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)

Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’

Fresh Start

hand&treeSeptember is just around the corner, and for many people September means a new start, a fresh start. Students, from kindergarten to graduate school are preparing to begin a new year of classes which will equip them to be successful in life. In churches around the country, September means a new start; pastors starting a new series, Sunday School classes starting new curriculum, and men’s ministries starting new topics of discussion. How about you? Do you feel the need for a fresh start right now?

Let’s look at a couple of areas where a new and fresh start might be just the thing that you need to get you out of the ‘dog days of August.’

How about a fresh start in your relationship with God? Are you spending time with Him each day, in His Word and in prayer? There is no way to have a relationship with someone, anyone, if you don’t spend time with them. The first point of Joe’s after-care action plan is to have a quiet time, even if it’s only about 10 or 15 minutes, with the Lord each day. You really don’t have the desire to do that? My encouragement would be to do it anyway. My guess is that your desire will come around after awhile. C.S. Lewis said, “it’s easier to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action.” If you wait till you feel like having a quiet time you may never do it. Just go ahead and start your plan of 10-15 minutes a day with the Lord and watch Him work on your feelings. The quiet time with the Lord is the first and most important way to get, or continue on the road to sexual sobriety and purity. Remember that you can do everything through the One who strengthens you.

How about a fresh start in your relationships with your wife, or other significant relationships? This is the perfect time to suggest to your wife that you sit and read ‘Every Woman’s Marriage‘ together. After she’s picked herself up off the floor from fainting, suggest a night that you can sit together and read, and experience some emotional and spiritual closeness. This fall can be the perfect opportunity for you to initiate that emotional connectedness that you’ve been missing in your relationship. That connectedness is one thing that will help you in your quest to get victory over the hurtful, inappropriate connectedness that you may have been trying to get through pornography. You’re not married? How about a fresh start with your friends, or family? How about reaching out to that buddy who you know would make a great accountability partner? How about making a fresh start with that son or daughter that you’ve hurt in the past with your actions and haven’t talked to in awhile. God’s forgiveness has felt fresh and new to you since Every Man’s Battle, so let’s pass it on to others. Come on, let’s make a fresh start in September. It’ll take a little work, but it will be worth it.