Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘life-controlling problems’

Nothing Helps! Here I Am Again! What Now?

SOURCE:  Dan Strickland/Living Free

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” Romans 7:17-25 MSG


Perhaps you have an attitude problem: pride, jealousy, impatience. Or maybe you are struggling with a behavior that you know is wrong: gossip, anger, broken promises. Or perhaps an addiction has taken control: drinking, drugs, pornography.

Habits like these have several things in common: They hurt you. They hurt others. And you cannot overcome them by yourself.

Perhaps you have determined to change. For a while things were better and then you found yourself right back where you started. The above Scripture describes the struggle so well—even the apostle Paul fought the battle. But he also learned the answer: Jesus. Only through Jesus can we find complete freedom from life-destructive habits.

You might wonder why Jesus would be willing to help you after you’ve messed up again and again. The answer is that he loves you. Unconditionally.

Recovery is a process. Developing the habit took time, and overcoming it will too. But with Jesus’ help, you can do it.

Father, I was so determined not to fall into this sin again. But here I am. I know I can’t do this alone and thank you for being here. Help me to remember that recovery is a process and to keep my eyes on Jesus. In His name …

————————————————————————————————————————-


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

The Process of Developing a Life-Controlling Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

John and Becky are 50-year-olds who attend church every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. To look at them on Sunday morning, it would seem they are a happy Christian couple; however, the police know their address very well. During the last two years, they have become regular visitors to this home.

There are two life-controlling problems in this home.

John has uncontrolled anger, and Becky, though frequently physically and verbally abused, covers for his violent behavior because she believes it is the Christian thing to do. This violent behavior and unhealthy cover-up have gradually worsened over the years. John, who was abused by his father when he was a child, has been abusing his wife for years, but it has escalated to the point where her wounds can no longer be covered up.

These mastering problems have not only trapped John and Becky, but because they have been covered up and not dealt with, their children have also been caught in this web of pain.

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters (or controls) a person’s life. Many terms have been used to describe life-controlling problems. Someone may speak of a dependency, a compulsive behavior, or an addiction. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul uses the word stronghold to describe an area of sin that has become a part of our lifestyle when he writes that there is divine power to demolish strongholds.

The easiest life-controlling problems to identify are harmful habits like drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling, tobacco use, and the like. Life-controlling problems can also include harmful feelings like anger and fear. The word addiction or dependency can refer to the use of a substance (like food, alcohol, legal and/or illegal drugs, etc.,), or it can refer to the practice of a behavior (like shoplifting, gambling, use of pornography, compulsive spending, TV watching, etc.). It can also involve a relationship with another person. We call those relationships co-dependencies.

The Apostle Paul talks about life-controlling problems in terms of our being slaves to this behavior or dependency that masters us. He writes in Romans 6:14, Sin shall not be your master. In 1 Corinthians 6:12b, he says, Everything is permissible for me ‘ but I will not be mastered by anything [or anyone]. According to 2 Peter 2:19b, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Anything that becomes the center of a person’s life if allowed to continue will become master of that life.

Because we live in a world today that can be described as an addictive society, most people are affected in some way by a life-controlling problem — their own or someone else’s. Everyone has the potential of being mastered by a life-controlling problem. No one plans for it to happen, but without warning, an individual (and those who care about him) can be pulled into the downward spiral of a stronghold.

Addictions and Idols

Idolatry leads to addiction. When we follow idols, a choice has been made to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions that can be provided only by God. We have a felt need to serve a supreme being; if we choose not to serve God, we will choose an idol to which we will become enslaved. Jeffrey VanVonderen says:

Anything besides God to which we turn, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry: money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ’s performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous: robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything!

Following idols, which leads to addictions, prevents us from serving and loving God freely. All kinds of substance and behavioral dependencies lead to enslavement because everyone who makes sinful choices is a candidate for slavery to sin (see John 8:34). Jesus states in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. God spoke to Moses in Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. Sin, when unconfessed, strains the relationship with God that is meant to be enjoyed by the believer (see Proverbs 28:13; Jonah 2:8).

A very controversial question arises: Is an addiction a sin or a disease?

Those who believe addictions are sin point to the acts of the sinful nature which include a substance (drunkenness) and behavioral (sexual immorality) problem in Galatians 5:19-21. Another reference to the sinfulness of addictions is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which shows that a definite change occurred in the lives of the Corinthian Christians: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Those who believe addictions (particularly alcoholism and other chemical dependencies) are a disease state the characteristics are progressive, primary, chronic, and fatal. In the latter stages, the victims are incapable of helping themselves because there is a loss of control and choice. In the 1950s the American Medical Association voted approval of the disease concept of alcohol dependence. The term disease means deviation from a state of health (Minirth, 57).

When sin and addiction are compared, they show similar characteristics. Both are self-centered versus God-centered and cause people to live in a state of deception. Sin and addiction lead people to irresponsible behavior, including the use of various defenses to cover up their ungodly actions. Sin and addiction are progressive; people get worse if there is not an intervention. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda and later saw him at the temple. Jesus warned him about the progressiveness of sin: See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Sin is primary in that it is the root cause of evil. Sin produces sinners as alcohol causes alcoholism. Sin is also chronic if not dealt with effectively. Finally, sin is fatal with death being the end result.

Although addictions do have the characteristics of a disease, I must stand with the authority of God’s Word as it pronounces various addictions as being a part of the sinful nature (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). They are sinful because God has been voided as the source of the solution to life’s needs, and these choices often develop into a disease. A noted Christian psychiatrist says:

Physiologically, of course, some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, even after one drink. And often guilt drives them to more and more drinking. But then some people also have more of a struggle with greed, lust, smoking, anger, or overeating than others. Failure to contend with all of these is still sin (Minirth, 57-58).

Anything that becomes the center of one’s life, if allowed to continue, will become the master of life. If God is not the center of a person’s life, that person will probably turn to a substance, behavior, or another person for focus and meaning. David describes his enemy in Psalm 52 as one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (v7).

The young, rich ruler described in the gospels (see Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life. When Jesus told him he would have to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him, the young man went away sad. This rich man’s stronghold was the love of money. Everybody, not only the rich, must guard against this greater love of the rich young man. Paul writes: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This stronghold, the love of money, is the root cause of most addictions that plague our society. Although alcohol is a major cause of deaths, sicknesses, broken families, and relationships, it continues to be advertised with marketing strategies which appeal even to America’s high school and elementary-aged children. The demand for cocaine and other substances would soon cease if there were no profits to be made. Sexual addictions are fed by an $8 billion industry of pornographic materials, appealing television commercials, and provocative movies. Compulsive gambling is fed by state-run lotteries. I wonder how much the love of money contributes to eating disorders. Many young women starve themselves to sickness and even death because of a greedy society that promotes an unhealthy thinness as beauty through media appeal and modeling agencies.

As the creation of God, each of us has a need to be dependent. There is a vacuum in the heart of every human since the fall of Adam and Eve that can be filled only by Christ. After our first parents disobeyed God, they immediately recognized their nakedness. Without God’s covering, they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). They soon learned they could not escape from God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8).

It is interesting that Adam and Eve hid among the trees. They hid there because of guilt. Idols, which are false gods, can also become hiding places. Isaiah writes: for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [or false gods] our hiding place (28:15).

In a life where Christ is not the focus, a person is likely to center attention on a substance, behavior, or another person which will eventually become a god to them. David recognized the need to have God as his tower of strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me (2 Samuel 22:2-3).

The disease concept of addictions should be approached with caution. Assigning addictive substances and behaviors to the disease model tends to overlook the sinful nature of mankind. Although it is popular to label every stronghold as a disease, the Church must warmly care for those caught in the web of deception with ongoing support. It takes more than a pat on the back to cure them of their stronghold. Sinful choices develop into lifestyles that are self-centered and destructive. The fall of man puts us all in need of recovery.

How the Trap Works
Addictions and dependencies generally fall into three categories: substance addictions, behavior addictions, and relationship (interaction) addictions.

1. Substance addictions (the use of substances taking control of our lives)

  • Drugs/chemicals
  • Food (eating disorders)
  • Alcohol Other addictive substances

2. Behavior addictions (the practice of behaviors taking control of our lives)

  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Use of pornography/other sexual addiction
  • Love of money
  • Sports
  • Other addictive behavior

3. Relationship (interaction) addictions (You may have heard a relationship problem like this referred to as co-dependency. )

Everyone has the potential of experiencing one or more of these life-controlling problems at some time. Maybe you find yourself already involved in an addiction or another problem behavior that has taken over your life. Sometimes it is hard to identify a life-controlling problem.

Here are some questions that may help in that process:

Is my behavior practiced in secret?
Can it meet the test of openness or do I hide it from family and friends?
Does this behavior pull me away from my commitment to Christ?
Does it express Christian love?
Is this behavior used to escape feelings?
Does this behavior have a negative effect on myself or others?

These questions help us identify problems that have reached (or are in danger of reaching) the point of becoming life-controlling problems.

The next step is to look at the ways these behaviors and dependencies tend to progress in a person’s life. Researchers have identified a pattern that follows some very predictable steps. Most people get involved with an addiction to receive a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol or other drugs, sex, pornographic literature, gambling, and so forth, produce a temporary high or euphoria.

Vernon E. Johnson, the founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, has observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them . . . we came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency. Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: (1) learns mood swing, (2) seeks mood swing, (3) harmful dependency, (4) using to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including myself, can also be related to other types of dependencies although the terminology may differ.

We call it the “Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is really happening.

Every person has the potential of experiencing a life-controlling problem. No one is automatically exempt. Even though no one plans to be trapped by such a problem, it can happen without a person’s even being aware.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Phases of Life-Controlling Problems

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at Living Free Ministry

Phase One: Experimentation

  • I learn that experimenting with the substance/behavior makes me feel good.
  • I don ‘t really see any serious negative consequences.
  • I learn to trust the substance/behavior to make me feel good or help me escape every time I use it or do it.
  • I learn how to use the substance/behavior to make myself feel great.

Phase Two: Social Use

  • I begin to use or practice more regularly.
  • This behavior or substance becomes a part of my social life.
  • I use or practice in times and places that are socially acceptable.
  • Daily lifestyle choices begin to be affected by my focus on this substance/behavior.
  • I make rules for myself about my use/practice to make me feel safe.
  • My use/behavior becomes a problem without warning.

Phase Three: Daily Preoccupation

  • My use/practice becomes a harmful dependency.
  • I begin to lose control over my use/practice.
  • I violate my value system.
  • I cannot block out the emotional pain.
  • My lifestyle is centered on this compulsive behavior.
  • Unresolved problems produce more stress and pain.
  • I break my self-imposed safe use/practice rules.
  • My life deteriorates in all areas, including health, spirituality, and relationships.

Phase Four: Using/Practicing Just to Feel Normal

  • I lose touch with reality and experience delusions and paranoia.
  • I may try to escape my problems by running away.
  • I lose my desire to live.
  • I have no desire for God I am spiritually bankrupt.
  • I lose control and dignity.
  • My problems grow in a snowball effect.
  • My family relationships are destroyed (Lee, 22-23).

Biblical Examples
Genesis 4 records the account of Cain and a problem that mastered his life. He and his brother, Abel, brought their offerings to the lord. Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s fruits of the ground were not received by the lord. Cain became very angry, and his face displayed his feelings. The Lord saw his anger and facial expressions and encouraged him to do what was right so that his offering and he would be accepted.

The Lord followed with a statement which illustrates how problems can become our master. But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7). The Lord recognized a potential life-controlling problem crouching and ready to pounce on Cain if he opened the door. Cain opened the door, and anger became his master. He invited Abel to the field and killed him. When the Lord asked where Abel was, Cain responded by trying to cover his evil actions by denying any knowledge of his brother’s whereabouts.

Allowing anger to rule his life, Cain committed murder, became a restless wanderer, and went from the presence of the Lord, thus alienating himself from God. Fed by jealousy, rebellion, and unbelief, anger became a stronghold in his life. This is an example of a life-controlling problem that is permitted to continue without intervention.

The concept of life-controlling stages is addressed in James 1:14-15: but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. The downward spiral starts with temptation (an attraction to). The second stage is desire (to long for). Desire conceives and gives birth to the third stage, sin. The final stage is death.

James’ concept of life-controlling problems can be compared with a marriage to an addiction. The marriage begins with courtship. Although initially, the victim may not recognize the courtship as such because it is appealing, the victim is tempted and drawn to an addiction. The victim is enticed and allured into a relationship and gives consent. An addiction takes hold with a conception of a problem that now starts to master a person’s life.

Months or even years later, there is the birth of a child (trouble). The fruit of the life-controlling problem causes all kinds of problems in the home, church, school, and workplace. The relationship arrives at a place of completion. In this stage, the marriage has become fatalistic (destructive relationship) to the victim and has hurt those who are close. The end result is corruption. If the relationship is not broken by the addiction, death always follows: spiritual, emotional and physical.

There are certain stages involved in David’s sin with Bathsheba as recorded in 2 Samuel 11. In stage one, From the roof, he saw a woman bathing (v2). David entered stage two when he sent someone to find out about her (v3). In the third stage, David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her (v4). To further complicate matters, David tried to cover up his sin which led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.

Joshua 7 discusses Achan’s sin of disobedience which led to his death. After the Lord delivered Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the Israelites, they were commanded to stay away from the sacred things which included all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron (6:19). Achan’s sin was a violation of this command and was committed in stages. In the first stage, he saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels (7:21). Achan followed his temptation by coveting the riches (stage two). Then, he took the riches (stage three) and hid them. In addition to his own death, his sin adversely affected the entire nation of Israel just as life-controlling problems often go beyond the victim’s hurting only himself.

As a rule with few exceptions, life-controlling problems do not occur overnight. I have met with parents who have tragically lost a child to chemical dependency. Many times they wanted to think the child had just started using drugs. There was the wife who caught her husband entertaining a prostitute, and she believed his insistence that this was the first time. Actually, for those who have reached the ultimate end of their addiction, whether physical death or emotional and spiritual death, their death occurred on the installment plan. They died one phase at a time. Paul writes: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

On the way from my motel to the airport in Oklahoma City, the taxi driver explained how his life had been totally destroyed by gambling. Not knowing that his passenger had just taught the phases of life-controlling problems at a seminar, he proceeded to tell me how phase by phase he became controlled by gambling. At one time the head of a corporation with a salary of six figures, he started experimenting by playing the state lottery. Gambling became a social part of his life in which he bet on various sporting events. The infrequent big wins kept him coming back for a larger win. Gambling became the center of his life and progressed to become his one and only master. He not only lost his position and dignity but his family as well. In the ten minute ride to the airport, he explained in detail the process I had just taught.

———————————————————————————–

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries

The Emotional & Relational Cost of Addiction

SOURCE:  Chip Dodd

According to recent statistics gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million Americans over the age of 12 cast about in daily life addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs.

That number does not include the millions of other Americans who are addicted to prescribed medications. Most people began taking prescribed drugs to mediate a physical or mental-emotional problem; then, the drugs became the primary problem, most notably narcotics and anti-anxiety medications. Even more, that 23.5 million people addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs does not include the millions of people involved in process-behavioral addictions to sex/pornography, gambling, food, and work. Many other subtler addictions that exact a cost upon society are denied or simply not recognized. They also add significantly to the millions not counted.

Speaking only about the 23.5 million addicts (saying “only” about 23.5 million anything seems absurd to me, but I want to remain specific) impact upon themselves and others, statistics indicate that for every one person addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, 3 to 4 other people in relationship with the addict experience life damaging effects. Any person who is relationally connected with an addict for an extended period of time will suffer some of the characteristics of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Predominantly family members directly suffer the emotional and relational, if not the physical and financial, impact of addiction. The impact of addiction upon this group centers on trauma, which, at core, suppresses the capacity for emotional and relational development. Think of the impact on children alone.

“Addiction temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment.”

Trauma basically means that a person will suffer some form of reaction that requires they hide their vulnerability to emotional expression and relational capacity for intimacy. They develop a distortion, distress, and distrust with their own sense of worth and acceptance of belonging and mattering. More simply put, they believe they have to perform to have worth or acceptance. They have to earn love, and rarely allow themselves truly to trust love when it is given. These characteristics, likewise, reside inside every addict at the core of their own emotional and relational makeup.

These people suffer the compulsion of trying to find a full life without knowing how to risk feeling all that is required to live a vibrant relational life. Symptoms of this core “need” for control can extend into myriad complicating results, such as stress illnesses, anxiety disorders, and depression. Addiction predicts the continuation of the next addiction and/or many other life-stifling consequences. Addiction is, tragically, a form of relationship, a self-cure for pain. It temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment. These counterfeit cures and fulfillments take control over the emotional vulnerability and insecurity required to live ably and fully in true relationship with others and God.

By multiplying the minimal number of 3 people impacted by addiction times the number of addicts estimated by SAMHSA, that number is 70.5 million people harmed emotionally and relationally by people trapped in their own emotional and relational maelstrom of addiction. By adding the 23.5 million to the 70.5 million, one can see the power of addiction and its devastating consequences. That number is 94 million people suffering emotional and relational distortions, distress, and distrust, all connected to one common denominator of addiction to alcohol and/or drug addiction alone. That number is greatly expanded by all the other addictions and their impact.

“Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem.”

No matter how much we attempt to address our personal, family, community, and national problems without addressing addiction and its impact, we will fail. Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem. Actually, it may be America’s epidemic. Ironically, one of the main characteristics of addiction is denial—will-bound blindness to what is literally, objectively occurring within the addict, and within the people associated with addiction.

We are a nation of people addicted, and a nation of people in denial. It becomes an ongoing repetition of retracing a circle. We cannot see the damage of addiction because of denial, which protects us from the emotional vulnerability of trauma, which exacerbates the “need” for relief from stress, which influences addiction, about which we are in denial. And on it goes.

We must see and feel beyond denial. We must see and feel our way into living with the capacity for full relationship, which requires the vulnerability of receiving and offering love, even the love that does not tolerate the denial of addiction and its impact. Unless we do, we perpetuate the problem.

Our society has four pillars of character and relational development: family, vocation, community, and faith. The four pillars today rest upon the sand foundation of addiction. No matter what we do to shore up the leaning pillars with a thousand different programs, we will crash unless we see and feel our way to a great national awakening of individuals addressing our foundational devastation.

Fear of Failure

SOURCE:  Shannon Kay Mccoy/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Maria describes her relationship with food as a love/hate affair.

Food is her BFF (Best Friend Forever), her secret pal, and her lover.

She loves to plan special times with her favorite foods—on her way to work, during every work break, at lunchtime, on the ride home, at dinnertime and during midnight cuddling. She loves every tasty morsel while she is eating it. However, with the food nestled in her stomach, she begins to hate it. She hates that her eating is out of control. She hates that she feels bloated and ten pounds heavier. She hates that she has failed another diet. She knows she has to change her disordered eating, but she fears failing again.

Fearing Failure

The fear of failure is being afraid of not accomplishing a desired goal. Fear of failure might cause people to sabotage their own efforts to avoid the possibility of a bigger failure or to avoid trying something new altogether.

Many people are afraid of failing at some point in their lives. But fear of failure crosses the line when it becomes debilitating. It can render them immobile—preventing them from ever moving forward. There are three characteristics that contribute to the fear of failure:

  • People-pleasing
  • Perfectionism
  • Pessimism

People-pleasing

People-pleasing is simply the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25a states, “The fear of man lays a snare.” The fear of appearing as a failure to others controls and confines a person’s thoughts and actions.

Maria desperately wants to please her relatives at the Christmas family reunion by showing them that she lost the extra weight gained since having two kids. She worries about what they will think or say so she decides to go on a crash diet. She fails to complete the diet, doesn’t lose weight, and decides not to go to the Christmas family reunion.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism at its core is pride. It refuses to accept any standard lower than perfection. People with this mentality set excessively high standards, strive for flawlessness, and are overly critical of themselves and others who fail to reach their standards. Fear of failing in perfectionism renders a person useless. This too is a snare, because God’s Word tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Maria makes an appointment with a nutritionist. At the first meeting, Maria sees that the nutritionist is a little pudgy around the waist. Immediately, Maria is turned off to whatever information is given and leaves the appointment determining never to return again. She fears failing to eat right, because the nutritionist did not live up to her expectations.

Pessimism

Pessimism is fearing that whatever is hoped for will not happen. There is no confidence in the future. Pessimists look at challenges with a “glass-half-empty” mentality. They refuse to believe the best and eliminate positive expectations. This is a serious problem that comes from within the heart. The Psalmist cries out to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps 42:5). His faith wrestles with his fear. There is a sense of despair for the future.

Maria is pessimistic about the weight loss program at work. She has no confidence that she will lose weight. She has tried so many different diet programs resulting in nothing but utter failure. She thinks to herself, “Why would this program be any different? I will fail at this too.”

Do you struggle with the fear of failure like Maria? Overcoming the fear of failure begins with acknowledgement. It takes courage to admit and face your fear of failure. Next, you must explore the causes of your fears. Are your fears rooted in people-pleasing, perfectionism, or pessimism? Finally, seek God’s solution to the problem of fearing failure by trusting in God, boasting in God, and hoping in God.

Trust in God

People-pleasing comes from a self-focused desire to be significant in the eyes of others. People-pleasers fear failing to please others, dealing with their disappointment, and losing their credibility. This is misplaced allegiance which in turn is sin. When people are controlled by pleasing people, they are not pleasing God. To overcome that snare, they must put their trust in God. Proverbs 29:25 proclaims, “… whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Trusting in God keeps people safe from the snare of people-pleasing. Trusting God—and following him—protects them from concerns over what others think or say about her.

Boast in God

Perfectionism is fear of showing weaknesses by failing to meet high standards of perfection. It is rooted in self-centeredness. It promotes self-praise and self-glorification, which is a sin. The Bible teaches, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… God’s power works best in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; 11:30). The power of Jesus Christ dwells in those who boast about their weaknesses instead of trying to cover them up.

Hope in God

Pessimism is a choice. The pessimist chooses to view life from a despairing perspective. But this denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God. The fear of failure implies that God doesn’t know what He is doing in your life or that He doesn’t have the power to fix it. Fearing failure demonstrates a lack of hope in God. Yet passages like Psalm 42:5 encourage us, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” The psalmist challenged his own pessimism and chose to put his hope in God.

Maria acknowledges that she is a people-pleaser, a perfectionist, and a pessimist. Through prayer and an earnest desire to seek the Lord instead of her own self-focused desires, her heart has begun to change. When the temptation arises to fear failure, she chooses to trust God instead of pleasing people; she chooses to boast in God instead of her own achievements, and she chooses to hope in God.

Our greatest hope is found in Jesus Christ. The gospel reminds us that our failures are not a surprise to God. He uses our failures to teach us flexibility, humility, patience, perseverance, compassion, and persistence. Ultimately, our failures, when surrender to God, help to grow us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Addiction: COMING CLEAN

SOURCE:  Seth Haines/InTouch Ministries

Some burdens are too heavy to carry alone, but thankfully, God provides us with a way to lighten the spiritual load.

Six months after our son was born, my wife Amber and I found ourselves in an unfolding drama. Little Titus suffered under the ghost of a mysterious illness and began to shed weight as if he were on a fad diet. We watched helplessly as he retched up meal after meal and was transformed into a bag of bones. We prayed ceaselessly for his healing, and our family, friends, and church members joined in with pleas of their own. We visited doctor after doctor, until they finally admitted they were at an impasse and hospitalized our baby boy for specialized treatment.

My friend Greg was fond of saying, “At some point, life is going to do what life does.” And as I watched my son suffer, I knew Greg was right. Life upends, suspends, takes certainty and puts it in question. These are the moments to lean into the support of community, to rely on relationships with friends, family, and God. But with the specter of losing a child looming large, I chose another way.

I called my sister from the pediatric floor. “Could you smuggle in a bottle of Gordon’s?” I asked.

She obliged—sympathetic sibling that she was—and I drowned all fear, anxiety, and grief in gin from a Styrofoam cup filled with hospital ice.

This was the moment when a budding problem became a full-fledged addiction.

In the months following Titus’s discharge, he was barely on the mend. The doctors were still unsure whether he would stabilize and begin to gain weight, and to make matters worse, his immune system began to slip. They advised us to avoid germ-ridden places like the church nursery or the playground. Titus didn’t have the reserves to fight even the common cold, so we lived in a sort of self-imposed quarantine. Isolated further, I sank deeper and deeper into a boozy haze, and aside from Amber, not a soul in the world would have guessed.

No one sets out to become an alcoholic, much less a Christian alcoholic.

In fact, Paul exhorts Christians to live a sober, Spirit-filled life. He writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-19 NIV).

I’ve wondered why Paul contrasts individual drunkenness with the Spirit-filled Christian community, and this is what I’ve come to believe: The addictions of our life are often born from our own isolation, from our pain and anxiety. It is difficult to muster the faith needed to shoulder life’s burdens alone. But for the Christian, the confession of the community of saints—the worshipful, thankful, Spirit-filled confession—gives us hope. And when we share our sins and submit ourselves to fellow believers, we can be carried on their shoulders. It provides a sort of surrogate faith when ours is not enough and allows us to see past the pain and into hope. Perhaps this is the point of James’ great admonition, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

And this, perhaps, is one of the most important steps—maybe the very beginning—of coming clean from any sort of addiction. Alcoholism? Yes. Eating disorders? Yes. Pornography? Consumerism? Workaholism? To all of these and more, yes.

On a warm September evening, I stood on the porch with two members of my church family. “I think I have a drinking problem,” I said, the words spilling out of my mouth and across the whitewashed planks without warning.

John looked at me, nodded, and said, “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said. John asked whether I would admit it to Amber. “I don’t know,” I said again.

John reached for my phone. “We will walk with you, will prop you up till you’re able to walk again. We’ll hold you accountable and pray with you. But right now, you need to call your wife.” He pressed the green button and handed me the phone.  “You’re going to be just fine,” he said.

It’s been a year and a half since that fateful moment of coming clean. John and a few others have gathered around me. We’ve worshipped together, shared communion, given thanks. They listened to confession after confession about my unending thirst for liquor, about the darkness of my own heart. They’ve asked hard questions of me, have held my feet to the fire. And in the process, I see the working of the Spirit to draw me out of the shadows, through the pain, and into hope. Because of them, I understand Paul’s truth to the Ephesians and the wisdom of James.

Yes, life’s going to do what life’s going to do. But the corollary is true as well: A good Christian community is going to do what good Christian community is supposed to do. And if you press into it, that will make all the difference.

Sexual Addiction: The Way Out of the Web

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by June Hunt/AACC

The mind of every addict is programmed with faulty beliefs. (Our beliefs determine our thoughts, behaviors and our addictions, including what we think about our own value, our relationships and our sexuality.) If we have faulty thinking, we have faulty conclusions, which lead to faulty behavior. Thus, to win the battle over any addictive behavior, the mind must be trained to think strategically … accurately … victoriously. Jesus made this point succinctly by explaining, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

[One our resources includes] a section titled, “HOW TO TARGET A TRANSFORMED LIFE” and makes the following points:

– Don’t focus on the negative. Every time you focus on quitting an obsession, you want it all the more.

– If your target is what you shouldn’t do, you will be pulled more powerfully to do it. For example, “I need to quit thinking about sex … I won’t rent X-rated movies … I shouldn’t call the sex chat line.”1 Corinthians 15:56 says, “… the power of sin is the law.”

Instead of what strugglers shouldn’t do, I counsel them to focus on the positive. Just as the archer focuses on a target, strugglers should set their sights on:

1. A New Purpose – “I’ll do whatever it takes to be conformed to the character of Christ.” Repeat this six times. Romans 8:29 says, we are “… predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” So the next time temptation begins its seductive pull inside, let this be your focus: “I want to reflect the character of Christ through what I see and do.”

2. A New Priority – “I’ll do whatever it takes to line up my thinking with God’s thinking.” Realize the clarity of Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” To experience a transformed life, you must line up your thinking with God’s thinking. Ultimately, to have the blessing of God, do nothing that violates the Word of God.

3. A New Plan – “I’ll do whatever it takes to do the new plan in Christ’s strength, not my strength.”Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” God would never tell His children to stop lusting without giving them the power to stop.

From the beginning, God created the concept of sexual intimacy to be a blessing when expressed within the context of a committed covenant marriage. And because the Lord is all powerful, He can replace even the most harmful passions with new healthy ones. That’s His specialty.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Adapted from: Sexual Addiction: The Way Out of the Web, by June Hunt. © HOPE FOR THE HEART.

Tag Cloud