Positive Pain

Steve Arterburn

Sometimes forgiveness involves pain. When we confront people regarding betrayal, abandonment, abuse, deception, or other offenses, we’ll likely experience sorrow. We need to accept this as part of the consequences of sin and learn to freely express it to God. He can transform the pain associated with wrongdoing and bring about good for everyone involved.

Remember men: not all sorrow is bad for you. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth that made them sad because he confronted them about wrongdoing. He initially regretted hurting them. But after reflection he wrote these words, which you can find in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: ‘Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed’in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.’

The grief Paul described was good. It was caused by his love for others in action, and accessed in light of honest self-evaluation. Like Paul, we too must learn that sometimes sorrow is a positive part of our spiritual growth. So when you’re confronted with it, don’t run from it and don’t reject it. Enter into it asking God to use it to direct the course of your life along redemptive paths.

Recovery as Spiritual Warfare, Part 1

The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was riveting. I had never before seen such a realistic portrayal of men going into battle. The vomiting and praying, tangible expressions of the upset the men were going through, were believable.

As He prepared for the battle of Calvary, the Bible tells us that Jesus sweat blood. He poured out His heart in prayer to His Father. He was prepared for the battle and did not flinch in the face of it.

Examining Paul’s second letter to Corinth can help us better understand how we can prepare for and win the battle before us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

WE ARE CITIZENS OF TWO KINGDOMS THAT ARE AT WAR

Paul says we are waging war. We live in the world. The majority of you who are reading this are US citizens. But Paul makes clear that we are fighting an otherworldly battle while we are here. By faith we are citizens of God’s kingdom. The battle lines are drawn.

God’s objective is to show His glory by redeeming His fallen creation and fallen creatures. At the same time, Satan’s objective is to obscure the glory of God. Because Christian marriage is a part of God’s creative design, God’s enemies attack husbands and wives in order to divide them and rob them of the joy that results from true intimacy.

Sexual sin is one aspect of the disciple’s struggle. When Christian men are sexually impure, God’s love and grace are obscured and Satan gains a victory in the battle for God’s kingdom. The battle for sexual purity is a battle for recovery from the effects of the sin nature. Recovery is discipleship. Recovery is putting off and putting on.

WE ARE SOLDIERS IN GOD’S KINGDOM ARMY¬†

All who know Christ by faith are soldiers of the King’s army. There are no deferments. There are no conscientious objectors. There is no Switzerland, no neutrality in this war. I am a warrior for God’s kingdom.

Over 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote the timeless military classic, The Art of War. In it, he challenged: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’

In gathering intelligence about the enemy, we immediately consider the devil and the world. What we often fail to consider is that while I am a soldier, I am also fighting on the enemy side’my flesh is at war with the Spirit’s work in my life. While I am still vulnerable to the evil desires of my flesh, the temptations that this world offers, and the attacks of Satan and his legions, I am not vulnerable as I once was. By faith, I benefit from the indwelling Holy Spirit and the promises of God’s Word.

Further, I can’t win the war by myself. Paul didn’t write, ‘I do not wage war as the world does.’

The Rambo movies were very popular, but not a true reflection of genuine war. My addiction predisposes me to isolate myself from others and attempt to fight the war alone. Wars are a fought on an overwhelming scale and require armies to vanquish the enemy. By faith, I have been placed in a company of those who aspire to do God’s will and do it, though not perfectly.

Just as an individual soldier is trained to fight as a part of a squad, a platoon, a company, etc., so we need training to begin fighting our addiction alongside others. Many of the men who attend the Every Man’s Battle workshop find sharing their stories with others to be freeing. They feel like they have unburdened themselves. However, they often struggle after they return home to unburden themselves with the men they work or worship with. In order to win the battle for purity, I must become we. For the soldier, his training doesn’t end with Basic Training. And so we need training that continues beyond Every Man’s Battle.

See the article Recovery As Spiritual Warfare part 2, where we will consider the objectives and tactics that Paul urges us to adopt in fighting this spiritual war.

Jim Phillis

Getting Confession Right The First Time

Edward J. Grant

It had been years since Sally felt the gut-wrenching, searing pain of betrayal that left her world shattered in countless broken pieces. ‘This can’t be happening all over again,’ she thought, ‘not after all we’ve been through.’ What should she do? Where should she go with the holidays around the corner? Was her marriage over and should she demand her husband leave the home immediately? How could she be so stupid to ever have trusted him again? She was in shock, not unlike the shock that accompanies the death of a loved one. Her feelings would surely intensify in the coming days and weeks as the reality of her husband’s treachery settled in.

It began with the discovery of a pornographic web site on the computer. She knew that none of her three children had visited it and prayed that they hadn’t found the graphic pictures. That discovery, painful enough in its own right, was just the beginning. He confessed that hadn’t been honest with her when he first confessed seven years ago, admitting to using only four or five prostitutes during their marriage. There had been many, many more, ‘countless’ in his words. Then she was willing to attempt to salvage their marriage. Since that time they had both worked hard to rebuild, spending thousands of dollars in the process. They attended weekly support group meetings, marriage counseling, cried tears by the bucketful, and endured the interminable tug-of-war between hope and hopelessness. She began to see relational change over the years as both took the first fearful, faltering steps towards genuine intimacy, eventually renewing their wedding vows when she came to trust him once more. Now she learned that he had never been sober; he had lied to everyone. He had indulged in a number of affairs and never ceased frequenting prostitutes.

Having recounted some of the moral and spiritual failures of Israel to the troubled congregation at Corinth St. Paul wrote, ’11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’

As we reflect on one woman’s devastating experience caused by her husband’s sin let us consider several fatal flaws that contributed to his failure.

1. Confession needs to be complete. Whenever we try to do damage control by holding back important facts about our behaviors – often under the guise of ‘sparing her further pain’ – we are left with the relentless question: ‘If I had told her everything would she have stayed with me?’ Shame attends our incomplete confession and becomes the favorite target at which Satan hurls his accusations. King David was no stranger to the attempt to cover his sins instead of confessing them. He writes in Psalm 32, ‘3When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.’ Confession brought relief and healing in his heart and in his relationship with God: ‘5Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

2. Shame causes the intense pain that propels the addict into the predictable cycle of addiction. When some painful event in life accesses the well of shame hidden in the wounded heart the addict resorts to the familiar cycle of pre-occupation, ritual, and acting out, culminating with despair. The goal of acting out is a journey to the land of numb: no feeling is better than emotional pain. Loved ones are all too familiar with the emotional distance acting out causes between them and the addict.

3. Forgiveness comes from confessing our sins to God, but healing comes from confessing our sins to one another. James writes, ’16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ The healing God intends comes from caring relationships with fellow pilgrims wherein the lies we believe about ourselves can be dispelled. The four core beliefs of the addict are:
1. I am a bad and worthless person.
2. If you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me
(ergo no one gets to know the real me).
3. Sex is my greatest need.
4. Only I can meet my needs.
As fellow strugglers share their failures, pain and encouragements with each other the truth of divine, unconditional love begins to sink in.

4. Radical commitment to honesty. Unless a person is willing to commit to honesty regardless of the consequences, true change and healing is not possible. Jesus said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’ Walking in and living by God’s truth frees us from the weight of guilt, the arrows of shame and the accusations of Satan. Living by the truth is scary when you are accustomed to living a lie, but it is the only path on which we can find fellowship with God and the freedom He has promised.

Men struggling with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.
If you are married to a man struggling with sexual integrity, please join us for our Every Heart Restored program at our next New Life Weekend.