I am a Christian, and I am a pastor, but I have unresolved psychological, emotional and spiritual issues.

“You think?”

I can get a little wacky sometimes and even often, just ask my wife and daughters.

This week I was triggered to recall a hurtful event from my past. As a result I became overly self-reflective. And so, being in complete control of my life, I overate, which seemed to help, until I got a stomach ache.

Then I watched Agent Carter on TV and fell asleep, but I had some scary dreams — which always happens to me when I get upset.

“Great, another dysfunctional pastor.”

Yep, are there any other kind,  but the good news is that I’m about as screwed up as the general population so we fit together nicely.

But if, if, if I just had more faith, I’d be okay, right?

Sometimes it has been taught in the church, or implied, that when we accepted Christ and are forgiven of our sins, and became new creatures in Christ, and begin to pray, and learn the Bible, all our problems will go away.

Accept Christ and poof, the past disappears with a spiritual whoosh — Jesus as David Copperfield.

The thing is though that the Bible doesn’t promise that. It doesn’t promise an immediate, instantaneous transformation of our persons.

Jesus taught that to change, a person must become a disciple, learn from a teacher, take up their cross daily, and choose to act out a new life.

Paul too endorsed this idea of change as a process when he told us in Philippians 2:12 to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling,” and to put off our old nature and put on Christ.

Lots of steps here.

Holiness is hard work.

Don’t misunderstand. A prayer asking God to save us, followed by baptism is a powerful, life-changing experience , but it isn’t the end of transformation.

Let’s get real. Let’s make friends with reality. We all have stuff to recover from. And it takes work.

Eating disorders, childhood trauma, prescription pain medication addiction, porn, drug or alcohol addictions, gambling, loss of family, shopping disorders, gossiping, complaining, selfishness — all that and more.

This is real. We live with this stuff.

An estimated additional 80 million people in this country are “risky substance users and abusers” and this includes the huge abuse of prescription meds.

We are the most medicated and self-medicated country in the world.

To help with this a massive recovery moment has developed in our country, and yet I have never heard much from the church about what the Bible says about recovery. Many Christians even put up their spiritual noses over the recovery moment.

But the Bible says to recover we need to have three conversations, and these  conversations are much in alignment with the recovery movement.

The first conversation we must have is with ourselves.

In John 8:32, Jesus said, “… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus said what?

Jesus said that to get well, I must admit my problems to myself.

Jesus is tapping into the 9th commandment, “Do not lie.” (Leviticus 19:11)

Truth-telling is so important in recovery.

Why?

Because lies keep us sick. All addiction is really just one lie after another.

To recover from anything, from life, we must face the truth, truth about what happened, how we feel, what we did, what we think, and what pain we are medicating.

We must have to begin with profound personal honesty.

12 step groups speak of making a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Therapists speak of being motivated to work on our issues. Pastors speak of confession.

We must face our pain — this is crucial to healthy change.

Step one of the 12 step program goes like this.

“I admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life. I have created messes in my life. Perhaps my whole life is a mess, or maybe just important parts are a mess. I admit this and I quit trying to play games with myself anymore.”

This is a good model of honesty, it’s Biblical, it’s a great start to a conversation with ourselves.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.”

We can begin to face our issues at any point with the tool of honesty.

Secondly, to recover we need a conversation with another person. This is what the Bible teaches.

James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be heal.”

We need other people to recover. This will often include doctors, therapists, pastors, sponsors, supportive family and friends.

When I am sad or broken in life, I always go to others for help.

I go to my people at H&M and Express Clothing, and sometimes Macy’s. These people help me buy things, which helps me.

I have also found people who help me at Bo Beau’s French Restaurant. They provide a particularly therapeutic pork chop there, with fresh, grazed peaches on top. It is a salutary pork chop, very healing.

I think of myself as a model of going to others for help.

I have also gone to see professional therapists, MFT’s, six different times in my life.

My six therapists were all great, well, all but one. I could have done a better job myself.

But then thinking like that is one of my problems.

Therapist have helped me discover the truth about myself. Not just that I am messed up, but that that I am strong, I have value, that after recovering, while recovering, I can do stuff. I can make a difference!

One of the really compelling reasons for seeking professional help is that there is a lot of new research discovering new approaches to therapy and healing.

New body-centered therapies do well in increasing our awareness of our bodies, their sensations, their emotions and this can be very helpful

Emotionally focused therapy has been very effective with couples. It works on reestablishing a lost emotional trust and bond.

Brain-based counseling is now coming out of research done by neuroscience. We now have scientific proof that the therapy process can actually physically change the brain.

Remember, Jesus said, “The truth will set us free.” Science is rediscovering that.

To be wise, we Christians need to embrace the truth, wherever we find it, and not act like we are above therapy or support groups and don’t need them.

We go to the doctor when we need to be treated for cancer; shouldn’t we go to therapists, support groups and pastors when we have cancer in our souls?

It is time for the healing arts to work together to mend broken people. This will not work perfectly, but the path to recovery is never without failure, setbacks, mess ups, it is life-long. But the questions is, in what direction are we moving?

Are we moving toward recovery? That means letting others help us.

Finally, to recover, we need to have, a conversation with God.

That’s what the Bible teaches. The 12 Step Program, which has it’s roots in the
Bible, puts it in a way many people can understand.

The step program teaches that we need a Higher Power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity. That is a good introductory way to put it. It may seem vague to some but it’s a good start.

This is an essential step for all of us because at the root of our addictions and dysfunctions is self-centeredness.

We can get so full of self, so addicted to self, that we can’t seem to get to God.

But I believe that we will not fully recover until we move from being problem-centered and self-centered to being God-centered.

Only turning to focus on something greater than ourselves will deeply cure us.

This something else is God.

And this where the church comes in. We know God. We know who he is. He is not vague. God is a savior. This is the truth.

God is at the core of the solution to saving us from our problems.

Because God sent his son, Jesus, God in human form, to identify with us, to be in our support group, and to take our sin from us, and to set us free.

Jesus did this by dying on the cross for us.

The Bible says, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; (for) “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Once I got very sick. So sick my wife Linda had to take me to the doctor. She was so sweet. She entered into my pain. She held my hand. She rubbed my head. She literally entered into my healing.

I’ll always love her for that.

I’m not as good at this as her. When she gets sick, I go to work and call home to see what time diner will be. I am making sure I don’t catch her disease, because if both of us get sick …

Research shows that other people, touching us and hugging us floods our bodies with oxytocin, the “bonding hormone, and this makes us feel secure, lowers cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.

Even just holding hands can reduce stress in our brains, including the part of our brains that registers pain.

Most people run from others pain. But when I was really sick, my wife Linda ran to my pain, held it, so to speak and in doing do helped take it away.

This is how it is with God. In Christ, God runs toward our pain.

Jesus came to earth to hug us. On the cross it is as if Jesus took our hands, and absorbed our sin and shame and pain into himself

On the cross he held hands with the whole crazy, sick, sin-addicted world said to all of us, “I am here with you, in you most yucky, messy self, I love you, I stand with you.”

On the cross, it is as if Jesus said, I enter into your addiction and pain, I will help take it from you, and I will never leave you even as you continue to struggle with it.

The Swedish proverbs says, “Shared joy is double joy, and shared sorrow is half sorrow.”

Christ came to sit with us in our sorrow! He is salvation from sin and shame.

So how do we recover?

It comes down to this.

To enter into a process of recovery, we must have three conversations —
one with ourselves, one with others, and a very important one — with God.

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