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)