Recovering an Addicted Generation: Creating a Culture of Healing
I'm convinced addiction is the hidden secret in the church today. It's everywhere, but we hide it well.
Addictions drive people into a state of absolute helplessness, a state Jesus referred to as spiritual poverty. And he called it a "blessed" state to be in - why? Because it cracks our shells of denial (in which we all tend to hide) and forces us to recognize our deep dependence upon God. But isn't it ironic that those so close to this "blessed" condition, in need of grace and truth, would not be welcomed in church groups?
The Bible indicates we are all in this abnormal broken state of trying to "play God," and as the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector indicates - the only real difference between us is whether we recognize it or deny it.
First, we must not force those with addictions into hiding from God and running from the church community as happened in the past century with alcoholics - they need God and they need community before they get better. But we must also invite them in and hope for healing. We must be prepared with groups and programs or know of outside resources available to help set fee those enslaved to addictions.
True healing often requires a lengthy process of righting the wrongs and uncovering the lies of the past. God can heal us immediately, but more often he takes us along a difficult path that forces us to continually depend upon him, because only in him do we find true life. If he immediately healed us, we would immediately turn back to our independent, self-centered ways.
Unless churches and small groups address these very real struggles and give encouragement and spiritual direction to people suffering from addiction, compulsive behaviors, or abuse, they will soon feel they don't fit, or worse, that their faith didn't work since they will struggle. If self-defeating behavior is denied, ignored, or minimized, then our religion has become a shield to hide from life's realities, and we've missed our calling as a healing force in the world.
Dr. Patrick Carnes notes that at the core most addictions are fed by a cycle of shame.
When children grow up in families that are both rigid and detached emotionally, addiction often follows.
If a church does not have the resources for a full-blown recovery program, it's best not to try to take the place of recovery groups. Instead, provide referrals and Christ-centered support for spiritual growth that gets people into recovery and then beyond recovery. But to get people stated, leaders must assume addictions exist and creatively find ways to bring people out of hiding.
Tobacco Addictions: So how has the church helped addicts? I may be wrong, but it appears we have either made it clear that if you smoke, you're bad and not welcome here, or we've just ignored it. Instead, we need to provide both the grace and the truth along with spiritual direction and support that people need to overcome their addictions. Unfortunately, our culture does not provide the same support system necessary for recovery of nicotine addiction that it does for substance abuse, yet it requires a more concentrated effort to stop smoking since it's so socially acceptable and equally as enslaving.
It seems the best a church can do is help smokers grow spiritually and let them know God desires that nothing enslaves them. I challenge people to ask God, "Is there anything in my life keeping me from experiencing your life? Give me willingness to trust you with it?"
Sexual addiction: One of the main ways the church can help our sex-crazed culture is to begin to help people understand that lust and fantasy and pornography are just imposters of the real thing they desire.
As we understand both addiction and the path to recovery, we can better nurture a healing culture where God's grace and truth work together powerfully to set people free.
If you're struggling with an addiction, please check out this Celebrate Recover group that meets in Olathe- link.
I've met the leaders of this ministry and I believe in what they're doing.
There is also a Celebrate Recover group in Gardner at New Life Church (you'll need to click on the "ministries" link.