Why ‘Mental Health and Recovery Advocacy’ is Important for Christians. Part 2

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

“Recovery” is a bad word to a few staunch leaders in the Christian faith. So is “addiction.”  Apparently to some, we are not to recover, but repent. We are not addicts, but habitual sinners. As a Christian of the born-again variety with an Evangelical bent, and as a mental health and recovery advocate, I do not see the above terms as mutually exclusive.

Reality is, being conquered by a behavior we no longer control makes us ill.  Our spiritual, physical, and mental health need help. If one wants to insist ‘repentance’ is the better word choice, let him keep in mind that all sin has painful consequences. Turning from sinful behavior most certainly involves some measure of recovery, does it not?

I am not arguing for a victim mentality, excuses, or a lifestyle of self-destruction.

The prophet Isaiah* wrote, “Stop doing wrong!” We must humbly stand before God. As is true with any behavior (whether in thought, word, or deed) that does not reflect God’s holy nature, change must begin with sorrow for grieving him, and a sincere decision to turn our lives and will over to him.

The 12 Steps and the BIble

That is only the beginning, however.  Isaiah added, “Learn to do right.” Immediately upon choosing to stop doing wrong, of necessity we must completely depend on God for staying clean, sober, or abstinent.  This is the recovery process.

Popular, statistically successful, and might I add Biblical steps to recovery as promoted by 12-step anonymous groups, are rich with what we Christians call repentance, confession, and “sanctification” (the process of overcoming our tendency toward sin).  See the comparisons below.

  • Step one:  Admit we are powerless over [our addiction] –  that our lives have become unmanageable. “I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” – St Paul in Romans 7:21
  • Step two: Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – St Paul in Romans 7:24, 25
  • Step three: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” – St Paul in Romans 6:16
  • Step four:  Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”  – John, disciple of Jesus in 1 John 1:9,10
  • Step five:  Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. “Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.” – King David in Psalm 32:5;   “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
  • Step six:  Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  – James, brother of Jesus in James 4:8-10
  • Step seven: Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.  Keep your servant from deliberate sins!  Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt  and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  – King David in Psalm 19:12-14
  • Step eight: Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.  The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.”  – King David’s song in Psalm 25: 8,9
  • Step nine: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible,  except when to do so would injure them or others.  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Jesus preaching in Matthew 5: 23, 24
  • Step ten:  Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.  So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.” – Peter, disciple of Jesus in 1 Peter 1:12-14
  • Step eleven: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  “… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” – Hebrews 12:2
  • Step twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to [people with addictions], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.   “And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  – St Paul in Corinthians 5: 18-20

Recovery includes building healthy support systems, reconsidering one’s worldview, and growing up. A budding relationship with God adds new dimensions and disciplines we need time to implement.

If all we ever say is “I’m sorry,” and “just say no,” we miss out on the rich healing God offers for our deepest wounds. 

For a testimony on how recovery led one woman to Christ, click here.

Today’s Helpful Word

Mark 2: 15-17

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

*********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*Isaiah 1:16-17

pics from Kozzi.com

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