A World Of ‘Help’

Steve Arterburn

 

 

You face unlimited distractions that keep you from looking at yourself and your circumstances, don’t you? You use these things’ like work, sports, food, sex, or stuff’to try and meet legitimate needs in unhealthy ways. In other words, when you crave something you know isn’t good for you, you do so because you’re using it as a substitute for something you legitimately need but that you find has been difficult to acquire or achieve.

 

For example, men with an insatiable desire for status or possessions often have an unmet need for love but are afraid to take the risks that intimate relationships require. Instead they invest their time, money, and energy in inanimate objects’things that cannot surprise, disappoint, or reject them. Other men continually demand perfection in others. More often than not, they’re struggling with their own feelings of inferiority’and ultimately, with their own need to be forgiven.

 

Any intense ‘need’ or desire for a particular activity or relationship is a warning flag that you need to look at it more carefully. You may not know you’re using that activity or relationship as a substitute, but if the thought of losing it makes you fearful, you need to explore the reason why.

 

My point, men, is this: You have legitimate needs. And an important part of seeing and living the truth is finding out what those true needs really are and realizing that your heart won’t be satisfied by counterfeit substitutes.

Pain And Pleasure

Steve Arterburn

 

 

David Sper writes in his book Designed for Desire, ‘The root of all sexual perversions and immorality begins with the desire to relieve one’s pain with pleasure.’ It’s natural for us to be seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. So when pain doesn’t go away when we try to satisfy our cravings, we seek bigger and bigger pleasures to satisfy them ‘ to override and erase our pain.

Every sin is the result of an appetite going astray and seeking fulfillment in something other than what God intended. First, we experience that something is missing inside. Then we begin seeking ways to compensate for the void. This becomes especially destructive when we try filling an emotional or spiritual void with something physical.

We want to believe the reason our appetites get out of control is that we’re deprived of something we really need. We may say, ‘If I just had enough money to pay my bills, I wouldn’t need to drink like this.’ Or, ‘If I had someone to love me, I wouldn’t need pornography.’ Harry Schaumburg writes, ‘When people seek a taste of heaven by their own means, they create a living hell of uncontrollable desires.’ He’s absolutely right!

Men, seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness is something you need to learn how to do. The Bible tells us to do it first! Otherwise, you’ll misdiagnose your problem and seek the solution in sin. Learn to direct your temptation to a redemptive end by letting it drive you to Christ.

Motivation for Recovery

It is said that we are motivated by the desire to avoid pain (losing our job, marriage, reputation; etc.) and the desire to acquire gain (having peace of mind; hearing our father or wife say, ‘I’m proud of you,’ etc.). So what motivates you to work your battle plan each day?

A daily motivational review is a tool we discuss at Every Man’s Battle. It may include desiring intimacy with God, being tired of lying and covering up, wanting peace of mind, refusing to support something that is ruining human life, etc.

At the risk of pontificating spirituality, I’d like to look at an area of motivation that helps many of us in our recovery process, namely, wanting to know and experience the love of God.

Imagine you are hiking in the mountains and you slip off the edge of a cliff. You grab hold of a bush with your hands, but you’re now dangling over hundreds of feet below. You’re safe for the moment, but you can’t hold on for long. You must have help that is immediate, good, and adequate.

Now suppose help appears. Someone reaches down and says, ‘take my hand and I’ll pull you up. ‘Will you do it? The answer depends on the helper. Suppose it’s someone you deeply offended at one time? He may be strong enough to help, but will he? Or suppose it’s a ten year old Boy Scout with 20 merit badges? You know he will do everything in his power to help, but does he have enough strength? What will persuade you to trust the help offered? You must be convinced of the good will, reliability, and strength of the helper.

All of us are holding on to something or things we think gives meaning and substance to our lives. It may be your sexual behaviors. But sooner or later our hold on those things weakens because they don’t solve our crisis.

So what is offered to us in this life that is good enough, strong enough, and durable enough to hold our lives together for the whole journey? What is it that can motivate us to live the life we really want? What is it that can motivate us in our recovery process?

The Apostle Paul says it is the love of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 3:16-19 he prays that we be rooted and grounded in that love ‘ like a deeply planted tree or well-founded building that cannot be shaken. And he prays that we will be able to comprehend how wide, long, high and deep this love is ‘ i.e., that we will come to know the love of Christ in such personal ways that it will motivate us to live the life He meant for us to live.

What is this love? Is it some great ideal to which we should aspire? Is it an abstract concept: so high or lofty we can’t possibly ever experience it? Or is it a mood or sentiment?

No, God’s love is concrete and personal. It delivers us, lifts us up, and sustains us. We don’t earn it or stir it up by some goodness or loveableness in us. It comes to us even though we’re  imperfect and sinful. Think of how Jesus treated moral failures. He appointed the Samaritan woman as his first missionary. She went back to her town and told the people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony. He defended the sinful woman who anointed him with expensive perfume by saying, ‘wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.’ He restored Peter to leadership after denying him three times. Mary Magdalene, of whom seven demons had been cast out, he honored as the first witness of His resurrection. And the prodigal son was given a welcome home party.

It’s difficult to believe you’re worth anyone’s love, least of all the almighty God’s. Yet, with all the wrongs in your past, the mistakes, the detours, the moments of sin and selfishness, God loves you. No mistake we make in life disqualifies us from God’s love because nothings can separate us from His love.

So lay hold of this staggering, mind-blowing truth that God loves you just as you are, and not as you should be, because none of us is that. And let that motivate you to become the whole, integrated, connected man He created you to be.

Click here to view more helpful resources for men.

Brad Stenberg