In a world full of so many so-called solutions, the Christian in particular needs to clearly understand true recovery and the healing process.
The Biblical Process of Healing (Transformation, Sanctification, Deliverance)
So exactly what makes the Christian approach to recovery any different?
by Dr. Robert T. Tucker
In a world full of so many so-called solutions, the Christian in particular needs to clearly understand true recovery and the healing process. Recovery doesn’t just happen. There are key ingredients that must be included in the equation for true change to take place. The Christian approach delivers something no other can. True inner peace and joy only comes from the Prince of Peace. There is just as big of a difference between happiness and true peace and joy, as there is between the secular world view and the Christian world view. They are literally worlds apart. The secular view at its best can only deliver happiness, an outward experience. On the other hand, Jesus does an inside job delivering true peace and joy. Happiness comes and goes as we acquire and lose the things of this world, but peace and joy is something God fills us with and nothing in this world can take it away.
Understanding the makeup of a true Christian Counselor
Before one can properly fill this position, some very important truths must become their reality. Christian counselors must understand that they are nothing more than a chosen vessel. The primary objective is to die to self, letting the True Counselor Jesus deliver His solution through them. Too often in the world, people are labeled by their behaviors. The Christian counselor must be able to clearly separate people from their behavior, loving them (not their sin), because Love is the Christian counselor’s biggest asset. It is okay to hate the sin as long as we sincerely love the sinner.
There are many belief systems and approaches being utilized in the recovery arena. I will briefly explain three different combinations of counselor and their approach to give you a better idea of what is available. First, we have the secular counselor utilizing secular theories and practices such as Gestalt Therapy by Carl Fritz, Psychoanalytic Therapy by Sigmund Freud and Person-centered Therapy by Carl Rogers. Most, if not all secular approaches do not include God in the process. Second, we have the Christian counselor that counsels utilizing the same theories and practices the secular counselor uses. Be aware, a person labeling self a Christian counselor may mean just that; a Christian that is a counselor working in the recovery arena. Third, we have the Christian counselor who knows the True Counselor Jesus and allows Him to work through him. This counselor counsels using life changing principles only found in the Living Word of God. A Christian in bondage to addictive behaviors needs True Solution. There is no way around it; a spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. The Spiritual Solution is the Great Physician Jesus Christ.
The world says the Christian counselor, when operating outside the church, must obtain certain certificates and degrees in order to offer God’s solution to hurting people. In most situations, the Biblical solution to addiction, in and of itself, is only allowed to be utilized within the confinements of the church. Unfortunately, this type of counseling is not recognized as effective by some of the most significant participants in the recovery arena such as the Judicial System as a whole. The Christian counselor called to serve in this arena must acquire whatever necessary to properly fit the position to fufill their call. As Christian counselors step out from under the umbrella of a physical church structure to deliver God’s true solution, they must be fully equipped to operate as professionals while never discounting God’s truth.
Understanding the makeup of a Person In Need of Help
By design, God perfectly created man a three part being consisting of a physical body, a soul and a spirit. All three areas are significantly important in all aspects of life. When all three are cleansed, healthy and functioning in sync, man can experience life in fullness resembling the way God planned it to be.
The physical body consisting of flesh and bone, houses man’s life (his soul and spirit) and is the vehicle in which his life travels in this world. The body is life’s means of transportation, and when damaged, it hinders man’s ability to move around according to design. When the body dies, although man’s presence in this physical world ceases to exist, his soul (his life) continues to live elsewhere in either one of two places for eternity. This should be the counselor’s primary concern. Without salvation, eternity in hell is definite, and any level of true change while here on earth is not possible.
The soul was perfectly designed by the Source of Perfection to last forever. The soul is literally life within the physical body consisting of the mind, a free will and emotions. It is here that reside man’s beliefs, memories, thoughts, and feelings. God has given man a free will to choose what he will accept as his beliefs. He literally has the ability to choose what he accepts as his truth, but his truth will be the pivot point to the direction his life will take in the here and now and for eternity.
At creation, God’s perfect design for man included spirit life and God said it was good. This changed in the garden when sin entered the picture. Both Adam and Eve died spiritually and began to die physically. Man’s soul is eternal and although the eternal part did not change, the soul itself became dysfunctional. What also changed was where man would most likely spend eternity. This changed again when Jesus was crucified. Man now has options. The beautiful thing incorporated into God’s perfect plan is; man actually gets to choose his destiny. His decision is made in the area of his soul, his God given free will to choose. If he chooses salvation through Jesus, he is given spirit life and when his time here on earth comes to an end; his spirit will carry his soul to be with God for eternity. If he refuses the gift of salvation or chooses not to respond, by default, he will spend eternity in hell. Spirit life has many other benefits in the here and now. Our spirit communicates with God’s Spirit and God ministers to our spirit through His Spirit. His Spirit becomes our Counselor, Teacher, Comforter, Protector, Guide, Director and anything and everything we will ever need. With Him, we are never alone!
Understanding the Problem
The real battle man faces on a daily basis is one that rages for the control of his mind. The one that gains control of the mind gets to control the body as well. Scripture specifically warns us about this and tells us to “hold our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.” All of our thoughts must be filtered through His truth before we can safely act upon them. If they are not good and right, they are not of God and there is a good chance they were generated by our sinful nature or fired strait out of the pits of hell.
Man has three enemies and one happens to be the flesh he lives in. So literally, the enemy has us surrounded.
- His body – The Bible tells us the flesh is evil, born into sin, easily deceived and sins naturally. Its evil desires need to be denied which can only be effectively accomplished through spiritual maturity and the power of Jesus.
- Satan – We have invisible foes, Satan and his army of fallen angels. Tempting and accusing, guilting and shaming are amongst their many deceptive schemes. We have been warned by God that Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy lives.
- The world – The world is still literally under the control of the prince of darkness. Satan uses his influence to produce may lures, distractions and temptations.
The makeup of man consists of three parts and all three parts (body, soul and spirit) are subject to the effects of the presence of evil. To ignore the spiritual aspect when addressing man’s problems would be like ignoring germs while trying to cure a germ induced illness. Most behaviors, if not all are spirit influenced at some level and to some degree. Both avoidance and ignorance gives the enemy the upper hand in a battle we are in whether we like it or not.
When dealing with behaviors, it is important to understand the difference between cause and effect. Most of what we see in ourselves and others fall in the category of effect. When clearly understood, the difference between the two becomes good news to those struggling in destructive lifestyles. Typically, they are living in the effects of someone or something else. By no means are we looking to blame or excuse behavior. We are in search of the root cause of the destructive behavior. There are understandable reasons why people act the way they do and there is an absolute solution that leads to true change. He is Jesus! He is without limit, all knowing, all powerful and everywhere standing ready to assist anyone who asks. God has said in His word that His people perish because of their lack of knowledge.
Too often people are labeled by their behaviors. Who they are and what they do is not one in the same. People are not their behaviors and we must be able to separate the two (within ourselves and others) in order to love one another the way God wants us to. A Christian’s identity should be found only in Christ. We do not have bad people; we have people with bad behavior. This is good news, because behaviors can change. Identify the cause, expose the lie and we are a step closer to change. There are understandable reasons why people feel the way they feel and act the way they do. Spiritual affliction and emotional damage play a big part in it.
What we believe affects how we think, feel and act. Believing lies sickens the soul. One example would be a child that repeatedly hears “you will never amount to anything.” If this child believes these words, they will eventually affect the way he thinks about self, feels about self and treats self. At some point, this defective thinking will affect the way he sees others, feels about them and treats them. There is a very good chance he will not amount to much just as he was told unless someone intervenes and reveals the truth; that God loves him, that he is precious in God’s eyes and that he can do all things with the help of Jesus.
Again, believing lies sickens the soul. Another example would be a daughter of a divorced mother waking up and seeing a different man in her mommy’s bed each weekend. This child will eventually accept her mom’s behavior as normal. If she believes what she sees as acceptable and right, it will affect the way she thinks about herself, feels about herself and treats herself. It will also play a major role in how she allows herself to be treated by others. A couple of messages that can easily be received from this experience are; marriage is not a sacred lifelong commitment; and it is ok to have sex outside of marriage with anyone she chooses. This child’s beliefs will need correction at some point (the strongholds will need to be broken) or there is a very good chance similar behaviors will manifest in her life.
The effects of un-dealt with emotional damage can manifest in a variety of ways. We cannot change the effects without identifying and properly processing the cause. It would be inappropriate for a Christian counselor to tell a counselee, as the solution, that he or she should not be feeling or acting a certain way. There are reasons why people feel and act. It would be like telling a substance abuser in prison for stealing, not to steal when he gets out if he wants to stay out. Although the statement is very true, both stealing and going to prison are effects of something else. Even saying “if you would just quit using drugs, you wouldn’t need to steal to support your habit, and you wouldn’t end up back in prison” although accurate, would still be inappropriate coming from a counselor as the solution. The drug use is but a mere symptom of a much deeper issue or issues. The counselor would be more effective assisting the counselee on a journey into the past, with the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, seeking to locate the root cause. The Holy Spirit not only knows exactly what issues need to be dealt with but also has the ability to expose them, dispose of them and heal the wounds caused by them.
Most counselors with a secular world view overlook spirit affliction and the possibility that spirit affliction leads to struggles such as anxiety and depression. Through personal experience working with many men and women, I have found that most emotional challenges are caused by sin or some sort of trauma, and in most situations, it was someone else’s sin that instigated the trauma such as a molestation or some other form of abuse or neglect. Both have the potential of creating strongholds and opening doorways for spirit entry. To discount the reality of the spiritual realm and its influence would be a big mistake. We must understand the spiritual truths of the Bible. Spiritual problems require a spiritual solution. Ever wonder why; each time a person relapses, their behaviors worsen? Jesus has a thing or two to share about this particular subject in the following scripture.
Matthew 12:43- “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44-Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45-Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
We can easily see that we are dealing with intelligent beings. They have the ability to travel, the knowledge to seek something in particular, they know where they came from and can find their way back, they remember the condition of the person when they left, and can bring back with them other spirits even more wicked than themselves. Without question, these spirits influence the destructive behaviors of man.
In the following scripture, we are given an example of just how much of an influence they can be. I personally believe spirits attempt to influence all behavior, be it good or evil. Here we are given an example of just how severe the condition of man can get when afflicted by many evil spirits.
Mark 5:1-13 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (NIV)
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. (NIV)
Just as we see how severe an affliction can get, Jesus also gives a clear example of His ability to set captives free. Jesus changed this man’s condition in an instant. Also note that as soon as the man was set free, his desire was to follow Jesus. In this particular situation, Jesus had a different plan. He was told to go back to his people and give his testimony. For some, being of service is nothing more than being prepared to give testimony in and out of season about what God has done for them.
In the following scripture we see that, although the enemy works through man, man in and of himself, is clearly not the enemy. We cannot win spiritual battles with guns and knives. These battles must be fought spiritually using the resources God has provided. A person in bondage to the enemy’s schemes is in desperate need of spiritual help. We can assist those in captivity (in the throes of an addiction, etc.) by making ourselves available to God to be used by Him as His vessels to deliver His true solution. He said “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Truth is what leads a man out of bondage towards a life of true freedom and hope. We, His saints and ministers, His ambassadors here on earth, are called to deliver His truth. Every believer has been provided everything necessary to walk in freedom in the here and now. God says His people perish for lack of knowledge. We need to understand and utilize the full armor. An important part of winning a battle is having a clear understanding of the enemy. We need to be able to identify him, understand the types of weapons he uses, understand his schemes and tactics and be familiar with the battlefield. The most important ingredient in winning this battle is; understanding who we are in Christ. God has provided for us everything necessary to bring victory in every battle we face. Paul shares a little about the battle in the following scripture. It is not with people, but with the spirits influencing their behavior.
Eph. 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Understanding the Healing Process
The Holy Spirit is the only One able to expose and dispose lies. It is His truth that exposes the lies. He is the One that walks us through the process that, depending on the particular issues involved, requires some level of action on our part including steps such as confession, repentance, renouncing and forgiveness. The most important ingredient in the healing process is forgiveness which is not possible without the other three. Without forgiveness, there is no true reconciliation with Him or amongst the body as a whole. And without reconciliation, there is no true freedom. Remember, a high price was paid for reconciliation and freedom, byproducts of His forgiveness. This was the very reason Jesus went to the cross.
The process is identified by many labels but all require the similar steps if true freedom is expected. Initially we need to get right with God, then self and then with others. A simple effective tool commonly used to help accomplish this task is the 12 steps as long as Jesus is involved. Why Jesus? Because without Him, there is no true forgiveness, and without forgiveness there is no true freedom. Our part is confessing our sins to God for forgiveness and to each other for healing. We forgive people, God forgives sin. Bestowing grace upon those that have hurt us while setting healthy boundaries is also mandatory for a healthy outcome.
The beginning of a new life is pretty cut and dry.
- He offers His gift of salvation – Romans 10:9-13 For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.”Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives his riches to all who ask for them. For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- He offers His forgiveness – 1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness
- He shares what is necessary for healing – James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The growth process, aka transformation requires some level of participation. Christians, followers of Christ are called to become Christ like. How is this possible? He is perfect! How could we be anything like Him? He has made it very simple, maybe too simple for us to take seriously. All He asks is that we spend some time with Him and He will do the rest. As we get to truly know Him, we become like Him. As He changes us on the inside, He radiates through us and we get to experience the blessing. There is nothing like getting to know Him intimately.
Summed up, true recovery is a process that leads to gravitating out of the arms of the false comforter into the arms of The True Comforter.
Maintaining Your Freedom
Don’t let Satan steal your joy. Most of your problems are “all in your head” so to speak. All behaviors start out with a thought. No action on the voluntary side of the nervous system happens without a thought. Any thought entertained long enough stands a good chance of becoming an action. And any action repeated over time has the potential of becoming a habit. Hopefully by now, we understand that habits can be either good or bad. We must learn to hold our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, filtering them through His truth, quickly rejecting any that are in opposition to it.
Steps ten through twelve are perfect examples of what needs to be practiced on a daily basis to help maintain the freedom acquired up to this point. We clean house on a daily basis, grow spiritually and share the gift of freedom with others.
Written by Dr. Robert T. Tucker. Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved