God is a God of second chances. His eternal plans were set in motion by the very fact that we couldn’t do it right through our own efforts and needed His help. Thus, His purposes are redemptive in nature. For those of us in recovery, we are grateful and filled with hope that the God that owns the Universe and has pure righteousness and holiness motivating Him is not out to punish us. He’s in the business of healing. Yet oftentimes when the process of healing is initiated in our lives, we have a very different impression of how will it unfold. We can mistakenly believe that God will instantly cure us, fill our lives with purity and fix all our relationships immediately. We begin to move forward in our recovery as if the behaviors of the past are kept on a page that will no longer affect our lives today. We believe the “new page” we are on can be written without those “past page” contents spilling over. After all, “old things have passed away, behold everything becomes new.”
While there is no doubt that God comes to bring us a new life, we must not misunderstand the meaning of that scripture. While God forgives our past and all the shame it contained (wiping it from His memory forever), the past still leaves us with mindsets and mentalities that continue to contradict who God is. God can sometimes “zap” us and we can be instantly released from something, but the long-term plan is referred to biblically as transformation and sanctification. This is a process that occurs in our soul where our mind (thinking), emotions (feelings) and will (choices) must be re-aligned into the likeness of God. Since we had developed unhealthy patterns throughout our lifetime, this is the part of recovery that will take time (Romans 12:2).
In recovery there is both a breaking process and a building process. God comes to uproot things that are residue of our old life, and to plant things that are filled with His own life (Ephesians 4:21-24). The Bible is clear that we will be engaged in a battle. We will come to understand both the ferocious nature of our flesh and the harm it is causing, and the supernatural and unthinkable blessing that come when we submit to God’s Spirit. We will also have to face the reality that we have an Enemy as well as a world that seeks to lure us away from God. That means the task of walking with God will require work. And it will take time. The truth is that there will be a collision of our old mentalities with the new (flesh versus spirit) on a regular basis early in our recovery, and this can at times get “messy.” How we learn to engage and interact with the Holy Spirit and the work He’s seeking to do in this process will determine the eventual outcome of our lives.
Breaking in Love
We must first understand the nature of God’s heart to understand His processes. He is a loving and patient Father, and a serious and masterful physician. He created us for purpose and significance both in this lifetime and in the eternal realm. He already has a plan for our lives. This plan was disrupted through the sin, dysfunctional and wounds that sabotaged how we saw Him, and the design He created for us. In many ways, we could think of this as a physical bone that broke and wasn’t ever treated. In our lives, the “break” caused much pain and suffering. Since we ourselves had no resources to fix what was broken, we simply survived through our own methods. This may have included control, codependency, manipulation, self-sufficiency, addiction, pride, etc. Like a physical bone that was broken and healed improperly, our lives got misaligned from their original purposes. Yet we tried to compensate and move on as if our life was normal. But in truth, we were deformed and disfigured spiritually.
Physical doctors often need to re-break a bone that was not set properly in order to allow it heal the right way. In the same manner, God will break us from the mentalities and structures of survival we had developed. The breaking God does has two purposes. First, He makes us aware of the maladies within. This is absolutely a gift. If we don’t see something is wrong, we would never ask Him to fix it. When God lovingly activates pain, it is meant to get our attention so we can deal with the source. Any form of addiction tries to medicate, feed or soothe pain in improper ways, thus learning how to feel pain and go to the Father leads to deep transformation. The other purpose behind God’s breaking is that He simply must destroy anything wrongly pieced together. This includes the ways we survived apart from His resources. By disconnecting us from those unhealthy methods, He can reset us according to His own purposes which can be found through His written Word, and the promises He speaks into us personally.
Without this understanding, when we feel the pain of recovery, we can begin to see God as angry, unforgiving, unloving, etc. But that is the very OPPOSITE of who He is! Our loving, faithful and Almighty Father in heaven is preparing us to walk in wholeness. In essence, He breaks to reset, and He resets so we can walk in accordance with His pure and perfect plan for our lives. How amazing is that!!!!
How He Resets
God gets to work by first exposing the areas in our heart that requires additional help. He may use a variety of strategies to do this. But more than anything else, He uses our circumstances. Circumstances typically reveal cracks and crevices inside us that need to dealt with. Oftentimes, we delay the process of transformation because we blame the circumstances as our problem rather than allowing God to perform the deeper work. That’s why a trial is always an opportunity to say, “what can I learn Lord?” Using the recovery process and His Word, He can begin to reveal the lie or mindset that contradicts His truth, and begin to set things back in alignment.
While we go through this and have to face uncomfortable areas, we will always go through a test. Are we going to cling to the Word and His promises (the new life), or will we begin to think negatively and defeated (the old life)? Wherever our mind goes, our feelings will follow. Negative thoughts will lead us into negative feelings. The next natural order of events will be dealing with those negative thoughts and feeling in unhealthy ways. This can lead to fear, anxiety, the need to control, self-medication or codependency to name of few.
The basic purpose God is after isn’t just to change our behaviors. He will confront us lovingly with this question: “Am I enough?” Will you let me be your God, and do you trust me as Your Father?” We will have opportunities throughout our lifetime to respond. When we choose to trust Him, He will walk us through the pain and we will find comfort, blessings and prosperity in our spiritual life. We will grow in our understanding of who He is, and our faith will increase more and more. Submitting to God in difficulties isn’t always pleasant, but it is what is called the “death of self.” This isn’t the death of our authentic identity, it’s the death of our self-will programmed to survive. When we “die to self” we actually submit to God so we can become who our Maker created us to be in the first place! Just as a rose-bush gets pruned and at first appears to have lost its luster and life, God will cut off the branches that hinder us, and then will multiply the parts of our life surrendered to Him. We will blossom, thrive and overflow with His Spirit if we allow Him to perform this process.
Living victoriously really isn’t really about our circumstances, it’s about Him. When we welcome our Physician into every area of our lives and submit to His guidance and direction, we get the greatest reward possible – the peace that passes all human understanding by experiencing His tangible presence. And is doesn’t end there. When we live depending on Him, we receive resources from Him. Like going to the grocery store to fill our need for food, we can walk into the supply house of heaven and gain access to what we need to live this life. We receive His grace – His very power that is activated on demand for whatever need arises. We receive the fullness of His love, and understand the nature of His protection and care for us. We can stand against the wrath of fear, and declare that is has no power over us, because if God is for us, who can be against us? We can receive His insight as to how to handle our human relationship challenges. We have the Living God of the Universe, the owner and operator of life and everything and everyone in it operating on our behalf!
It may sound too good to be true. That’s because death comes before life. Many times we lose out on God’s plan because the entanglement of pain leads us away from Him, rather than to Him. When we run to something else for comfort, we lose our opportunity to know Him.
The Blessing of Failure
Whether you are recovering from an addiction, or are supporting someone else, it’s important to know that this process will require failure as much as it will reward success. Just as a one-year old child isn’t given lofty expectations in learning how to take those first steps, so God doesn’t impose anything on someone in recovery without a set method of developing maturity. Learning the painful blow of a wrong choice can at times be even more instructional than the benefit of the right choice. The apostle Peter is the perfect example of this. Even as he was zealous and ambitious in following Jesus, he had no idea that the mentalities imbedded inside him would cause him to forsake the One he claimed to love. In the fear that provoked him in the moment, Peter stopped trusting God. Peter denied Jesus Christ publically three times. But Jesus had already known this would happen. He wasn’t the least bit surprised and was ready to use this as an opportunity to grow Peter. So came the breaking down of Peter’s pride and self-will. In that moment, Peter became aware of his internal brokenness. How Peter broke was through the sheer power of repentance that came from the love of Jesus. The Holy Spirit led Peter into deep conviction, and that caused deep grief that eventually translated into a changed heart. The end result? Peter became a usable vessel devoted to Jesus to the point of sacrificing his own life for His name’s sake. What happened in between the fear and the faith? There may have been a spiritual “zap” of sorts, but then it was gradual steps of believing and receiving God’s Spirit in the moment. Peter had to learn to let repentance have its perfect work.
Where to Go in Relapse
Relapse doesn’t have to occur, and it means different things for different people. For some, relapse could cost them everything, thus there isn’t much leeway for it to happen again. But even when substance relapse doesn’t occur, moral and spiritual relapse will happen continually. The key lesson to extract is that God is a Teacher and a Friend, thus He uses all things (yes, ALL things) together for good when we are willing to turn to Him. In the pain of failure, we will have the choice to go down the pathway of lust and the lure of addiction, or to trust God to redeem that area of our heart and life. Our Lord is so, so kind and patient, looking to restore and heal us, not punish and judge us. He isn’t looking at the outcome of the moment alone, but He is after something far more valuable – the strings of our heart.
If relapse occurs, the first and most important step is to acknowledge we can’t overcome it on our own and we need God’s help. That confession ushers in God’s help. Then, we must take the steps that support that decision (repent). Find a meeting, a pastor, a program or a friend who can hold us accountable.
Remember, some of the most amazing and usable vessels of God’s Kingdom experienced failure first. IT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S OVER!
A Call to Action
Wherever you are right now, you must grasp that God has much bigger plans for you! But His ways are not your ways. If the storms rages, or the blessing arrives, He is the God and author of them both to work in and through His perfect plan. No matter what you are going through, it is an opportunity to know Him. It is a chance you have right now to turn over the keys of your heart to Him and let Him have His way. Are you willing, are you ready? You will never regret being swept up into the plans of the Almighty. You will regret never letting Him have His way.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:6-7
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:11
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. – James 1:2-4