Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1 NKJV)
We often feel awkward about bringing our recurring sins before God. We may be embarrassed by the number of times we have had to deal with the same issues — those things that we don’t want to do, yet we keep doing over and over again. What is going on? Why can’t we beat this thing that causes us problems? What will it take for us to find solid ground on which to build a firm and lasting recovery?
The slogan – “If nothing changes, nothing changes” – is so true. Each time we find ourselves coming back from the “same old failure” we need to reassess what changes we have made and what we are holding back. We need to use this opportunity to let God take us deeper into our buried pain and allow His forgiveness and healing to change our hearts. We need to ask ourselves what is the resentment, the hatred, the fear, the pain, or the shame that we are seeking to cover with our addictive behaviour. God offers us comfort for our grief and healing for our hurts but freedom requires honesty in what we are willing to reveal and deal with. The truth will set us free. The question remains, are we willing to reveal the truth – the whole truth — about ourselves and our default reaction to situations which cause us to stumble?
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:7-10 NLT)
Relapse happens because we have a divided mind that tries to be loyal to God but also dwells on foolish things. We are told to stand fast on the truth that we are loved and cared for by God but too often, in a moment of pain or frustration, we embrace the lie that “Nobody really understands me. Nobody cares about me. I need to take care of myself.” We easily forget that our best efforts at caring for ourselves, by medicating our feelings, took us to places of pain and suffering that we are now seeking recovery from. Still, when we become unsettled in our recovery we often find that we begin to entertain risky thoughts such as the following:
“I need a break”: Recovery is hard work. In the past, we always “grabbed what we needed when we needed it.” Recovery demands that we spend a lot of emotional time in unfamiliar territory. It requires energy. We get to the point where we simply want to take a break from dealing with life and just take it easy. We want to feel better for a while and certain habits and relationships from the past seem to offer that comfort. We rationalize that we’ve worked hard in so many areas and given up so much for our recovery that we deserve “a little something” even though it is harmful. We may be deceived into thinking that because our desire is not in the primary area of our addiction we are safe to indulge. Divided loyalties such as this lead us towards relapse.
“Life around here is unfair”: Relapse into recurring sin often results from hanging onto sin –our own sin or the sins of others. Little by little discontent drifts into our thoughts until it seems to fill them. We begin to see all the things that are wrong with others – what they get away with, how they treat us badly, what they said, the attitude they had, how demanding they are, how unwilling they are to really understand our point of view. We think this or that is unfair. The list is endless. Each of us is responsible for the state of our heart today. While we cannot control the words and actions of others, we are responsible for our reactions. We cannot afford to have a divided heart that contains resentment and blaming. The truth is that if we’re honest, many times the real source of our sense of injustice and frustration is actually a failure to face our own inner turmoil that is rooted in our own character defects.
God alone gives us life. It is God to whom we must give account for our life. All other relationships need to be second to our relationship with God. To avoid drifting into active addiction requires that we NOT try to figure out what is wrong in our relationship with anyone else until we have identified and been obedient to what God is saying to us.
O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NLT) Single minded obedience to this command from God is the simple formula for success in recovery and in life. How do we comply with this command?
Choose what is right in God’s eyes: Our responsibility is to wholeheartedly follow God’s way of living. When our thoughts and God’s word differ, we need to change our thinking rather than try to bend God’s principles to fit our circumstances. God knows what will heal, satisfy and give us true contentment. We need to humbly admit that we do not.
Give and receive mercy unconditionally: No matter what others have done to us, or will do to us, God’s standard for us is to act with forgiveness and kindness in the situation. God unconditionally forgives and is kind towards us no matter what we have done. His desire is that we treat others as He treats us. Are we willing to let go of the harm done to us, and by us, and receive forgiveness and healing, comfort and care from Jesus, who paid the price for all sin?
God’s ideas before our own: When we are on the path to relapse we always think we know better than God or the people around us. It is at those times that we are called to be humble and to simply keep walking with God “trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.” (Serenity Prayer)
Are we willing to turn away from those attitudes and actions that keep our hearts “divided”? Are we willing to accept the forgiveness and healing God gives us for EVERY wrong? Are we willing to turn our attention and our efforts to God and follow His commands? Are we willing to RECEIVE the loving care God provides? This is the road to life and health. There is no easier way. If we follow this simple plan we will find our way OUT of the frustrating cycle of relapse and recurring sin and INTO the fullness of life Jesus came to give us.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What are some ways I live with divided loyalties?
2. Where am I at and maybe feeling vulnerable, to saying “I need a break” or “Life around here is unfair?
3. When my thinking disagrees with God’s principles, why is it important to acknowledge that I am wrong?
4. We want to turn away from obsessive thoughts but find it difficult. What works?
5. If I’m honest, what’s irritating and painful in me today and needs to be shared with God and a trusted person?
6. Why is the receiving and giving of forgiveness so important in our healing journey?
Lord Jesus, Too often I’ve gone my own way and sought my own solutions only to find myself drowning in painful failure. I come to you tonight because I need help. I admit that the only way to live is to live in relationship with you. Jesus, I believe You are the way, the truth, and the life. I choose to admit my failures and rely on Your forgiveness and healing accomplished for me on the cross. I submit every part of my life to you. Direct me, and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, give me strength to live for you. Thank you for your unconditional acceptance of me. Thank you that you care. Amen