Ministering Through Our Experience of Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

I began counseling Sarah almost eight years ago. Her addictions and self destructive behavior were misguided attempts to keep her painful feelings at bay, to keep her ‘in the land of numb’. Recovery has been an inch by inch experience as we plumbed the depths of her painful past. Despite some occasional emotional struggles and setbacks, she and her husband now have a marriage neither could have imagined before they began the journey toward recovery together.

As our congregation prepares to begin ‘Celebrate Recovery’, a wonderful program based on the Beatitudes, I asked Sarah to lead the group for sexually abused women. Though she stills struggles with the shame of her past she sincerely desires to use her experience to help others. Recently she said to me, ‘It would be a shame not to use my experience to help others.’

Satan’s purpose is to keep us bound in the shame of our sins and secret past, isolated from God and from one another.

God’s intention for our recovery was demonstrated most clearly on the cross when He defeated sin, death and the devil. The open tomb on Easter declared to the world God’s power to rescue those held by death’s bonds and by the devil’s lies, to free them to experience His amazing, unconditional love.

St. Paul writes, ‘He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.‘ (Col.2:13b-15).

The scars on His resurrected body became the evidence of Jesus’ triumph. Ministering to others through our recovery requires that we show them our scars. God has chosen to use our scars and the vulnerability it takes to show them to offer hope, wisdom, encouragement and warning to those embarking on the journey toward recovery.

Our scars give hope.
Ted Rose, a former elder who has gone home to be with Jesus, loved to visit the sick and shut-ins. Once he visited a man who was to undergo heart surgery the following day. He was visibly shaken at the thought of having his body cut open. Ted offered to pray with the man and to show his own scar from heart surgery. Seeing Ted’s scar had a very calming effect. Our scars show the world that we survived our wounds and that there can be healing for those whose wounds are still bleeding.

Our scars offer wisdom.
It is important that we learn from our mistakes, but heaven help us if it is the only way we learn! How much better to learn from the mistakes of others. King David sinned and, for a time, was in denial about it. God’s hand was heavy upon him until he finally came clean about his secret sin. After he confessed his sin and received forgiveness he wrote, ‘8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.‘ (Psalm 32).

The mistakes we have made can serve as warnings to those considering a short-cut to recovery. Our failures can expose the traps and pitfalls Satan conceals from view.

Our scars offer encouragement.


Those beginning recovery usually have a difficult time receiving God’s love for them because of an overwhelming sense of shame. Those who bare their scars give great encouragement to accept what cannot now be felt. Their scars testify to the healing power that flows from God’s loving touch. When the walking wounded see us and hear our candid testimonies they are encouraged to believe that God could love even them.

Paul often recalls his past life for this very purpose: ‘15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.‘(1 Timothy 1:15-16).

To Titus he wrote, ‘12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

As we share our scars with the wounded I believe that God continues to work healing in our own lives. Certainly the telling of our stories and the response we receive dispels the commonly held belief: ‘If you really knew me you wouldn’t love me’. We are refreshed and encouraged as we see the way God uses our scars to touch the lives of others.

When we get to heaven and see Jesus, we will gaze upon His scars. They are ‘the marks of love the Father chose never to erase.’ (Michael Card)

Knowing the ROCK: Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 2

David Mackey

Just as false intimacy was part of what fed our addiction, True intimacy will strengthen our recovery. So this series will look at 4 of the many facets of intimacy which can be found in an intimate relationship with God AND with others.

This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others.

Last month we looked at the Psalms and discovered that David used the word pictures Rock, Refuge, and Fortress interchangeably. For David, God, as his Rock, Refuge or Fortress is intimacy. Most often when David uses these descriptions they are associated with terms and phrases that are actually part of intimate relationships. In other words, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

Perhaps one of the more common and basic counseling issues I come across in my practice has to do with shame. Is it any surprise? We are a people based in shame. It can manifest itself in so many different ways. It is first seen in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned and we have carried the shame mantle ever since.

Check out our primary text: Psalms 31:1, In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame’‘.

David begins by equating taking refuge in God with never being put to shame. Again, in Psalm 25:20 David says ‘let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.’ Yet again in Psalms 71:1, David repeats Psalm 31:1 saying In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.’

Is there any greater source of shame then the misuse of our God-given sexuality? That’s why it was such a well hidden secret. We wouldn’t have dreamed to actually share this with anyone. Certainly we carry shame in our sin.

What a wonderful invitation God gives us through David! God invites us to know Him as our Rock, Refuge, and Fortress and in so doing never be put to shame! This is what He wants in our relationships with others as well.

One of the more profound observations at the EMB (Every Man’s Battle) Workshops is to see men arrive Wednesday night with shame (along with fear) written all over their very countenance.

Then a remarkable thing happens. The men tell their stories in all their shame to other men and strangers in a small group. And perhaps for the first time they know they are being listened to, heard and understood and NOT put to shame. In understanding they are accepted. In the listening is heard repentance and sorrow. They are tasting of an aspect of intimacy. They have shared their shameful secret with another and they have been understood and accepted. They have allowed ‘In-To-Me-See’ and have been accepted; not judged, not condemned, not belittled.

These men also find themselves on the giving end of intimacy. They listen to another’s story; they see into another and find themselves listening and understanding and accepting that man.

Everyone connects, perhaps in a way never experienced previously. False Intimacy had hindered and destroyed any possibility of True Intimacy in the past. Now they are experiencing it for perhaps the first time. This needs to be a piece of recovery.

God, of course, offers us a far greater acceptance. He will not put us to shame as we let Him be our Rock, Refuge and Fortress.

Certainly He throws our sin as far as the east is from the west’ because of the work of Christ on the cross. But that is not the emphasis David focuses on. He focuses on the picture of a man sitting in the safety of the cleft of a Rock or within a Fortress or Refuge. God is that Rock and so surrounded by, held by, and protected by God we share our sin, our struggle, our failure and He only holds us tighter, listens more deeply, protects use more. He does NOT put us to shame. He just accepts. He just loves us deeply.

Intimacy: Knowing God as your Rock.

What will recovery be like knowing God in a way in which we are no longer put to shame? We can sit and look Jesus in the eye and share our deepest struggles.

What will recovery be like knowing others in a way in which we are no longer put to shame? We can sit and look another in the eye and share our deepest struggles.

One final thought: Intimacy is a two-way thing. It is not just being able to share with God but him, through His Word and Spirit shares with us. He lets us look into His heart and mind. How wonderful is that?!! And how powerful is that in recovery?

In our recovery, we need to develop intimacy with God and others. We also need to invite others to find shame-free safety in finding intimacy with us.

In Psalm 31, David starts with one of the deepest aspects of intimacy perhaps because we all long so deeply to be free of our shame. We long for someone to look ‘In-To Me and See’ past our ‘ugliness’ and find value and wonderment. Remember, God told Samuel that David was a ”man after my own heart.’ Perhaps this is because David, as seen in the Psalms speaks to God, full of emotion, with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In your recovery pursue the path of true intimacy with all you being. This is not a command from God but it is an invitation. Terrifying, in our sin to be sure, but it is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Making Amends with Extended Family Hurt by Our Betrayal

The atomic bomb has been dropped. A blinding flash of light, the explosion, the mushroom cloud billowing, devastation everywhere you can see, horror on faces of survivors, lives destroyed. You pushed the button!

You dropped the bomb! You did not mean to, it was an accident. How could this have happened?

It was a normal day at work. Routine is so routine. You predict on your way home the events of the evening. Your wife will be preparing the evening meal. You try to slip in without making a fuss. Keep peace at all cost is your life motto. But peace is not on tonight’s menu. It has been weeks since she confronted you about your secret life with pornography.

You thought it was well hidden and there would be no way you would be caught. She did! And you were! She should be over this by now, you are thinking. The drive home in the falling snow did not prepare you for the ice storm you encountered when you slipped in your own back door.

Her rage had been seething all day, like the steam emitting from the release valve on a pressure cooker. Tears were salting the mashed potatoes she was preparing. You attempted to hug her. She stiffened and pulled away.

As you began to reason with her that you had things under control and together you could work this out. “Mom and Dad want me to move home for a while, she numbly inserts.”

What? Mom and Dad? Want you? You told them? Were there others, you wondered, but wouldn’t allow yourself to ask. Words became racing thoughts, fragments of splintered sentences. They know about? About the porn’? About my acting out? About me? I’m exposed, they know about me. A sick nauseating wave of fear surges through your stomach. Anger emerges.

The thoughts “They have no business” How could you have, when you hear your angry words burst through the silence. “What did you tell them?” “It is none of their business!” “Why did you tell them?”
Supper was left on the stove. You blew it once again. When will this ever end?

As days of winter crept by you knew sooner or later you would have to face those who know and have been hurt. Can there be hope for a future after such a catastrophic explosion? Where do you begin to restore relationships of those who have been hurt by your betrayal?

Restoration is possible:

Consider not yourself, but those who have been hurt by your betrayal. Make a list of those who you know have been affected or in some way have knowledge of your acting out. Remember what the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15 did when he decided to go back home to face his dad?

First, he faced his pride. It was a giant. He probably had been plotting and fantasizing just how great life could be if he did not have to be strapped down. If he didn’t have someone looking over his shoulder,  watching him. Why, he could live anyway he pleased. “Hey Dad, I want my inheritance now. I want to make it on my own. I can handle it.”

He didn’t handle it any better than we did, did he? He lost everything. Squandered it on “loose living,” v 13. That is a nice way to put it, isn’t it? “Loose living,” sounds nice enough. His older brother wasn’t sugar coating it in v. 30, “this son of yours (no brother of mine, implied) who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes

Pride wants to minimize and to cover up and hide the magnitude of what we have done. While he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods he was feeding the hogs, v. 16, he was actually swallowing his pride. I will go to my father and tell him what I have done.”

Second, he rehearsed what he would say. He probably ‘hearsed* and rehearsed until he was confident that he had down exactly what he would say. “Dad I sinned (v. 18-19). I am not worthy to be called your son. Would you let me go to work for you as one of your workers?” He identified what sin he had committed against God and his father and confessed it. Because of his betrayal he saw his unworthiness, the true picture of himself. This was no longer about him and what he wanted to get out of life. He was ready now to see the reality of his condition. “I am not worthy”

Third, though it is important to rehearse and rehearse what you will say, be prepared for their response. The younger son, I don’t think was prepared for what his father said and did. Right in the middle of his well rehearsed presentation, his father interrupted him v. 22.

Read for yourself this amazing fatherly response. One of the reasons for the favorable response from his dad was due to the sincerity of his son’s confession. It came from his brokenness not from his pride. If your confession to your family members or friends is in any way marked by insincerity, minimizing, hiding, weaseling, it will become evident. That kind of brokenness can only come from feeding the hogs and becoming aware that we have been living like them. Rooting and snorting for anything that will feed our appetite for pleasure.

Regardless of the relationship with your parents or in-laws, can you see their heart? Can you begin to touch their disappointment and anger? This is not intended to shame you any more than you feel shame now. Again, this is not about you, but those your betrayal has hurt. By realizing what their hurt is and the depth of their hurt, you will then be able to formulate what you will need to say to them.

Fourth, I would suggest you write a letter to each person on your list for the very reason that they may interrupt you and you will not be able to complete what needs to be said. By presenting a well thought out letter of confession, it will be up to them what they will do with it. It may be thrown in your face. You may get yelled or screamed at, or told never to return. You cannot control their response or reaction. Keep in mind you are responsible for your actions. In the event of their rage against you, remember your purpose for being there… it is about them not you. The prodigal son recognized he had squandered his right of sonship as we have also squandered our rights of acceptance.

I want to share a story from one of my clients. I will not give details of her betrayal, but suffice it to say over a number of years her actions destroyed not only her reputation, but relationships with her family, extended family and several other marriages. Upon a realization, not much unlike the prodigal son’s, she became aware of the wake of destruction she had left behind. She decided to change her life, come back to Christ and surrender her life to His lordship. She made a list of all she had harmed over the years. She then decided to physically face each one and confess what she had done and ask for their forgiveness.

This was a monumental task, one filled with fear and dread. As she recounted story after story of meeting the ones she had hurt, you could envision her walking up to the door and knocking. Taking a deep breath, she would say words like, “I am (__________). I am the one who destroyed your marriage. I may never know the extent of hurt I have caused you. I am so sorry for what I have done to you and your children and your family. I have given my life to Christ. He is my Savior and Lord. I want to ask you to forgive me for the pain I have caused you.”

The last time I saw this precious woman, she had personally faced everyone she knew that she had hurt. She told me not one person threw her off the porch or slammed the door in her face. Time and time again she was received with such grace she was shocked. She did it right!

Fifth, realize it takes time to heal. In the story above the hurts this woman had caused had happened several years prior for many of these people, some more recent. In the case of the prodigal son, we don’t know how long he was gone, but apparently it had taken him quite a while to go through his inheritance. Emotional healing takes time. While forgiveness can be granted, trust has to be earned over time. Restoration of relationships is a process not an act. Talk to those who you have hurt and let them know what you are doing to prevent future betrayals.
We have all pushed the button that has devastated the lives of family members and friends. What is left for you to say? How will you say it? When will you say it? May the Lord Jesus bless you as you seek to rebuild relationships!

* Yeah, I know, “hearsed” is not in spell check, it just seemed to fit at the time.

Craig Boden

For help, see Every Man’s Battle.
If you have already attended Every Man’s Battle, please honor your wife by joining us in our couples program at our next New Life Weekend.