Everything changed on October 13, 2016, my life never the same. Darkness is my constant companion and threatens to choke out hope. Every day is a fight. I have been desperate for God before as I have walked through many dark days but nothing like the past ten months. Facing each day, getting dressed, doing errands, the simple things of life a victory. Laughter and joy seem a distant memory. Retreat to isolation draws me. Simple joys of life are chores. Tears a constant threat and grief holds its hands around my throat. There are no answers to my questions, no ease to the pain.
The man that I loved with all my heart, that I gave my life to for more than 17 years died. Lost, alone and hopeless. The thing that I have dedicated my life to fight took his life. Addiction took him from me and my children. It took him from his parents and his siblings. I cannot understand this. I cannot comprehend the finality of this. The pain of the finality of lost hopes and dreams, of unresolved broken relationships, of what can never be. The brokenness of all those left to pick up the pieces. Some days it is more than I can bear. Alone. In the dark. Unable to say what is in my heart and my mind. I don’t know how to put into words all that stirs within me and the darkness that encompasses me, so I retreat. I can’t be around anyone. I don’t know how. Sometimes I can’t. It takes every ounce of strength, and faith just to make it through the day.
This is the reality. The reality of a broken world. The reality of sin.
The reality of losing someone you love in such a senseless way. The finality of brokenness that can never be fixed. All there is, the one steady, my anchor, whatever peace there is, whatever joy can be found, whatever light that keeps the darkness at bay, all I have at the end of each day and at the beginning of each day is Jesus. The truths of who He is and what He has done for me are all that keep me going, and barely.
This is reality, but there is a greater reality that anchors me and keeps me from being completely lost in the dark:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:21-23
My hope is only found in Jesus and in Him alone. I have nothing else. His faithfulness is great and His mercy never ends, it is there every day, every moment.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:4-5a
One day, Jesus will return and make all this brokenness new. He will make it all right. He will bring justice and take away all our pain and suffering.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3
Jesus for the joy set before Him endured the cross for me. He looked beyond the darkness and pain and saw my need for a Savior, a way for me be free, to be saved. He is my example of perseverance. In considering Him, what He has done, what He has promised, I have strength to endure.
I am holding on to these truths. I am weary and fainthearted. I fight hopelessness and darkness. Tears freely fall daily.
All I have is Jesus. In the darkness and pain and hopelessness, God is faithful. He is good.
Even when it is dark, and hope seems a distant friend. One day my tears will be wiped away forever and all that is broken in me and around me will be new. Honestly, I can’t comprehend that day, but God promises this in His Word so by faith I wait and I fight to endure and trust His goodness.
Liz Beck, President
Hope for Addiction, Inc.
The issue of addiction hits home for many, even those in the church. Christians can both struggle with addiction and love those who struggle. So what do we do when someone we love is ensnared by addiction? Or what do we do when someone we are caring for is unwilling to change?
First, we must recognize addiction for what it is: a sin. Jesus did not come, die a brutal death and be resurrected three days later for sickness or disease. He died for sin. All sin, including addiction. Our culture has taken responsibility away from people by identifying addiction as a disease and most recently as a “disorder.” This idea leaves people without hope for real change or the option to have a completely new life. When you take away a person’s responsibility for their choices, you take away their motivation and their hope for change.
At the core of every sin is the idol of self and addiction is no different. Jesus’ death and resurrection is good news for people caught in a life of addiction. His shed blood is enough to set them free of even the vilest addiction. Taking away our responsibility for sin leaves us lost. Scripture tells us that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Only confession of sin and repentance before the Lord brings forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:8-10). It is so hard to do, yet so simple. This does not, however, dismiss the very real physical effects on the body and mind. In order for someone to even begin to heal and change, they must have sobriety. Time is needed, and in many cases, in-patient treatment or detox is necessary and helpful.
Now that we have established the biblical view of addiction, how do we help someone trapped in the sin of addiction? Our hearts break and we can’t imagine allowing them to be in a bad situation. They indicate a desire to change, but over and over there is no real effort toward that end. We do everything we can to “make things better,” to help them and hope that “this time will be different.” The world tells us we should have “tough love.” Tough love is not love. Tough love is usually an angry response to bad behavior that says I am done with you. The Lord in His mercy does not do this to us. Psalm 86 tells us that the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 86:15). This does not mean that we are free to continue in sin or allow someone else to continue in sin. So where is the balance? How do we love appropriately?
You all know the parable of the Prodigal Son. We are going to use it as our model as it relates to addiction. There are many things we can learn from this parable, so lets unpack this passage and take cues on how to relate with, care for and love those in our lives who struggle in active addiction.
What are the characteristics of the son? Like all of us, the son was entitled. Verse 12, he tells the father, “give me the share of property that is coming to me.” He was selfish, not considering that everything he had belonged to his father. The father in his wisdom allowed the son to leave, to pursue his way.
Why was this wisdom? Because sin is only pleasurable for a season. When we try and fill the emptiness in our souls with the things of this world, we will be empty and unfilled.
Let’s see what happened. Verse 13 tells us that the son squandered his property in reckless living. This is an accurate picture of those pursuing a life of addiction; they are selfish, reckless and irresponsible.
In verse 14, we learn that when the son had spent everything, a famine arose and he began to be in need. Grave circumstances caused him to see that he had a need. He got to the end of his resources. He was in a pig pen, hungry, alone and empty. This is an important part of the process. If people are continually cushioned from the consequences of their choices, they can not get to the point of need. We look at where people are and there is no way we can understand how they don’t want change. And many times they DO want change, but they want their mess also.
Until we all get to the end of ourselves, we will not submit to God’s plan and purpose. Isn’t this all of us? Every person has their own journey. Buffering this process for people will only prolong them coming to this place of need. The struggle here is that there is a very real possibility that someone we love will die. This is the hardest step of faith and trust. We must literally trust God with the life of those we love or are caring for. We can identify with the father as he watched the son he deeply loved go headlong into a life of destruction. But he did it. He knew this process was necessary for his son to be saved.
After a time of reckless living, verse 17 tells us that the son “came to himself.” He saw his need. He was hungry and alone and in this moment of despair realized what love the father had for him and that the life he had once enjoyed had led to a bankrupt end. As caregivers, we must allow people to see their need. They have to hate their life of sin enough to do the hard work to change. There must be motivation to change.
Verse 18 shows us the action taken toward change, humility and repentance. “I will arise and go to my father and say ‘I have sinned against heaven and before you.’” He shows humility by being willing to return as a servant. This process of realizing our sin against a holy God, repentance and humility is necessary. It is necessary for all of us, and it is necessary for those in addiction. The path to freedom always begins with humility, a recognition of need and repentance.
The beautiful picture of restoration comes in verse 20 when the prodigal returns to his father. The father saw him from a long way off and had compassion. Then he ran and embraced his son and kissed him. The son was received with love, not an attitude of “I told you so.”
The heart of humility and repentance continues in verse 21 with the confession of sin again toward God and toward the father and a willingness to submit as a servant. There is no entitlement, or conditions on his return. He is willing to do whatever he needs to do. For those we are caring for, they too, must get to this place of submission. An attitude of humility to do whatever is necessary. The biggest barrier to freedom for people is their pride, their strength, their plans, their goals and their agenda. Until they become completely aware that their way of doing things has not worked and be willing to listen to and submit to the wisdom of another, they are not ready. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15
Complete reconciliation is seen in verse 22 when the father responds to his son’s humility with undeserved mercy. The Gospel Transformation Bible Commentary says, “God is a patient and compassionate father who welcomes our repentance with great rejoicing.”
If we are to model our loving God to those who are active in their addiction, our response must be the same. Welcoming a repentant heart with compassion, celebration, love and reconciliation. In our sinfulness we tend to respond with pride or self-righteousness rather than compassion and mercy. This is NOT God’s heart toward us!
How can we model this loving God when someone is living in full rebellion to God?
1) Recognize that we, too, are prodigals. Our path of rebellion may not be as outwardly extreme or destructive, but it is the same heart issue.
2) Loving those we are caring for does not mean we embrace or condone their sinful behavior. They know their choices are wrong – we don’t have to constantly remind them. Conviction is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Only God can bring change. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance. How can we be a part of this in someone’s life? We are to model Christ’s long suffering with people. There is a point where people must choose. Err on the side of grace. After attempts have been made to walk with them, if a continued pattern persists, a loving conversation that leads to a decision is appropriate. We will be there for them, love them, etc but we must also allow them to get to a place of need. They must get to that place of humble willingness. This will look different in each person.
How? What does this look like?
1) Pray! Ask God to help you see where He is working, what your role is and what next steps need to be taken. While there are guidelines, we always want to be guided by the Holy Spirit as we participate in God’s work in people.
2) Keep an eternal view: The goal is for their souls to be saved not for them to act the way we want them to act. God knows just what needs to happen in order to see their need for rescue. Let them get there. Paul addresses an issue of sexual immorality in the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5. He instructs for the person to be handed over to Satan to be sifted so his soul may be saved. John Piper explains this concept of Satan being an instrument of God’s work. What seems to be in view is something like what happened in the book of Job. The only other place in the Bible outside Paul’s letters where “handing someone over to Satan” with these very words occurs is Job 2:6, which says, literally, “And the Lord said to the Devil, ‘Behold I hand him [Job] over to you. Only spare his life.’”
So Satan became the means under God’s sovereign control of purifying Job’s heart and bringing him closer than ever to God. This is not the only place where God uses Satan to do that. In2 Corinthians 12 Paul describes his thorn in the flesh as a messenger of Satan which God appoints for Paul’s humility and Christ’s glory. Verse 7: “To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself!”
When Paul prayed that Jesus would take it away, the answer he got was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Notice that the one who is in control of whether the “messenger of Satan” stays or goes is Christ. This is why it is so significant in our text (v. 4) when Paul says that handing someone over to Satan is “with the power of the Lord Jesus.” We don’t have the power or the authority in ourselves to do this.
Jesus is Satan’s ruler. And he uses Satan, our archenemy, to save and sanctify his people. He brought Job to penitence and prosperity. He brought Paul to the point where he could exult in tribulation and make the power of Christ manifest.
And Paul hopes that the result of handing over this man to Satan will be the salvation of his spirit at the day of Christ. In other words, Paul’s aim—our aim—in handing someone over to Satan is that some striking misery will come in such a way that the person will say with Job, “My eyes have seen the Lord, and I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
I asked the question earlier, how do we love appropriately? This is the delicate balance of love. Allowing them to experience misery so that they can ultimately be saved. We will have times when we will need to draw a line and ask people to choose. They cannot have a different life (kids, home, etc) and their old way of life. It does not work. Revelation 3 speaks to being lukewarm, preferring hot or cold. And while we may have conversations that lead a person to choose their path, we never walk away from someone. Just as the father watched the prodigal son walk away, we can lead someone to choose and by choosing they may walk away. God does not walk away from us, neither should we walk away.
So what do we do when someone walks away? We will be tempted (in our sinfulness, speaking from my own sinful responses) to stop reaching out. While it is right to allow them to do what is necessary, we still love them. A continuing pursuit of them as God brings them to mind or loving them when you see them, reminding them that you are here and would love to get together, etc. Keeping open dialog allows them to know you love them and make it safe for them to come to you when they are ready.
Our job is to help people see their need for rescue. Not rescue by us, but by their loving Savior. We need to walk with them on their journey. We want to be there when “they come to themselves” and recognize their need. We have to let them figure it out. We also cannot be the ones to rescue them. They must feel the FULL weight of their decisions. Consequences are God’s way of helping us see our need for rescue. Don’t take that away from them.
We must go to Lord for wisdom on the particulars. This is a biblical model but the application is different for each person. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fire. God did not take them out of the fire. He was in the fire with them.
The questions to ask yourself:
1) How do I walk WITH them but not FOR them?
2) What is the most loving thing I can do for them?
3) Is this thing I’m doing helping them stay in their mess or helping them get out?
Walking with people with messy lives brings much heartache, much sorrow, reveals sin (theirs and ours) and displays God’s steadfast love.
Ed Welch, “when you spend time with people who have struggled with addictions, they all change you in some way. The men and women I have known have often caused me to grieve, but they have also reminded me that the triune God loves all addicts and delights in setting them free.”
Liz Beck, President
Hope for Addiction, Inc.
Addiction shatters lives. Not only the lives of the addict but their families. The chaos, the insanity of loving someone lost in addiction leaves a wake of broken hearts, broken promises, broken dreams and broken lives. The chaos, the insanity of loving someone lost in addiction leaves a wake of broken hearts, broken promises, broken dreams and broken lives.
After years of living with someone lost in addiction, I looked at my life and couldn’t image how anything good could come from the broken mess. I struggled with Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” How could God take all the broken pieces and make something beautiful? How could He make “all things new”?
As I wrestled with the truth of scripture in contrast to the dark reality of my life, I began a journey that I could not have dreamed possible. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells me that I am a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. In my mind, I picture shiny, perfect, unused, new. As my children and I have fought to rebuild our broken lives and as I have attempted to share hope with others in Hope For Addiction, I have questioned this picture of “new.” The perfect, new image in my mind is not matching real life. So is God’s Word wrong? Or is my understanding wrong? Of course, God’s Word is infallible, so I must be missing something!
So what if “new” is something different? Can God make something new, yet still reveal evidence of brokenness? I believe the answer is yes. Scripture never ignores the reality of life. The Psalmist is raw in his cries of suffering. Paul talks candidly of the struggle. We live in a broken, fallen world. To expect something different is unrealistic.
Then these realities collide in the most precious picture. Jesus. It always comes back to Jesus. He still carries the scars of His suffering. The suffering He endured because of my sin. He took God’s FULL wrath so I don’t have to. And, He did this to make me new! If Jesus still carries scars, why wouldn’t I?
He makes things new. This is true. What if “new” means beautiful, different, unique, not the same? He puts the pieces back together, makes us new, but the evidence of brokenness remains.
There is another promise that gives us hope. Revelation 21 reminds us that there is a day coming when Jesus will return for His children. That day He WILL make everything right. All that is broken will be made new; the shiny, perfect new. He will wipe away every tear, death will be no more, there will be no mourning, no crying, no pain.
No more brokenness.
Until then, we all carry the scars of the brokenness of this life, but with the hope of what Christ has done for us and His continuing work in us. He has made us new. His healing of our broken lives is evidenced by the scars that remain, making us beautiful, new and not the same as we once were. That is great hope!
Liz Beck, President
Hope for Addiction, Inc.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13
How often, especially among we who struggle in addiction, do we feel that we have gone too far? We are aware that our actions are sin, but because of the besetting nature of it, we stumble time and again. Our thoughts race to the many times we have told people we were "sorry", but we really were not. Like the little boy who cried wolf we have crossed a line and surely, like those we have wronged in this world, God can no longer continue to forgive us.
The people of Israel had this very same problem. They understood that they were God’s chosen people, but they failed Him over and over again. Yet God continued to rescue them over and over again. The prophet Joel brings this to bear in his writings. He reminds the people in chapter one of how God brought judgment upon them, but similar to the exodus from Egypt, He saved them and restored them. Then here in chapter two, he speaks of a coming Day of the Lord in which judgment will come upon Jerusalem once again.
It is here that we who have failed the Lord over and over again can find hope. The Lord tells them in verse twelve "yet even now.... return to me." Even though we have broken our promise to stop for the fifteenth time, we have said the same prayer of repentance so many times it feels scripted, and we just can't believe that one more time could mean anything to God. He tells us "even now... return to me." Here is hope.
The Lord tells Israel to return with all their heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. The God who sees the hearts of men will never turn away genuine repentance even when He knows that the next potential stumble is just around the corner. This call to repentance came with a warning as well, "...rend your hearts, not your garments." Just as the Lord sees our hearts He can also see when our sorrow is an outward display and not an inward reality. But like Israel, if our hearts are true and we feel genuine Godly sorrow for our sin, and we repent, He is, as John says, "faithful to forgive us" (1 John 1:9). To Israel, Joel then proclaims the promise of Exodus 10, "for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love."
Like Israel, we can have hope in the faithful love of our heavenly Father and the assurance of our standing before Him to continue, renewed in spirit, and strengthened for our battle.
Trinity Bible Church
The woman at the well. We’ve read her story and probably been moved by the compassion Jesus had for her. But have you ever considered her life and how spectacular Jesus’ visit to her really was? She was an outcast. She had been married and divorced five times. Even in today’s American culture, this is shocking and we judge people like this as broken in some way. She was living with a man who was not her husband. She was a mess. There was much shame, both internal and external. Her life was filled with brokenness, hurt, and loneliness. She even gathered water alone possibly because she was rejected by others or her shame was too great.
Her life was messy. Very messy. But Jesus sought her. Jews in that day avoided Samaria (John 4:9, Jews had no dealings with Samaritans). It was unclean and they traveled around Samaria to avoid interaction with Samaritans. Jesus had compassion and it was not by accident that met her at the well. He came to bring her living water (verse 13). He came to free her of her sin and shame and fill the empty places of her heart that had been filled with worldly things. Jesus faced her. He loved her. Right where she was. He wasn’t afraid of the mess of her life. He exposed her. Not to shame her, but to free her. This is the beauty of the gospel.
“The gospel is bad news before it is good news. The living water of grace is only sweet to those who know the bitter taste of their sin.” (Gospel Transformation Bible Commentary, John 4)
This woman needed what Jesus alone can give. “She had been a poor steward of her thirst – a thirst only Jesus can satisfy. She had spent most of her life running to broken cisterns that hold no water. Now she is offered the only water that will satisfy her, and us – the grace of the gospel.” (Gospel Transformation Bible Commentary, John 4)
The woman at the well is us. We are all broken, looking to earthly things and people to fill our empty souls. Some of us feel that the journey to Jesus is too far and we are too messy, too hopeless. But Jesus meets us where we are, in our Samaria, in our brokenness and sinfulness. He comes to fill our emptiness with His presence and not just “fix” our brokenness, but make us new (Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Maybe you feel like the woman at the well. As you reflect on your life, all you see is carnage; broken relationships, pain, loneliness, destructive choices, regrets, shame, guilt. It seems everything and everyone you touch is tainted, so you live in isolation. Jesus came to cleanse you, forgive you, free you and make you new.
The woman at the well was as messy as it gets and Jesus loved her. He sought her, exposed her and freed her. Jesus death and resurrection secured this for us. (But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4)
We come as we are – the broken mess that we are, the wreckage of our life and lay it at His feet, confess our sin, repent (turn from our sinful ways) and He is faithful to forgive – and cleanse us (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9) The woman at the well gives us hope. We don’t even know her name. But Jesus did. And He knows your name. The journey of rebuilding our wrecked lives and learning to walk as the free people we are takes time and help. We need other Christians to help us to live this life. While this path seems insurmountable, God promises that He will complete His work in us (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.
Don’t let the shame, guilt or messiness of your life keep you from coming to the well. Jesus is there. He has come to bring you living water so you won’t be thirsty for the things of this world but instead be fully satisfied and complete in Him.
Liz Beck, President
Hope for Addiction, Inc.
When people reach out for help or are mandated by the court to receive help, the first thought is “they need to sober up.” We will not deny that sobriety is important. Scripture commands us to be sober. However, we see many people who get “sober” but are still finding life frustrating and overwhelming. They gain lawful employment, begin raising their children and live as responsible members of society, but life is lacking.
Dr. Phil has a quote that I really like. After listening to a troubled person explain their situation and what they have done to mend it he asks, “and how is that working out for you?” It’s here where the person admits that life is not going according to plan. Their attempts have left them wanting. God, as a loving Father, asks us many times in scripture to “consider your ways.” One of these is found in Haggai. God’s people were sent into exile for their sin, but in His faithfulness, He brings them back. Upon their return, they work diligently “setting up shop.”.
They build houses, plant vegetation, get their stock up to par and try to get back all that was lost. They are aware of God’s faithfulness to them and that He is their God. However, they focused more on their life in the land than on their God. Haggai 1:7-11 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified,” says the LORD. “You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? “declares the LORD of hosts. “Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
One of the heartbreaks we have as leaders and disciplers, is when a recovering addict attends only to get their “life” back. They are tired of exile but have no zeal for God. They find that sobriety does bring some perks (ie, custody of child(ren), job, housing, food), but they believe that is all that is needed. We have watched many people come in excited about this new gospel and life only to watch them meander away when the ”perks” are obtained. We then see them back complaining of feeling bored and empty. Struggles begin to raise their ugly heads and all of a sudden they are disillusioned with their new-found sobriety. At this time we must gently encourage them to see that “life” is their god and “meeting” was their gospel. They have exchanged their idol, drugs or other substances, for the American dream.
We work tirelessly to remind, encourage, exhort and admonish all who walk into our groups, that sobriety is of secondary importance, that the perks and goals of establishing a “normal” life are secondary goals. Their first and most vital need is salvation. Jesus did not come to make people sober. He came to take the Father’s wrath from us and offer us forgiveness and a restored relationship with the Father. If and when they realize they need Jesus and salvation, we then teach them that Jesus is now their focus and knowing Him is the goal.
God may see fit to grant them their desires, but He may not. Just as God called out to His people through Haggai to reorder their priorities, we do the same. May we remember, as we are prone to forget, that God and His kingdom are our focus.
Nothing else will do!
Trinity Bible Church