Thoughts on Joy in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Short is the joy that guilty pleasure brings.”
‘ Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC)

“Joy is not a substitute for sex, sex is very often a substitute for joy.”
‘ C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!
We find in Galations 5:22, that Joy is the second fruit of the spirit. It is high on the list of ‘fruit’ that clearly comes from heaven, through the Holy Spirit and to us.

Let’s look at the definition of Joy:

The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight.

Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good.” ‘ John Locke (1632 – 1704)

Look at a significant part of joy’meditation, consideration, and expectation of future good. This is at the heart of Joy. Not simply a delight that is happening now’though I may rejoice about the present’but, significantly, the prospect and expectation of future good. To overcome the temptation of today, and to enjoy today, I must focus on: the joy that will come tomorrow by saying no to that sin; the joy that will come from all the good that God has for me today and in the future.

We find in Hebrews the power and need for joy for endurance and overcoming. Of Jesus we read ‘Who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame.’ Hebrews 12:2

What are some of the good things that will ‘come tomorrow’ if I say no to sin today? Some things we find from scripture are: reward in heaven, good reputation, clear conscience, peace that comes from not having the fear of being caught.

Another vital part of Joy in Recovery is about coming to the end of my own strength and coming to the beginning of God’s strength. As long as I focus only on what I can do, arrange or manipulate, I can have no lasting joy. When I come to the end of my strength I am at the beginning of God’s.

In 1 Corinthians 12:9 the Lord told Paul that ‘My grace (God’s) is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I (Paul) will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may overshadow me.’

I think it seems strange on the surface to consider that I would ‘glory’ in my weakness. However, as I look closer at this I realize that the ‘glory’ is not about me, but about my absolute need for the Lord’s strength and power. As I embrace and acknowledge my weakness I naturally begin to look for strength and power from another source. As the power of Christ ‘overshadows’ me, I begin to find the joy that I could not find while looking to my own strength or my own prospects for the future.

And in James 1:2 we find that James exhorts us to ‘count it joy’ when we fall into temptations. He tells us the trying of our faith works patience. This prospect of giving thanks or rejoicing with temptations seems difficult if not impossible. We must do this by faith and not according to our emotions. The joy seems to be about the good that it will bring to me as I overcome in the strength of the Lord and about the God who is sovereign over all my life and circumstances. I can count that joy.

In Nehemiah 8:10 we find the exhortation that ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ I pray that the Joy of the Lord will be your strength and my strength today and from this day on.

“The joy of a spirit is the measure of its power.” ‘ Ninon de Lenclos (1620 – 1705)

Re-building the Bridge Called Trust

Pastor Ed Grant

The old covered walking bridge across the Delaware River had stood for as long as anyone could remember. It connected the town of Portland, Pennsylvania with Columbia, New Jersey. During the spring one year ice flows combined with a large amount of rain and the swollen river washed away part of the bridge and weakened what remained.

Trust between people is like a bridge built from both sides of a river. When it is built with care and careful planning it will be durable, capable of weathering the storms of life. Occasionally it will need repair and certainly will require periodic maintenance, but individuals feel safe to put a great deal of emotional weight on the bridge: keeping one’s promises is expected; sensitive secrets divulged are carefully protected; personal flaws and weaknesses are accepted.

Happy is the person who has one or two close relationships! Building the bridge called trust is costly, risky and requires a substantial time investment, but the rewards are truly fulfilling.

What happens, though, when a large section of the trust-bridge has been washed away through betrayal, deception or a litany of broken promises? The ache and bitterness of soul can be almost unbearable. King David wrote about the agony caused by a friend’s betrayal: ‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.‘ (Psalm 55:12-14).

Is it possible to re-build the trust-bridge? How can we be sure that it won’t be washed out again?

Because we are all fallen human beings the potential for getting hurt again is always a possibility. Only Jesus, the friend of sinners, Who loved us while we were still His enemies, is worthy of our complete emotional trust. His nail scarred hands continually reach out to us, inviting us into His loving embrace. Having said this, however, God does intend for us to take the risk to restore broken relationships and to establish new ones. The trust-bridge must be re-built from both sides. Whether it is a marriage, a parent child relationship, or a friendship, the following principles apply to re-building trust.

For the wounded:

1. Those wounded need to take an emotional inventory: what happened; what has resulted from the person’s action; in what ways can I still trust him/her and in what ways is it unwise to trust?

2. The wounded desperately need God’s healing hand and His protection against the root of bitterness that frequently spring up from a wound. Healing may take a long time, depending on the damage done to the trust-bridge.

3. Trust and forgiveness are not the same . Forgiveness may be given long before trust is re-established. Those who have breached trust must demonstrate their trustworthiness over a period of time.

4. Talking with a close friend, a pastor or a counselor can provide insight and a different perspective. Don’t go through it by yourself!

5. Ask God for wisdom and discernment to help you determine the sincerity of the person’s sorrow over the offense, the desire to make restitution, and the efforts to change.

For those who have broken trust.

Solomon wrote, ‘Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for.’ (Prov. 16:6a). Love is the consideration shown for the injured; faithfulness is demonstrated by consistent change of behavior . Fleshed out it looks like this:

1. There are no quick fixes for the pain caused, nor are there any shortcuts to getting back to the way things were before. A great deal of patience and humility is needed to hear the other’s pain, often many times.

2. Accept responsibility for your actions without blaming others or explaining them away. Attempts to explain minimize the offense and show the wounded loved one you ‘don’t get it.’

3. Accept the consequences of your actions, including the emotional distance, and make restitution when possible.

4. Be accountable for your actions without becoming defensive.

5. Ask God to give you a view your sin from His perspective and to allow you to grasp the severity of the wound you caused.

6. Pray regularly for God’s healing touch upon the person and for sensitivity to their needs.

God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.”

The wonderful benefits that spring from trusting relationships is worth the risk of potential heartache. God can heal heartache, but He won’t fill the lonely void within when we refuse to build trust-bridges with others, especially with His people.

Hot Under the Collar: A Godly Response to Anger

Jeff McVay

We have all been there at one point in our lives or another. Our spouse, kids, boss, neighbor, or friend does or says something that upsets us and all of a sudden we feel the pressure begin to build. Your shirt starts to feel tight around the collar, like the dry cleaner put too much starch on it. Heat builds up around the ears and you feel your face begin to flush. As you continue to think about the action or what was said it increases. Your heart pounds and life begins to go in slow motion. You can almost hear NASA control…T minus 10, 9, 8.

What you do or say at this moment may affect the next few minutes, hours, days or even years. What usually happens for you? Do you go into “silent treatment” mode? Do you escape onto the highways and freeways in pursuit of your NASCAR fantasies? Or do you explode with a tirade of intimidating words or actions in a vain attempt to control the situation? Regardless of the action the result is distance, danger and damage none of which bring back the closeness or safety that we all hope for in our relationships.

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about anger and how we should respond to it? Maybe you are wondering what God expects of you when it comes to your angry feelings towards others. You may have searched the Bible for answers and have finished with more questions than you started with. Be assured that you are in good company and your questions are valid and understandable. The Bible makes a few things clear when it comes to talking about anger. It lets us know that anger, is a feeling is God created and is not a sin, but anger is a slippery slope that can lead us to sinful action.

As Christians we believe that God created all things even human emotion of which anger is one. Believe it or not, anger does serve a purpose for each individual. It is not a pleasant emotion but it is one that can be useful. I like to compare it to pain. Pain is not very fun to feel but if we did not have it we would not know to move our hand off the hot burner or our bodies out of harmful situations. Anger is an emotion that comes up as a reaction to someone interfering or placing limits upon our will. If the limit is an unjust one such as slavery, racism or sexism then that anger gives us the motivation to make a positive change. Dr. Richard P. Walters defines this positive use of anger as indignation. Indignation as a response to our natural anger at injustice is a good, non sinful, God created, emotion that can be used for bettering things here on earth. Once the injustice is corrected the emotion drops off much like pain once the healing from the hurt has occurred.

However, the Bible also recognizes that anger can be held onto and even fostered within us to the point that it leads us into sin very quickly. Therefore it gives us a great guideline for how to deal with anger so that it leads us through the feelings and back into relationship with those whom we are angry. Ephesians 4:25-27 tells us:

‘So then, putting away falsehood let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the adversary.’

This scripture gives us a great strategy for dealing with our anger in a Godly manner.

In it we are told that there are appropriate times to be angry. In the original language, this word for anger is in the imperative meaning that it is a command. This means that in those appropriate times we are commanded to be angry. But it holds in tension that the anger must be expressed in a way that is not sinful or destructive to the person who is angry or to the group or individual with whom we are angry.

How do we do this?

The first and last verses give us great examples. The prior verse says that we must put away falsehood and speak the truth. This gives two guidelines. First, it reminds us that we must not say false things about the one with whom we are angry. Often when we are angry with someone we say things about him or her that are not true. In our explosiveness we may degrade, insult or attack who they are. This often leads to further anger and hostility on their part and most of the time we wind up regretting what we have said about them.

Secondly, it tells us that we must speak the truth. This means that we must speak truthfully to the one we are angry with about how we are feeling and how the action they have taken has wounded us. We are allowed and even expected to say to the one who is offending that their action has a consequence in our lives and because we are ‘members of one another’ it has a consequence for them as well. Only then can we come to a resolution.

The last verse then prompts us to come to a resolution quickly. Hopefully it can be resolved within the day and we are urged to try to make it so. Otherwise we give our anger a foothold that can be used to break down our relationships instead of building them up.

This does not mean that we cannot take a ‘time out’ to gain control of our anger and frustration so that we can put away falsehood, speak the truth and do so in a timely manner. In fact sometimes we must have this space in order to allow ourselves to calm down and process what we must say. If this is the case for you, a great strategy is to tell the other that you must have some time to think and give them a set time that you will be back to talk about what has happened. Then you must follow through with what you have said.

One of the great ways to speak the truth about your feelings and stay away from falsehoods is to use the following formula when speaking to the one with whom you are angry. The formula is as follows:

‘I feel (state your feeling) when you said or did (state the action or words that were spoken that brought up the feeling) because (state the message that you received from the action or words) and what I need or want from you is (state what it is that you think will fix things in the relationship).’

This simple statement can help you formulate what you want to say in order to make things right in a timely manner. It causes us to be responsible for our feelings instead of the other’s behavior (which we cannot control anyway). Then we state why it hurt us and what we think will help mend the relationship. It is not easy to do but with practice this simple formula can help us follow scripture’s advice concerning anger.

For some of us, anger has been around for so long that we may need to enlist the help of others (pastor or therapist) to help us learn this method. Yet if we commit ourselves to working out our anger in a Godly manner we will find that we are blessed with relationships that enrich and nourish our lives with the goodness that God has for us.

For some help with anger call 1-800-NEW-LIFE. A ministry service representative can help you set an appointment with a Christian counselor or connect you with a Christian coach.
Also, please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.