Thoughts on Rest in Recovery

Bob Damrau

Say, ‘When’

A cartoon that recently got my attention depicted a client exclaiming to his counselor, ‘I’m learning how to relax, doctor—but I want to relax better and faster. I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation!’ I smiled on the outside but a deeper sense of fatigue prompted a time of personal reflection. I was feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a major life transition. My behaviors appeared frantic, as if I was in a run-down between necessary activities and scheduled deadlines. I thought nothing was being done quite right and gave up on ever hearing the words, ‘You’re safe.’

This downward pattern of thought is a vulnerable place for anyone, but it is especially dangerous to an individual with compulsive tendencies. The temptation to give in to a quick fix presented itself as my way to escape from feeling out of control. It would have been easy to act out and medicate the seeming negativity, but I have learned to better manage situations like this in order to prevent that kind of relapse. I brought to mind a quote from Rollo May, who said, ‘It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.’

Then I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s gospel, ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Did you know that Christ spoke this during a time of increased opposition to His ministry? That acted as the reality check I needed to identify the problem, break free from the insane thoughts, and find rest within the bounds of a healthier perspective.

The earthly lifestyle of our Savior is the prime example of living a balanced life. A colleague once said, ‘Jesus–the only person ever to be charged with saving the world—never got in a hurry.’ Just prior to preaching in Galilee, cleansing a leper, and healing a paralytic, the Lord ‘went out and departed to a solitary place’ (Mark 1:35). When the disciples finally located Him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you’ (Mark 1:37). There were urgent matters to be addressed for sure, but He knew the limits of life in the flesh.

People teetering on the edge of burnout usually spend too much time and emotional energy caring for others and too little for themselves. That happens when we attempt to outwork and under-rest everyone we know, including God. I often wonder if Jesus would be hired by a lot of churches if His work habits were well known. My favorite movie is ‘Regarding Henry.’ Harrison Ford plays a powerful and arrogant lawyer whose life is drastically altered when he walks into the middle of an armed robbery and is shot in the head. His injuries leave this character with some long term cognitive deficits. Returning to his office, Henry’s secretary offers him a cup of coffee and cheerfully says; ‘Say when,’ as she pours the milk. The camera pans from the coffee cup to Henry and back again, without a word from him. When the secretary realized her disabled boss would not respond, she finished pouring the milk, handed Henry the cup and cordially said, ‘When you’ve had enough, you need to say ‘when.” Later in the movie, Henry is fed up with his old lifestyle of sex, lies and greed, and decides to change. As he walks by his secretary he exclaims, ‘I’ve had enough, so I’m saying ‘when.” I was that character—always on, ready and in control. It wasn’t until I experienced a traumatic illness that landed me in the hospital for an entire month that I began to come to terms with the fact that control is God’s realm and I needed to cast aside my plan and take on His yolk. That’s how I learned to say when.

Getting caught up in the fast pace of life is a certainty. A lack of rest can lower a person’s resistance to the place of despair. Any plan for recovery must include an appropriate amount of R & R, and Jesus, Himself, promises to give it. He simply requires that we come to Him. There, in His presence, is where I heard, ‘You’re safe.’

Need help finding harmony and balance in your life? Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Blessings for the Pure in Heart

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Recently, my family and I returned from a vacation trip. After we boarded the plane to return home, we were delayed on the runway for three hours due to a line of thunderstorms moving through the Chicago area. As we waited for the plane to get clearance to take-off, the movie ‘Chicago‘ came on.

Our two oldest children Abigail, 7 and Micah, 5 had brought plenty to do on the plane and my wife and I explained to them that the movie was not appropriate for them to watch. They understood and we proceeded to read and play with them to occupy their attention away from the inappropriate movie.

On occasion, Rebecca or I would catch one of them watching the movie and we would gently remind them to refocus on their activities. Due to the long delay and the temptation right in front of them, the reminders were many. On about the third time of encouraging my daughter Abigail to refocus, she looked at me with the most troubling, anguished face and said, “But, Daddy it’s so hard.” After briefly empathizing with her and helping her to refocus, my heart broke for her. She was right – it is very hard. Hard not to look. Hard not to be enticed. Hard not to want to see more than allowed.

As I thought about my daughter’s true expression of her heart, I was reminded about the difficulty we men on the healing path of recovery face at times when temptation presents itself to us. We definitely know that God will give us a way out when tempted (I Corinthians 10:13) and we are growing daily at practicing an implementing our maintenance tools and God’s truth about us in recovery. But I want to encourage you that He knows that it is hard to choose purity in spite of our daily obedience to Him in our recovery.

Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8, NIV

Maintaining purity in light of the difficulty to resist temptation will be rewarded. Rewarded in a way that says we will see Him. I interpret this in two ways. First, we will see God in Heaven someday when we die. Secondly, we will know His comfort now in the midst of our trial. You might be wondering how? How do we know His comfort? He experienced the same temptation and pain that we face. In Hebrews 2:17-18, Paul writes: “For this reason, He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

He’s been there. Jesus is the ultimate in empathy and understanding. As the Message puts it, “He would have already experienced it all Himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.” (Hebrews 2:18, MSG).

Gentlemen, we have a Savior and High Priest who knows where we’ve been. He knows how hard it is too be tempted and to remain pure. It was His own purity in response to being tempted that allows us to trust and take refuge in Him without doubting His love, mercy, and faithfulness to us.

Let God know how difficult it is; then take REFUGE in His LOVE for you!

This battle with being tempted by sexual sin is hard and difficult. But remember to let Him know how difficult it is for you on days when it seems so hard to resist and then take refuge in His love for you knowing that he will give you understanding because he’s been there, too. And because He’s been there too, He is able to help when and where help is needed. This help may come through taking shelter in His word or the help may come through leaning on the understanding of another brother who can empathize with you and encourage you to keep pure in the face of temptation. Just as my daughter Abigail reached out to her Daddy, you can reach out to your heavenly Father when things get tough. He will understand. He will be faithful to hear your heart and help you refocus on the things that are pure, lovely, and right.

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle or call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

Your True Nature

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can not then be false to any man.”
– Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

“I can’t help being who I am!”, my client screamed. We were in the middle of our third counseling session together, and he was contemplating his decision to stop using pornography and prostitutes. His sexual behavior had become such a primary part of his life, though, that leaving it behind felt impossibly unnatural. “It’s my nature as a guy to want this,” he argued. “If I stop, aren’t I just trying to be somebody I’m not?”

As a Christian man struggling with sexual temptations, you may be asking the same question. You may, in fact, be considering a complete abandonment of the faith instead of abandoning your behavior.

The immediate payoff for such a decision is gratification. You will no longer be denying yourself the “right” to do what seems natural to you. And that may really seem more important to you than Christianity itself.

But then, what is your concept of Christianity? Did God promise you that, having been converted, you would be finished with personal struggles? Was there anything in Christ’s teaching implying total fulfillment in this life? Is Christianity a religious form of therapy designed to ensure the happiness of its followers?

Does it make you angry to even ask these questions? If so, you may have forgotten that the core of our faith is the Person Jesus Christ, and the expression of our faith is a life of service to Him, not ourselves. Jesus made this clear: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24).

The core of our faith is Jesus Christ. The expression of our faith is a life of service to Him. Regarding our attitude toward this primary but overlooked aspect of Christianity, Francis Schaeffer, in his book True Spirituality, comments: “It is not a matter of waiting until we no longer have strong sexual desires, but rather, when we are surrounded by a world that grabs everything, we are to understand what Jesus means when He talks about denying ourselves that which is not rightfully ours.”

Ironically, then, abandoning the faith in a quest for personal happiness may well be the way to sabotage that very quest. Remember, if you are a believer, you have experienced the rebirth described in John 3:16, which is not easily shrugged off. You were given the seed of God Himself: ‘Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God.’  (1 Peter 1:23).

That being the case, it is questionable whether you will ever be happy in a back-slidden state. The dissatisfaction you will feel apart from fellowship with Christ may well outweigh whatever dissatisfaction you’re experiencing now as a struggling Christian. I am who I am, I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.

You might argue, ‘But I am who I am. That’s my nature, and I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.’ I would argue the same point, changing the noun. You are indeed who you are, a Christian. That’s your nature, and you can’t be at peace unless you’re true to yourself.