn, lust, selfishness and anger (2 Cor. 5:17). Addiction no longer needs define you. And you don't have to let others try to keep you shackled there either (Psalm 118:5-7). If you are part of any program that promotes this idea of "once an addict, always an addict," run for your life! (literally) Don't allow such negative, hopeless drivel keep you from the sweetness of true recovery. Freedom is a beautiful thing, and it won't come without a struggle to let go of poor coping and engage healing from deep hurts. But it's worth it to walk in a new identity, one who is cherished by God, loved by friends, and free to serve and help others.
Would you like to be free? Contact us today for help. We would love to hear your story and help you break free from the shackles of hopelessness...
by Jonathan Daugherty
I have been reading through the book of Nehemiah again. I get charged up every time I read this book. It paints a great picture of what rebuilding a broken down life should look like. I want to point out 6 key principles that are fundamental to building a life of purity, even in the midst of growing cultural and spiritual opposition.
When Nehemiah heard that his countrymen were scattered and the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates burned, he wept. He mourned for days the condition of God's people and the holy temple. In his sorrow, he prayed to God and confessed on behalf of all his people for the great sins of disobedience and rebellion they had sinned against God. His heart was broken and his response was one of confession and surrender before the only One who could effect true change.
In order to rebuild a life broken by the sin of lust, one must come to a place of sorrow and brokenness. This requires an honest look into the soul, seeing how the walls around the heart have been broken down and the gates meant for staving off the attacks of the enemy lie in burned piles of rubble. Upon realizing the true condition of your life, the only appropriate response that affords the possibility of recovery and purity is brokenness, a falling down before God in humble confession, acknowledging that He alone is the source of strength that can rebuild your shattered life.
Brokenness is the first, and most critical, step to building a life of purity.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of Persia, Artaxerxes. After hearing the news of his people, Nehemiah was called out by the king who wanted to know why he looked so sad. This was not something a servant of the king would want, as it wasn't uncommon in those days for a subject to be killed simply for the king being in a bad mood. When the king noticed Nehemiah's downcast face, this caused quite a bit of fear to stir in Nehemiah.
But Nehemiah displayed great courage by not covering up his sadness, or succumbing to his fears, but rather speaking honestly with the king about his broken heart over the state of his people's city. The king's response to this courageous confession was to ask Nehemiah what he wanted. Nehemiah's courage earned him the support of the king and all his resources.
Courage is essential to building a life of sexual purity. It can be scary to look at the brokenness and shame of your sexual sins. You might feel very small and inadequate, not even knowing where to begin or how you could possibly leave you old patterns of thinking and behaving. This is where courage comes in. Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, it is resolve to pursue what is right despite fear.
The good news for the Christian is that when we face our sin and brokenness in the light of God's grace, we are able (even encouraged), to approach God for help. So, instead of trying to figure out all the answers on your own, why not take a courageous step toward the One who has all the resources necessary to help you overcome your lust - for good.
Vision & A Plan
Nehemiah's sadness over Jerusalem's pitiful state didn't end with him throwing a colossal pity party and then doing nothing about it. He had pondered the state of his people, seeking God's comfort and guidance for what he must do in response to his broken heart. So, when the king called him out to tell of his sadness, he wasn't unprepared when he received a supportive response from the king. He had a vision and he had a plan.
His response to the king was very specific and very detailed. His vision was to see the name of God exalted by rebuilding the ruins of Jerusalem. His focus was intense. He did not hesitate to lay out his plans before the king. He would travel to Jerusalem for a specific amount of time to rebuild it. He even had planned on what to do concerning surrounding regions that might not take kindly to his project. He was prepared for the possibility of help and success.
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
The vision we must capture comes from the heart of God. He desires us to be people of purity, faithfully following him in everything. But what are you doing about the plan? It's easy to understand and even "catch" the vision, but there is work involved in fulfilling that vision. Planning requires time, thinking, counsel, drafts, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Don't be deceived into thinking that a life of purity comes with little or no effort. While all the tools and resources are provided by God, we are given the task of taking them up and using them. He doesn't swing the hammer for us. Get your plan in place and then get to work.
Jerusalem was surrounded by regions that had governors that were not pleased with Nehemiah's plans. They viewed this rebuilding project as a political, and possibly even a military, threat. They also thought it was a silly idea that the Jews wouldn't be able to accomplish, as they viewed them as inferior and weak (just like the rubble of their broken city walls). Shortly after Nehemiah rallied the people to begin working on rebuilding, the project came under attack by the surrounding governors. This, however, did not deter Nehemiah.
Instead of calling off the rebuilding project because of mounting opposition, Nehemiah encouraged the people to simply guard what they were building. Gatekeepers were posted, guards were on watch day and night, and even the workers carried a tool in one hand and weapon in the other. Their vision was right, their plan was solid, and their focus was steely. They were willing to fight to accomplish the great task God called them to.
You will face resistance in your pursuit of purity. If you don't adopt a fighters spirit, you will fall and drift back to the darkness of your lust. Satan hates the work of those seeking to fulfill God's vision of purity and godliness. But rather than giving up or running away, simply carry a tool in one hand a pick up a weapon in the other. Don't run. Stand and fight!
Intolerance for impurity
When the work of rebuilding Jerusalem was completed, the people gathered and renewed their vows to God and read from the book of the Law. They consecrated themselves to purity, removing anything from their homes or the temple that would be offensive to God. They acknowledged that the work they completed was done so by the mercy of God, and they committed themselves to once again turn to God in humble obedience.
But people have a tendency to drift, right? It wasn't too long until their vows weren't fulfilled and they began to even intermarry with some foreigners. But Nehemiah didn't forget the vision, the call of sanctification God had for his people. So, he "rebuked them and called curses down on them. [He] beat some of the men and pulled out their hair." (Neh. 13:25) He was unwilling to compromise before God and therefore defile the name of the Lord of glory.
If you embark on the difficult task of building a life of purity, embracing the vision, forming a plan, fighting against the attacks, you engage in a good thing. But be careful of growing complacent, thinking that because you have lived in the new "city" for a while that you don't have to keep watch against the subtle drift that comes with being human. Instead, grow increasingly intolerant of any sort of impurity of any kind from infiltrating your new life. And surround yourself with trusted friends who are unafraid to rebuke you (hopefully, you won't drift so far that a beating and hair-pulling is in order).
Nehemiah was given a vision for God's people. He carried out the plan of God in a remarkable fashion. The work was accomplished, God's name was exalted, the people rejoiced. But Nehemiah, in all the work, was looking beyond simply building walls and restoring a city. He was focused on eternity. His desire to do God's will was not simply for the present satisfaction of seeing God's people restored, but also that he would be found before God as a faithful follower. Faithfulness is a hallmark of being a servant of God.
Nehemiah prayed, "Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services." Nehemiah's desire was that God would remember him, observing his obedience and finding pleasure in it. This is what a faithful servant's attitude looks like, praying that God will see the heart behind what we do, that it is consumed and devoted to the glory of the Holy One.
Building a life of purity requires faithfulness. But this faithfulness is not primarily to the vision or the tools or the weapons to fight resistance. This faithfulness must be to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. With our eyes and hearts fixed on Him, we will fulfill the vision, complete the task, and rejoice in the smile of our King.