Restoring Broken Relationships

Steve Arterburn

We all suffer from broken relationships’with God and with others. This brokenness will weigh you down spiritually unless you take steps to mend it. And God wants to heal the brokenness and he wants you to participate by forgiving and seeking forgiveness for yourself.

God’s ultimate plan for you and our world involves healing. In the Bible, the apostle John saw a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, in which this healing would be complete.

Although we know that God will heal all things when he returns to rule, until then we need to take steps toward mending the brokenness. Giving and receiving forgiveness is a must when it comes to spiritual healing. In doing so you will make peace with God, with yourself, and with those you’ve alienated.

Who do you owe an apology to? Who do you need to forgive? Just remember, God has placed one condition on our receiving His forgiveness’that we forgive others. It’s a serious thing. Just remember, we don’t earn forgiveness, and we shouldn’t expect others to earn ours.

The Miracle that Almost Wasn’t

Edward J. Grant

Naaman, a trusted general in the Syrian army during the days of Elisha, was a brave, well decorated soldier. The king trusted his judgment implicitly as he basked in the glow of a decisive victory over his arch enemy: Israel – God’s renegade people.

However, any biography about Naaman would inevitably conclude with one sad note: ‘but Naaman had leprosy.’ Leprosy – that hideous, debilitating, skin disease inspired fear and was viewed by many as a punishment from God. He could never fully enjoy his long list of accomplishments so long as that ‘but’ remained a part of his biography.

Through the testimony of an Israelite slave girl Naaman heard about a prophet in Israel who was purported to have the power to heal his affliction. With the permission of his king and laden with extravagant gifts for the prophet Elisha, Naaman and his retinue made the trip to Israel.

When he finally reached the prophet’s house he was filled with hope and expectation. Both were quickly dashed when the meeting didn’t go the way he expected.

In the sight of his entourage Naaman masked his nervousness as he walked up to the prophet’s door and knocked. A servant answered and announced Naaman’s arrival. Naaman wondered what this miracle working prophet looked like and was visibly upset when Elisha had the audacity to send the servant back to deliver a brief message to the decorated general: ‘go, bathe yourself seven times in the Jordan and you will be healed.’ With that the servant went back into the house and closed the door.

Was that it? His hopes of healing depended on his bathing seven times in the Jordan? Naaman shook with rage: ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord His God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Arbana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ Naaman had traveled so far filled with hope and was within seven baths of a new life sans leprosy: would he simply walk away from it?

Naaman faced two difficulties that threatened to abort his healing: his expectations and his faulty reasoning. ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me” God had a different plan for Naaman, one that involved lessons the general needed to learn that were of equal or even greater importance than his desire for healing. He who was accustomed to giving orders needed to learn to take them from the one true God! Notice also how his faulty reasoning almost sabotaged his healing: ‘Are not Arabana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel?’ If all he had to do was take a bath, why couldn’t he have stayed at home?

Those whose lives have been trashed by addictions usually find themselves at the bottom of a huge pile of emotional rubble. Out of desperation they are willing to try almost anything that holds the promise of help. They make deals with God, promises to loved ones – if any are still speaking to them – and are even willing to attend a recovery group. I’ve seen many of them come through the doors of our church to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christian recovery ministry used by congregations around the country. Perhaps for the first time in their lives they profess a need for God and willingly admit that their lives are unmanageable. Over the weeks that follow they remain sober, they engage in heart felt discussions with fellow pilgrims, and a flicker of hope becomes visible in their attitude.

But then they are faced with the demands of the third principle: ‘Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.’ Suddenly they flinch: ‘Can God be trusted to control my life? Why can’t I keep some of it for my direction and allow God to just handle my addiction?’ As I like to say to these queries: ‘Your best thinking got you into the trouble you find yourself in.’

Perhaps they get beyond the third principle but get hung up by the fourth : ‘Openly examine and confess my faults to God, to myself, and to someone I trust.’ The thought of telling your faults to another person can be terrifying! Why not simply let it remain between you and God?

Remember – God’s healing will always take us out of our comfort zones, forcing us into the realm of faith and obedience. It is there that we meet God and experience His healing on various levels, many of which we weren’t aware we needed!

By the way – Naaman’s story has a happy ending. His servants pleaded with him saying, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, than, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!” Naaman heeded his servant’s urgent pleadings, bathed seven times in the Jordan, and was completely healed. When you’ve come to the end of your ideas, resources and hope, don’t be surprised that God’s path toward healing is one you never expected!

Need some help in the battle for purity? See Every Man’s Battle.

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.