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Pastoral

As church leaders we often find ourselves confronted with any of a wide range of pastoral issues where we feel we lack expertise.  The features in this section will give you many suggestions for what you might do (at least until the experts arrive!)

You can see the full range at livingleadership.squarespace.com/growing-in-pastoring-

Addiction - Garbage, Grace or Glory? Section 6

[Your Name Here]

6: The Practicalities of Freedom

Written by David Partington and Friends

You can download the PDF of this resource here.


I remember the day I was sitting with a dear friend in a coffee shop as he faced the reality of dealing with the major decision he had just made.  Despite the fact that he knew it was the right decision, he was having a really hard time coping with the pain that flowed from it. He was face to face with having said goodbye to what for him was the source of love and comfort he had forgotten existed. As we talked through how he was going to handle the consequences of that hard decision he said, “You know the biggest problem I have and am struggling with? It’s having the faith to believe that I can live with the pain and resentment I feel.”

Looking back I am still surprised by my immediate response, “It’s not faith you need, it’s obedience.” I say I was surprised because it was not something I had readily thought about before. I believe it came from a God who wanted this man to know that, if he chose to be obedient in the everyday things of life, chose obedience in direct contradiction to what he wanted to do to meet his needs, then healing could flow. That he would then begin to know the energising power of his walk with God, that would compensate for the hurt and pain of saying ‘No’ to his natural desires.

Neil Anderson puts it another way: “You don’t feel your way into good behaviour, you behave your way into good feelings.” That’s what this section is about – the practicalities of living free. In order to do that, however, we need to face the following if we are to gain the victory as quickly as God intends: 

·         You’ve got a lot of bad habits to recognise and deal with, as well as new habits to get into.

·         Your dealing with a life-controlling problem is not about making the decision to never do it again. Obedience is about doing what God wants us to do at any one moment.

·         Finding freedom is about self-control in the everyday issues. Learning to say ‘No’ to small things is good practice for saying ‘No’ to big ones.

·         You need to build strong character through self discipline. It’s about setting Christlike standards for yourself and then refusing to lower them! ‘If anyone would come after me he must deny himself’ (Matt 16:24). Again, doing it in the small things of daily life will help make it much easier when it comes to the big things.

·         Change comes through perseverance. You’re involved in a great endeavour – to live on God’s terms and to begin to move into the unique identity, calling, ministry God ordained for you. Make your mind up that you’re going to persevere in obedience today. Remember the question is not ‘How can I be good?’ The question is ‘What’s the will of God for me now?’

·         Live in the truth that the quality and depth of our spiritual life is directly related to following Jesus in the practice of daily living.

·         Remember that doing things for others when prompted by God’s still small voice is tremendously healing to us as well as them. That’s not the reason to do them, but sacrificial acts of love have within them great blessing for us as well as others.

 This story from a newsletter I used to receive may help:

“Reading last month’s editorial on worship reminded me of an incident that changed me profoundly. I was driving down the M40 in light traffic, when the variable speed limit sign came on at 40mph. I dutifully slowed down and watched all the other traffic race past me regardless (if you were one of them I forgive you unconditionally!) I chugged along for a few miles expecting an accident or road works, but then the de-restriction sign came on. What a pain! Back to 70mph, a bit annoyed! A few miles further on, the 40mph restriction comes on again. Now I am getting angry. The injustice of it! How useless to keep these commandments, when I suffer and the lawbreakers benefit! Then four quiet words in my heart changed everything: “Do it for me”. The bitterness and frustration of my heart melted away in a moment, and joy filled my heart. To stay at 40mpn became delight and an act of worship!”

Change your habits

Your life has been upset and messed up by getting into bad habits which have demeaned you and brought pain to others. Part of moving forward is to develop a whole new set of habits which build you up, which bring encouragement and wholeness.

I can think of few more beneficial habits to build up than having a regular ‘quiet time’. It’s an old-fashioned term which speaks of finding somewhere quiet and communing (listening, talking) with God. This is not the place to get over-prescriptive about how and when to have a quiet time, because we all have different ways of doing it. Personally I’ve always found early in the morning to be the best time for me. It took a while to really get into it, but has proved to be a blessing the scale of which is hard to describe. What proved to be most significant was not only developing a more intimate awareness of God, but getting my mind filled with ‘things’ that would subsequently be of great importance at various points of the day ahead. A verse from the Bible would pop into my consciousness when dealing with a difficult situation.

Another way that I used to do ‘quiet time’ when I was in the very early days of dealing with the old problems was to take a pocket Bible into the toilet at work! Reading just a few verses really made a difference when wrong thoughts were beginning to have too much ‘power.’  One of my favourite books at that time was Romans(!), and it came alive and helped to get my mind on the right track. Suffice to say, before any workaholics (or anyone else) question my integrity, I didn’t spend hours in there! Your pattern may be different, but try having a quiet time if you don’t do so already. Remember there are resources for your quiet time all over the place including the internet.

Develop a ‘quieter’ pace of life

Most of the people I know with a problem that dominates most of their life are ‘driven’ people. They live at the edge of their resources in terms of time, energy and commitment to life. Some are not only involved in porn (for instance) but hold down high-pressured or demanding jobs. If that’s you and you try to beat your life-controlling problem without slowing down and learning to de-stress, it’s going to take you a lot longer to find real long lasting freedom. Here are some ideas: 

·         Exercise – take a walk, even if it’s only a short one, at lunchtime. Just having time to yourself can only help - as well as giving you a physical boost.

·         Get more rest and sleep.

·         Leave your laptop alone – the world really can manage without you.

·         Relax with a book or with the TV – so long as you avoid anything that will wind you up.

·         Reduce your intake of stimulants including caffeine.

·         Give yourself the right kind of treat.

·         Give someone else a treat.

·         Ask someone you love how you could manage your time better.

 (Incidentally the whole issue of reducing stress is not suggested here as a ‘bolt on’ – it could be crucial, so get serious about it!)

Get your relationships right

Nowhere is this more important than in our ruined family relationships. Only you know the scale to which they have been damaged. Aside from the fact that your personal wellbeing is directly related to how much you love your family, don’t they deserve something sacrificial from you? In order to develop and maintain the strongest relationships intended by God, it would be a sound investment to take time for some or all of the following:

1. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and ask the Holy Spirit to show you those people (all of them!) who you have hurt in any way as a consequence of your life-controlling problem. Write down their names on a piece of paper as God shows them to you.

·         Start on a fresh sheet of paper for each one and write down the way(s) in which you have hurt or harmed them.

·         Pray about each person and ask God to show you how you should respond to them e.g. apologise, face to face, by telephone, by email. Write down what you need to do on their piece of paper.


2. When you contact them follow some basic rules:-

·         Don’t go into detail

·         Don’t rationalise, justify or excuse

·         Say something like, “I’m sorry for hurting you by the way in which I said/did  ……….  Will you please forgive me?” If they do, be blessed; if they don’t, then all you can do is to bless them and pray for them, unless the Holy Spirit tells you to do something more

·         Review the list and ask the Holy Spirit if you need to make restitution other than saying sorry. This could be necessary if you have stolen from someone; but there will be other ways in which you may need to do something. Rick Warren wrote about the way in which God brought him to the place where he knew saying sorry wasn’t enough:

 “My walk with God had gotten dull. There was no joy. There was no thrill to it. It was just kind of ho-hum. When I prayed, I felt like my prayers just bounced across the ceiling. I didn’t feel close to God. I didn’t feel close to anybody.  Finally I knew that I had to do something. I was 17 or 18 years old, and I was still living at home. It was about ten o’clock at night. Everybody had gone to bed. I got out a yellow pad and said, ‘Ok God, let’s do some business here. I need to do a little spring cleaning; I need to know anything that’s between you and me. I’m going to make a sin list of everything you tell me.’

Within a few seconds, I just started thinking of things that I knew were wrong in my life. Times I’d been jealous. Lies I’d told. Times I'd been impatient. I filled up three pages with my sin. Knowing 1 John 1:9, I knew that God would be faithful and just to forgive all of the sins I’d committed. I thought I’d just burn the paper once I was finished. I certainly didn’t want anyone to read it! But there were three sins that related to other people. I knew I had to make restitution to those people.

I began a battle in my mind with God that night. I did not want to make restitution. I told God I’d do anything to not have to confront those people. It would be humbling and embarrassing. But God made it clear that this was going to be a test of my integrity.  The next day, Saturday, I did everything but make restitution for those sins. I did my homework, I cleaned my room. I washed both my parents’ cars. I cleaned up the patio. I did errands for my mom. I did everything but what God really wanted me to do.  That night I was supposed to be a guest speaker at a youth rally about 30 minutes from my house. I shouldn’t have spoken at that rally. I was out of fellowship with God and with other people. God’s presence and his power weren’t there. My words were just bouncing off the walls.

As I was driving back home that night, I got right with God. I told him I was sorry and was willing to make things right. When I got home, my parents and little sister were watching television. I turned off the TV and, in tears, told my family everything about those three sins I needed to make restitution for. I asked them to pray that I would have the strength to make those things right. And I did. As I was honest with God and got things right with him, I felt the power of God fall on my life as I never had before. I could feel the blessing of God flowing into my life.”  (From Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, www.pastors.com.)

Work out maximum danger times

When are you most prone to drop your guard? For one person I was helping, it was at the weekend when he got bored and thought he would surf the internet. He didn’t intend to access questionable sites, but guess what happened? Another person found that even one drink of wine made him more ‘open’ to wrong behaviour. Is there a particular place that makes you more ‘open’ to relapse? If so, work hard at not being in them at the wrong time.

Having been realistic about times, places and ‘things’ that really have the potential to cause you to relapse, then write down ways in which you can deal with them. If a certain person causes you to get into sexual sin, don’t arrange to meet with them. If you can’t avoid meeting them, then ensure that someone else is ALWAYS around. If it’s a certain place don’t go there. If it’s alcohol – don’t drink.

Don’t allow yourself to say ‘I’m never going to do………….’

None of us fully escape the potential for sinning until we get to be in the presence of Jesus in heaven. Your level of vulnerability is reduced in direct proportion to your honesty and realism with yourself and others. If you were ever foolish enough to say ‘No-one will ever break into my house’, would that mean that you would stop locking the doors?

Be realistic about the consequences of failure

Always remember that ‘The heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jer 17:9). If you’re really struggling, write a list of the consequences of giving in to temptation. Be as brutally honest as you can. The list might look something like this:-

·         Loss of self-respect

·         Having to start all over again

·         Compromising your self-respect

·         Betraying your wife or husband

·         Committing adultery, even by thought alone

·         Waking up covered in vomit

·         Negative impact on your health

·         Causing shame and embarrassment to your wife and children

·         Compromising your witness at work.

Remind yourself of the facts from God’s perspective

Have key verses, written on cards for instance, that you can use at odd moments to remind yourself of the ‘truth’ when you even begin to think about wrong things. Have another list of facts that are biblically based and that, despite your feelings, are reinforcing God’s perspective: 

·         I am secure, safe

·         I am precious to God

·         I am worthwhile to God

·         I am significant, important to God

·         I am not guilty before God

·         I am not condemned by God

·         I am competent and capable of obeying and pleasing God

·         God is in control and nothing can happen to me without God’s permission.

 When you’re reading any of these things, give thanks to God that they are true!

Get into the habit finding ways to bless others

Being a recipient of extravagant grace is one thing, but you will take that grace to another level if you seek to bless others.

Don’t overdo it – keep it simple. Text, write, email, phone someone to say:-

·         how much they have blessed you

·         that they’re special

·         that you love them

Do the washing up.  Cook a meal for someone who lives alone. Help with the cleaning. Wash someone’s car. The list is pretty well endless and the blessings will go right through to eternity.

Remember that complete healing and wholeness take time

The important thing is to be going forward. You wouldn’t expect a child to achieve a degree in secondary school, so why would God expect you to be fully mature and free today?  But `Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve` (Joshua 24:15).  You have been given, today, by the God of all grace and glory, the most amazing power – to choose. He loves you enough and believes in the power of His grace in your life enough to give you the freedom to obey Him or not. Let’s put that in context: when it comes to the next difficult choice you have to make, you can either choose to meet your needs your way or God’s.

God’s forgiveness is permanent

If you’ve asked for God’s forgiveness, then stop dwelling on the sin, let it go. Yet remind yourself (by reading it over and over again, until you can remember it) of what the Bible says: “I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again’ (Isa 43:25).

God is not going to bring it up again – He has blotted it out. So why do you keep asking for forgiveness again for something you’ve already confessed? If you do the same thing again that’s different – confess it and ask for forgiveness.

Make sure you’re in a church which helps you grow into maturity

Being in the right church is crucially important to your fully defeating your life- controlling problem. I use the word `crucially` very deliberately, because without the right church you’re going to take longer to come into the victory God has for you.

You weren’t saved to be alone. You were saved to become part of a new community, a new family. You need a church where:- 

·         You’re loved for yourself and not for what you can become.

·         Your faith is lifted.

·         People recognise their own weakness but passionately believe in God’s power to change them.

·         There is a family or community in which you are loved and cared for.

·         God the Father is worshipped, honoured and glorified.

·         Jesus is acknowledged as the only way to salvation and can be known not just as Saviour but as Lord.

·         Change comes through the sanctifying, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

·         The Word of God is not seen as a manual of instruction but as the means of revealing the Living Word, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

·         The church is one in which individuals are encouraged to operate in the gift(s) they have been given by the Holy Spirit.

·         Everyone is encouraged to rely on God primarily as well as on one another.

·         You can serve.

 There is no ‘perfect’ church this side of heaven, especially as long as I am a church member! However, ask God to show you the right one for you, even if it’s different from the one you have always attended.

Be accountable

It’s very much more difficult to beat temptation on your own – you need someone to help share the daily struggles. That could be a friend, someone that you feel comfortable sharing with. However we sometimes need someone who is more challenging, more forceful about what is going on in our life. That means having someone to whom you choose to be accountable. It’s about having someone who:

·         wants to know the full extent of the problem in your life – not just the bits you choose to share.

·         whilst knowing everything about you, chooses to hold you accountable for how you plan to live in the week or month ahead.

·         with whom you can share not only your positive progress but your struggles – preferably before they become failures.

·         is willing to meet at least weekly to begin with, and then eventually once a month.

·         is prepared to take the initiative in asking direct questions about the progress you are making.

·         not only prays with you but prays for you.

 Remember that being accountable only works in direct relationship to how well you’re prepared to be open and vulnerable. If you choose to lie and manipulate someone who is really trying to help you, then you will be the biggest loser.

Benefit from an accountability group

Some people find it helpful to belong to an accountability group. It’s a group of people who help one another ‘walk the talk’. The obvious group to belong to is AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), or Overcomers Anonymous (a Christian AA); but there are others which relate to different life-controlling problems. You may be very reluctant to believe that you need anything as ‘intense’ or ‘full-on’, and that’s up to you. However, always remember they may be a good option if you’re finding it too difficult to break free. Over the last few years there has been a growth in Christian accountability groups; two that come readily to mind are Celebrate Recovery and Freedom in Christ.

Pray for the following signs of good health

WARNING - If several of the following appear, you may rarely need to visit a doctor!

·         Regular flare-ups of a supportive network of family and friends

·         Chronic positive expectations

·         Repeated episodes of gratitude and generosity

·         Increased appetite for physical activity

·         Marked tendency to identify and express feelings

·         Compulsion to contribute to society

·         Positive, habitual behaviour related to seeking new challenges

·         Tendency to adapt positively to changing conditions

·         Persistent sense of humour

Face the importance of relapse prevention

If you’re actually recognising that relapse is a possibility, I suggest that you rejoice that you’re far enough down the road to freedom. If not, pray for revelation, because you haven’t realised how open you could be to temptation. If you want an example of the reality of relapse, think about how an ‘everyday’ sin can continue to be repeated in your life, eg gossiping. If that (or something else) happens regularly then it is possible that you could relapse into your life- controlling problem. Not WILL, but could - so face the reality that relapse is far more likely when: 

·         Your anxiety levels increase, you worry more, get resentful, become judgemental, start to fantasise, develop evil desires, face sleep or eating problems

·         When you strive to keep busy and become workaholic, or become driven in other areas

·         When anger, irritation, exasperation become a part of daily life; when everything is someone else’s fault

·         If exhaustion or weariness kicks in. Consequences include feeling helpless, looking for release and escape, pessimism, hopelessness.

 If action isn’t taken with regard to these, relapse will become a serious possibility.

(I’m grateful for the outline of the above from The Genesis Process by Michael Dye and Pat Fancier).

In order to lessen the possibility of relapse take regular time to review all the possible ways in which you may have compromised the process of positive change. List all the things you put in place, eg quiet times, and honestly review what’s changed. When you’ve done this, look at the list again and decide what you need to do more regularly and consistently. Take a deep breath and start again.

Look at the areas which you may need to review and change in relation to: 

1.    Routine/environment - is there something here that needs to change? Should you be going to church more often for instance? I can never understand why a follower of Jesus (who is trying to deal with a serious problem) thinks that going to church once a week is enough. Surely this is the place where you go to worship God, to hear Him, to know Him, to be loved by Him and His other children? Can you get too much of that?

2.    Review whether there are key components of your life where you have compromised. Make a list of where it’s happened, and make another list of how things are going to be different. Then do them.

3.    Take a serious look at family, church and work. Is there anything that needs to change?

  • Family – if something is wrong in your family,      be honest with yourself and ask what YOU can do to resolve it. Apologising      for your part in a problem is a good way to defuse difficult situations.      It’s one of the best ways of communicating your love. If it’s not your      fault, and you can’t change the person or the situation, then PRAY for      God’s blessing, and go on loving.
  • Church – if the church you’re going to is not      blessing you, then either you have a problem or the church does. If it’s      your problem then repent! If it’s the church’s problem then that’s more      difficult. Talk with a leader about the issue and seek to deal with it in      a godly way. I take no pleasure in saying that if there is anything about      church that compromises the wellbeing of your family and yourself you may      have to consider moving. The fundamental question is simple – is the      church you attend helping you to grow in your knowledge of God as Father,      Son and Holy Spirit or not?
  • Work – where is work in your list of      priorities? Does it take priority over your family? Are you doing it only      to earn money or because it’s what God called you to do? Are you involved      in work which is fulfilling and builds your self-esteem and well being? If      it’s not whose problem is it, yours, your boss’s, or a work colleague?      Again you have the opportunity (in God’s all-sufficient grace in your      weakness) to do something about it. If what God has asked you to do to put      the situation right doesn’t result in change, in you or another person or      a situation, you have some serious questions to ask yourself. But whatever      conclusions you reach, don’t reach them without engaging your wife,      husband, family, church leader, and/or the person you’re accountable to.

Finally, in times of relapse remember that God is bigger than your potential or actual relapses. Only God is able to make ‘all things work together for good’ (Rom 8:28). Relapse need not be the end but the beginning of the final challenge in dealing with your life-controlling problem. Apart from anything else, you have learnt vital, valuable lessons through what went wrong. Having offered that situation to God, and asked His forgiveness, you can start again, fully confident in His all-sufficient grace to bring His perfect power into your life in future.

Live on the edge

Live on the edge of God’s resources, not yours. Someone wrote, ‘If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.’ There’s sufficient truth in this to remind us that God has so much for us and, through us, for others. All the resources of heaven are available to us in any given situation; it only takes our willingness to be a channel of God’s Spirit for things to happen that we never thought possible. The amazing thing is that so often this power flows when life is at its toughest, when we run out of our own resources and call out for His. Who knows what God can do through you, someone who was once a defeated and broken child of God and now communicating Jesus in all His love and grace?

Questions and Answers

What would you describe as your life-controlling problem or addiction?

My life controlling problems and addictions have ranged from alcohol, marijuana, sexual addiction and pornography, to food, work, performance, and exercise.

What stories do you have of ways in which God helped you both during and after your problem?

There are so many ways that God has helped me that it is hard to begin.  To start, you need to understand that these problems did not show up all at once.  They tended to emerge throughout the course of my life over a period of many years. 

The first addictions, alcohol and drugs, became a major issue for me when I was 17 or 18 years old.  I recognized that I had a problem, but could not stop even though I tried.  I really could not think of a good reason to stop.  Life was painful, and I felt like I had very few options.  When I began to burn out, I called a friend who was a Christian and had spent time with me at university.  He invited me to church, and I was really hung-over.  Nothing changed at church, but later that week in my apartment alone, I felt very desperate.  I asked God to show me if He was really there or not.  And I opened the Bible and read “If you hold to my teachings, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  This freedom is what I had always wanted most deeply in my heart.  When I read that verse, I knew that God was real, and was listening, and had answered me very clearly.  I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus at that point.

Over the next few weeks, I stopped using alcohol and drugs.  Sometimes during that time I wanted to use very badly – and came close to just giving up.  But about 8 weeks after my encounter with the Lord, I threw out my drugs and knew I didn’t want to go back.

The other addictions, especially the sexual addiction, became intermittent issues after that.  It wasn’t really until I began to remember and deal with my sexual abuse that the sexual issues became something I could manage.  Until then, it was sporadic and episodic.  It basically involved pornography, and that would happen maybe every 4-6 months.  Each time I would feel guilty, but couldn’t stay away permanently, even though I seriously asked God to help me.   The last time this happened was when I was 28.  As I talked with the Lord about this, I began to remember the sexual abuse.  And that was devastating.  I went to counseling and, fortunately, began doing a lot of curriculum work at that time.  This gave me time to heal.  God was really gracious, and was very clear with me that he was never ashamed of me.  He knew I was struggling about as honestly as I could.  He also knew that the abuse was driving the addiction – and that I was unaware of the abuse. 

The food issue came up when I was disabled.  I felt miserable, and ate stuff that was not good for me.  I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was comfort eating.  I gained a lot of weight!  The other issues like work and performance are issues I still need to be careful with today.  The exercise issue happened when I was a policeman many years ago.  I had to work out for the job, but became very compulsive about it.

How did your ‘problem’ begin?

The sexual stuff began in adolescence when some friends introduced me to pornography; I was really blown away. The substance abuse started a little in high school – but it wasn’t until I got to university that the problem really began.  I left home very badly, with lots of rebellion and grief.  My parents moved a long way from me.  I had also broken up with my girlfriend and was totally miserable.  On the first day in my new apartment at school, one of my friends introduced me to marijuana, and it took away the pain.  I was a little shy, and the alcohol helped too.  It wasn’t long before I was using both frequently.

I didn’t realize that my real problem was “attachment pain.”  This is the kind of pain that happens from broken relationships.  I spent my first 6 months in an orphanage or foster home.  I was sexually abused when I was about 3-4 by a babysitter, and that permanently damaged my ability to trust and feel safe in relationships.  I felt connected with others to some degree, but inside, I felt very much alone.  These issues really fueled all of my addictions. 

Whether I used alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, work, performance, exercise, comfort eating, etc., the issue was always that I would feel better for awhile.  Some of these addictions really didn’t create a “high” like alcohol or drugs – but they took the pain away for a while.  Of course, I had no idea what was fueling all of this.  I just kept trying to deal with each as I realized that something new had become a problem.

I don’t think it was until I was alone and disabled that my relationship with God deepened enough so that I really didn’t feel alone anymore.  Even though my addictions were not active at that point, I don’t think that I fully realized the depth of God’s love and care for me.  I’m still sure that I don’t know all his love and care.  But when I was sick and alone, God became so real to me that I could sense Him with me very, very often.  His presence became so tangible to me that at night, I knew where He was in my room.

When and how did you realise your ‘problem’ was out of control?

I realized the alcohol and drugs were out of control when organizations at school were not happy about me being at their events.  They did not know if I would be there sober or not.  I also realized I had a problem when I kept getting sick from my partying and use of marijuana.   I was allergic to marijuana, but used it anyway, and had bronchitis frequently because of it.  I spent the summer between semesters alone and working.  By the end of the summer, I was burned out and exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically.  My only friends used, and that is really all I did with them.  Moreover, I realized my problem was out of control when I tried to stop, and was able to make it for only 6 days.  Finally, I felt increasingly ashamed because I violated my value systems – and began to hurt people that really did care about me.  This really bothered me.

When and how did you realise that God was there and wanted to help you?

I was raised Catholic, and had a sense that God was real and wanted to be personal.  At university, I stopped church.  My friend in class who was a Christian began to spend time with me and share about his life.  When he talked about Jesus, Jesus seemed to be such a real person.  I was convinced that my friend was “real” and not faking his relationship with God, and was not trying to “manipulate me into God.”  My friend genuinely cared more about me than he did about trying to get me “saved”, and that made him credible to me.  I could be honest with him about my substance abuse and how I was living.  He never judged me.

But it wasn’t until the night I asked God to show me that He was real that I knew He was really there and wanted to help me.  

 In what way(s) did you respond to God?

I began to do a lot of the right things almost by accident.  For one thing, I began to stop using.  I started to tell my friends about what I had discovered.  I lost all  my friends over this, because when I didn’t want to party, and wanted to talk to them about Jesus, they didn’t want to be around me.  I began going to a small church where my friend was a leader.  I was there on Sunday, went to a small home Bible study on Tuesday, went to church on Wednesday, and played sports with church on Friday.  I also began reading my Bible and journalling.  My friend met with me weekly to teach me, and gave me some excellent books to read, including C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer.  I was eager to learn.  It was like discovering that someone really loved me, and I couldn’t get enough of Him.  At church I made some really good friends who had the same background as I did.  We didn’t really talk about drugs too much, or even recovery stuff.  We just were all moving in the same direction with Jesus, and wanted to grow together.  Community was crucial for my growth and recovery.

What have been the three most important spiritual lessons that you have learned in relation to your ‘problem’?

It’s hard to identify the three most important lessons, because there have been so many. 

  1. It is OK to be weak.  God is not asking      me to be strong.  He’s simply asking me to be with Him and be honest      with Him about what I think, feel and struggle with.  I can really      share my joys, sorrows, struggles, feelings, failures and temptations with      Him.  He always is glad to be with me, even when I’ve failed.       He so loves me that He just wants to be with me whether I’ve messed up or      not.  Being able to be weak is so important to me.
  2. I don’t often understand the struggles I      have.  I spent years doing addictive behaviors because I didn’t      understand or recognize my abuse and attachment pain.  The things I      don’t know tend to cause problems which eventually become significant      enough that I notice them.  This means I need to be very patient with      myself and with others.  God sees clearly…but also knows what I am      capable of seeing and doing at any given moment.  He never holds me      responsible for what I do not know.  He is much more patient.
  3. I need relationships with Him and with others      that are joyful.  Deep and abiding relationships are the cornerstones      of my recovery.  I can’t live without them, and they are foundational      for me.  I may not always recognize when I’m having a problem, but if      I start to experience distance in relationships with God or with people      close to me like my wife, it means that I have a problem.  Anytime      that I feel distance or problem in relationship, I need to attend to it      immediately.
  4. My relationship with God has grown and is      profoundly deep in ways that I can’t explain.  I can’t wait to be      with Him in the morning and throughout the day.

 What has been the most important method that you have found to fight temptation?

Being honest with God, about what I’m feeling – and just spending time with Him.  Along with this is the need to be with people and stay in right relationship with them.  Temptation is much stronger if I am not aware of God’s presence, and my quiet time helps sensitize me to His presence throughout the day.  Temptation is also much stronger if I am not tending my relationships.  It is always stronger when I am relationally or physically isolated.  As a result, I try very hard to maintain healthy relationships, repair and address relational problems, and avoid isolation.  Finally, I try very hard to make sure that I get enough rest.  Exhaustion makes me care less about relationship, and sets me up for temptation.

Who was the person who helped you most and in what way?

Several people have helped me.  Originally, my friend at university was the most important.  If he had not spent time with me, listening to me and never judging me, I would never have called and asked him for help when I was hitting bottom.  Being discipled by him was also vital for me.

I have had some extraordinary mentors throughout my life, and it’s hard to single any one person out.  The person who led my home Bible study when I was a new Christian was important.  He thought “outside of the box” and helped me learn that it was OK to be myself as a Christian.  He also taught me that value of relationships.  The pastor who first got me involved in addiction ministry helped me recognize God’s call on my life.  Mickey Evans, Hugh Murrow and John Glenn at Dunklin helped me learn rehab, addiction and grace.  Jim Wilder has been really crucial in helping me understand and respond to attachment pain, and the work we’ve done together has helped me grow personally and professionally.  Maritza has helped me in so many ways!  She is loving, encouraging and genuinely cares.  My daughter Deni has also been enormously influential in my life – and being her dad made me grow up in a lot of ways.

Is reading the Bible and praying helpful and, if so, in what way?

On most days, my day starts with at least an hour of prayer, meditation, Bible reading, journalling and worship.  This is a foundation for my day and life.  I simply would not be able to do what I do now without it. 

It centres me, and helps me engage directly with God to talk with Him and hear Him respond and talk with me.  It’s not my reading and prayers that are most important.  These are simply tools that help me engage with God to hear Him, enjoy Him, be directed by Him and led by Him.  It’s this time that sets the pace for my life.

David Partington

© David Partington and Friends

 

Continue to Section 7: Maintaining Integrity