Rejection in Recovery: Handling an Earthquake to the Heart

Pastor Ed Grant

The rain-slick highway was more dangerous than it appeared in the headlights, especially through the blurry eyes of someone who had indulged in a few too many drinks. But Bob knew the way home, and he had driven it countless times before without any problems. He had called his wife, Denise, to say that he was on his way home and assured her that he was fine to drive. However, once outside the tavern, he stood for a full half hour telling a friend about a recent fishing trip. Denise worried: it was only a ten minute trip from the tavern and her husband had yet to come through the front door.

She decided to drive there to see if something had happened to him. Bob knew she would be angry for a time – as she always was. He’d stop drinking for a while, attend a few AA meetings, and Denise faithfully came along side him to cheer him on. As Bob approached a curve in the road his front tires lost all traction. He began to slide across the double yellow line just as a car came around the curve the other way. In his headlights he saw the terrified face of a woman: it was Denise. To avoid a collision she went off the road and hit a telephone pole, demolishing her car and breaking her leg in two places. Surgery was necessary to repair the damage: steel rods, pins, and screws – equipment better suited for a metal shop – now held her leg in place until it would heal.

It was now three months since the accident. Bob attended AA meetings faithfully and hadn’t had a drink since the accident. He was excited about his sobriety and grateful to God for sparing his wife’s life. He was also terribly sorry for the pain he had caused his wife. But, truth be told, Bob was growing increasingly frustrated with Denise. She was cold, somewhat distant, suffering both from physical and emotional pain. He longed to have his cheerleader wife back in his corner again and was both sad and miffed that she didn’t celebrate or even seem to notice all the changes that were taking place in his life.

But Denise could not cheer him on. She had a wounded heart and a broken leg – and he was the cause of both.

Bob was feeling rejected by his wife, one of the most painful emotions we can experience. Those in recovery feel it even more acutely because they have stopped medicating their pain with drugs, alcohol, or pornographic fantasy. They are fragile and self absorbed, typically more aware of their own pain than of the pain they have inflicted on others. They want to move on with their lives, wanting everyone around them to notice what they’ve accomplished, to cheer them on and to trust them again. The trouble is, the cheerleader’s leg is still broken.

Emotional Pitfalls on the Road to Recovery

1. Unrealistic expectations
Those in recovery need to remember the years of pain, deceit, broken promises, and hardships created by their addiction have had a greater negative impact upon their loved ones than they can possibly know. Their loved ones require selfless support throughout the healing process. We can’t ‘fix’ our loved ones or undo what we have done, but through sincere and patient love we can help create the climate in which God can bring healing.

2. Riding the ’emotional Ferris wheel’ with loved ones
Those in recovery often give their wounded loved ones the power to dictate their feelings. If the loved one is hopeful, they feel hopeful; if he is having a bad day, they don’t feel they have the right to be happy. While riding the emotional Ferris wheel is normal for our wounded loved ones, it is unhealthy to take a ride with them. It is a nasty trap that keeps us from recognizing and celebrating what God is doing in us, making it difficult for us to leave shame in the past and to fight the temptation to return to the addiction.

Finding refreshment for the Journey

The road to recovery is too demanding to walk alone. Sponsors, mentors, pastors, and support group members are prepared to offer the encouragement that loved ones are not able to give at the moment. This requires time, energy and a willingness to allow others to minister to us.

Finally, time spent with God in prayer, meditation and the reading of His holy Word are indispensable assets for recovery. St. Paul reminded the congregation in Rome of this, ‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves’May the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:4 & 5, 13).

For help with alcohol or drugs, call our Resource Center at (800) 639-5433.
For help with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Ministering Through Our Experience of Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

I began counseling Sarah almost eight years ago. Her addictions and self destructive behavior were misguided attempts to keep her painful feelings at bay, to keep her ‘in the land of numb’. Recovery has been an inch by inch experience as we plumbed the depths of her painful past. Despite some occasional emotional struggles and setbacks, she and her husband now have a marriage neither could have imagined before they began the journey toward recovery together.

As our congregation prepares to begin ‘Celebrate Recovery’, a wonderful program based on the Beatitudes, I asked Sarah to lead the group for sexually abused women. Though she stills struggles with the shame of her past she sincerely desires to use her experience to help others. Recently she said to me, ‘It would be a shame not to use my experience to help others.’

Satan’s purpose is to keep us bound in the shame of our sins and secret past, isolated from God and from one another.

God’s intention for our recovery was demonstrated most clearly on the cross when He defeated sin, death and the devil. The open tomb on Easter declared to the world God’s power to rescue those held by death’s bonds and by the devil’s lies, to free them to experience His amazing, unconditional love.

St. Paul writes, ‘He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.‘ (Col.2:13b-15).

The scars on His resurrected body became the evidence of Jesus’ triumph. Ministering to others through our recovery requires that we show them our scars. God has chosen to use our scars and the vulnerability it takes to show them to offer hope, wisdom, encouragement and warning to those embarking on the journey toward recovery.

Our scars give hope.
Ted Rose, a former elder who has gone home to be with Jesus, loved to visit the sick and shut-ins. Once he visited a man who was to undergo heart surgery the following day. He was visibly shaken at the thought of having his body cut open. Ted offered to pray with the man and to show his own scar from heart surgery. Seeing Ted’s scar had a very calming effect. Our scars show the world that we survived our wounds and that there can be healing for those whose wounds are still bleeding.

Our scars offer wisdom.
It is important that we learn from our mistakes, but heaven help us if it is the only way we learn! How much better to learn from the mistakes of others. King David sinned and, for a time, was in denial about it. God’s hand was heavy upon him until he finally came clean about his secret sin. After he confessed his sin and received forgiveness he wrote, ‘8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.‘ (Psalm 32).

The mistakes we have made can serve as warnings to those considering a short-cut to recovery. Our failures can expose the traps and pitfalls Satan conceals from view.

Our scars offer encouragement.


Those beginning recovery usually have a difficult time receiving God’s love for them because of an overwhelming sense of shame. Those who bare their scars give great encouragement to accept what cannot now be felt. Their scars testify to the healing power that flows from God’s loving touch. When the walking wounded see us and hear our candid testimonies they are encouraged to believe that God could love even them.

Paul often recalls his past life for this very purpose: ‘15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.‘(1 Timothy 1:15-16).

To Titus he wrote, ‘12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

As we share our scars with the wounded I believe that God continues to work healing in our own lives. Certainly the telling of our stories and the response we receive dispels the commonly held belief: ‘If you really knew me you wouldn’t love me’. We are refreshed and encouraged as we see the way God uses our scars to touch the lives of others.

When we get to heaven and see Jesus, we will gaze upon His scars. They are ‘the marks of love the Father chose never to erase.’ (Michael Card)

Celebrating His Attributes: The Message of Love from the Manger

Pastor Ed Grant

It was the day after Christmas. The pastor of St. John Lutheran Church approached the sanctuary from the parking lot and noticed that the beautiful, life-size nativity scene on the front lawn had an empty cr’che. He shook his head in disbelief and looked up and down the deserted road. About a block away he saw a young boy pulling a shiny red wagon with a passenger in the back: it was the baby Jesus. The pastor ran towards the boy and called out to him. When he reached the boy he asked him what he was doing with baby Jesus. The boy answered, ‘The week before Christmas I came to the manger and had a talk with baby Jesus. I promised Him that, if I got a red wagon, I’d come back and give Him a ride in it. I was just keeping my promise.’

There is a beautiful innocence about the boy’s attitude toward Jesus: He considered Jesus very approachable. As I prepared my Christmas sermon this year and considered the timeless accounts of the nativity I was profoundly touched by the message of love from the manger. I hope God refreshes your heart with a renewed sense of His love for you.

The first truth I grasped is that God comes to us whether we think we are ready or not. There is an old saying that goes ‘time and tides wait for no one.’ Surely a baby’s entrance into the world can be added to that list. No matter what we are doing when junior decides to enter the world, we stop what we’re doing and make for the hospital right away (Romans 5:8). When God reveals Himself to someone He doesn’t wait until the person feels worthy or until he has achieved some victory over the sinful aspects of his life. In fact, I have observed that He usually comes to us when life seems broken beyond repair or when we become painfully aware of our sins against Him. When we’ve exhausted every attempt to blame others for our failures and mistakes and finally accept personal responsibility, God is there to meet us.

St. Paul, who regarded himself as the ‘chief of sinners’, wrote, ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ His amazing love encourages us to turn from our sins and our self-directed life and gives us hope that He is willing to forgive us, fill us, heal us, and receive us as His beloved children.

Secondly, I realized how vulnerable God made Himself when He sent His Son as a babe in the manger. More than any other creature God fashioned, babies are the most helpless creatures for the longest period of time. Feeding, dressing, cleaning – the parental responsibility list seems endless. Isn’t it amazing that God made His Son to need the care of His earthly parents? His vulnerability also means that He was susceptible to the full range of emotions and hurts we experience: rejection, betrayal, anger, surprise, laughter, joy and grief. He is still susceptible to these emotions. That’s the paradox of love: You cannot love imperfect people and open yourself to receive their love without the potential for pain. God is willing to take that risk with you!

Finally, I was deeply moved as I considered how much love a baby requires. Most babies enjoy being held, cooed at, watching adults make funny faces at them, playing peek-a-boo, hearing music, being carried around, danced with and bounced on the knee. Babies always seem to stir up the funniest reactions in people, even during Sunday worship. More than once I’ve watch a baby steal the show when a parent puts him on their shoulder during the sermon. Adults for two full rows back can’t resist waving to the baby or making faces at him!

When I think about the baby Jesus in a manger I observe a profound invitation from God to love Him back. Read that again and let it soak into your heart.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.’(1 John 5:1) God wants us to love Him by loving His most precious Son. All the love God has for you is bound up in that precious child Who would one day give His life in your place. He left the splendor and glory of heaven and came to us in a way that everyone can receive Him – even a boy with a red wagon.