Comforting Them with Love
By Rodney Holmstrom
“Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
There was a man walking along on a cold winter day. Suddenly hitting a patch of black ice, he fell and then bam! He wasn’t expecting this but found himself on the ground, cold, wet, humiliated and seemingly alone. He cut his elbow and was bleeding quite a bit. He wanted to go crawl into a hole and hide. His first thought was complete embarrassment for what had happened and wondered if anyone had seen him fall so abruptly. Before he realized it, a stranger was kneeling by him to grab his arm, helping him back to his feet. He felt embarrassed by the situation. However, the stranger wasn’t focused on that at all. Instead he focused on showing love and compassion while making sure he was okay. He knew he was hurting and came alongside him, helping him mend his wounds.
This story has me thinking about my brothers and sisters struggling with mental health issues. Some may struggle with depression, anger, anxiety or other issues that make it difficult to function, let alone live among society. I have heard from some that they feel so alone, and feel they are a burden to those living around them. Sometimes they may become completely overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness in their pain – wanting to crawl in a hole and hide from the world.
In Celebrate Recovery we are growing to understand that our friends dealing with mental health struggles are hurting in ways that may not be visible. These struggles are very real and present. They are desperate for someone to love them in their struggle. Celebrate Recovery provides the platform to experience that love. We get the wonderful privilege as brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside our struggling family and show them the love of God. I love that! We get to take part in showing them the great and mighty things our Lord and Comforter can provide. We get the honor of showing hurting and struggling souls that they are more than the diagnosis they carry. They are the beloved son or daughter of the perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ.
We cannot fix the struggle, but we can kneel down in love, grab an arm, with support and love, and be with our friend in the struggle. I thank God for a place where we can come as we are, no shame, no embarrassment, no judgment, just a place to be loved: Celebrate Recovery.
The Bible clearly states “all have sinned.” It is my nature to sin, and it is yours too. None of us is untainted. Because of sin, we’ve all hurt ourselves, we’ve all hurt other people, and others have hurt us. This means each of us needs repentance and recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “time heals all wounds.” Unfortunately, it isn’t true. As a pastor I frequently talk with people who still carry hurts from 30 or 40 years ago. The truth is, time often makes things worse. Wounds left untended fester and spread infection throughout your entire body. Time only extends the pain if the problem isn’t dealt with.
Based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory, this recovery program is more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of. Over the years I’ve witnessed how the Holy Spirit has used this program to transform literally thousands of lives at Saddleback Church and to help people grow toward full Christ-like maturity.
Most people are familiar with the classic 12-step program of AA and other groups. While undoubtedly many lives have been helped through the 12 steps, I’ve always been uncomfortable with that program’s vagueness about the nature of God, the saving power of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So I began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about “recovery.” To my amazement, I found the principles of recovery — in their logical order — are given by Christ in his most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount.
My study resulted in a 10-week series of messages called “The Road to Recovery.” During that series my associate pastor John Baker developed the participant’s guides, which became the heart of our Celebrate Recovery program. I believe this program is unlike any recovery program you may have seen. Seven features make it unique:
In closing, let me say that the size of your church is no barrier to beginning a Celebrate Recovery ministry. You can start it with just a small group of people and watch it grow by word of mouth. You won’t be able to keep it a secret for long!
CELEBRATE RECOVERY 12 STEPS AND BIBLICAL COMPARISONS
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:1
3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16
6 We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10
7 We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
8 We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
9 We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
10 We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12
11 We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16
12 Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY BASED ON THE BEATITUDES
Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1)
“Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.”
Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2)
“Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3)
“Happy are the meek.”
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5)
“Happy are the pure in heart.”
Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7)
“Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires”
Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9)
“Happy are the merciful.” “Happy are the peacemakers”
Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11)
Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12)
“Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”