Can I Make A Difference In An Addict's Life?


In a different post, I encouraged believers to reach out to those who were struggling with drugs, alcohol, or other any life-dominating sin. So many times, the church is scared to help those who are caught up in this kind of lifestyle. Some may even fear that they will do more harm than good. Still, it is not uncommon for pastors or church members to pass on counseling addicts and refer them to secular professionals.

I write this post today in hopes that it will encourage God’s church to become a community of care and hope. Paul reminds the church in Rome that they have what it takes to counsel one-another. Paul writes, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14).

The word for “instruct” is the Greek word, noutheteo. Noutheteo means to “counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct.”[1] In other words, it means to “admonish, instruct, or counsel.” Therefore, Paul encourages the church at Rome by saying that they are capable of counseling one-another.

If anyone is caught in a sin, it is the duty of a believer to call them to repentance (Matt. 18:15-20; Gal. 6:1-2). This can be done by simply asking them to meet with you in order to study God’s Word. Why God’s Word? It is because God’s Word is what transforms all of us, including those who are struggling with any kind of life-dominating sin (John 17:17).

But, what kind of counsel should be offered to someone who is struggling with these kinds of besetting sins? What does the Bible say concerning repentance? As believers and encouragers, there are three actions that we should encourage.

1. Let Us Encourage Contrition

Contrition is another word for repentance. In other words, we want to encourage addicts to be repentant – godly grief – of their sin. In the Bible, the Corinthian Church was having problems showing repentance for their actions. This is why Paul teaches them about godly grief. Notice what Paul says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. These verses teach us about two types of sorrow: worldly sorrow and godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 710-11).

According to the Bible, what does godly sorrow look like? Godly sorrow produces genuine repentance that causes you to live a lifestyle without regret. This means that an addict should be genuinely sorry for sinning against a holy and righteous God. Godly sorrow should produce a righteous anger that hates sin, seeking to understand it according to God’s Word.

According to the world, what does “worldly” sorrow look like? Worldly sorrow often looks like someone is only “sorry” because they have gotten caught, hurt, or hurt others. Usually, worldly sorrow is only temporal and does not last. Worldly sorrow is easy and can quickly get someone out of their mess, but does not have lasting effects.

Here are some questions that everyone, including addicts, can ask ourselves and others concerning repentance…

1. Do I talk the talk and walk the walk? True repentance is observable.

2. Am I genuinely sorry about my sinful and selfish actions? True repentance is heart-felt.

3. Am I grieving over the actions of my past? True repentance expresses sorrow.

4. Am I willing to put forth my best effort in order to change? True repentance is real and authentic.

Overall, biblical counselors should probe and see if there is any godly grief in the life of the addict. Use 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 as a discussion starter for biblical repentance. Once an addict experiences godly grief and repentance for their actions, then they will have no regrets concerning their life-changing decision.

2. Let Us Encourage Confession

In the book of 1 John, John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Once the addict is truly repentant of his/her actions, then they should confess their sins. According to biblical counselor, Mark Shaw, spoken confession is important for three reasons.[2]

First, an addict’s confession acknowledges the extent of their life-devastating problem. For most addicts, they experience the “insanity” of their addiction. Those caught up in life-dominating sins do the same repetitive behavior while expecting different results. This is the definition of insanity.

Second, an addict’s confession acknowledges their need for the help of others to confront their life-devastating problem. There is a great need for accountability in the life of an addict. This is where the church really needs to “step up its game.” If the church should be a place where people can go for help and healing, then mature believers need to get involved “in the game.” Pastors and church members can be involved as accountability partners or mentors. The church can use this opportunity to either evangelize the lost, or disciple the believers.

Third, an addict’s confession acknowledges your responsibility for your own addiction-related actions. No one is exempt to addictive behaviors. Why? Because everyone wants to be their own boss rather than let God be the boss. Confession simply means “to say the same thing” as God. Therefore, true confession illustrates personal responsibility and growth in your relationship with the Lord.

3. Let Us Encourage Counseling

Once the addict is truly repentant of his/her actions, then they should confess their sins and seek counseling for further recovery. God never meant for us to go through life alone. Remember that God made us dependent creatures, dependent not upon a substance, but upon Him. God also uses others in our life to help keep us straight.

So what kind of counseling should be encouraged? We want to encourage biblical counseling that is based upon the sufficiency of God’s Word. What does it look like to biblically counsel an addict?

First, biblical counselors must look at what is normative. In other words, what is going on in the addict’s life? Rather than looking at things from the world’s perspective, biblical counselors encourage looking at things from God’s perspective. Therefore, we should ask what has God said to be normal? Scripture says that man is dependent by nature.

Second, biblical counselors need to look at the addict’s environment. What is the situation surrounding the addict’s life? What difficulties are they facing? What does their home/work/family life look like? What does God’s Word say about the situations in the addict’s life?

Third, biblical counselors need to look at an addict’s spiritual life. We need to ask, what is going on inside someone’s heart? Solomon writes, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23).” Jeremiah declares that the heart is “deceitfully wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Even Jesus notes, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). Even though the Bible teaches that it is only God who can truly discern what is happening inside the heart, it also teaches that a man of understanding can draw out what is going on inside the heart (Prov. 20:5). Therefore, a good biblical counselor will want to ask: What is going on in this person’s life? What is this person thinking? What is this person wanting?

Fourth, biblical counselors will want to know about common factors that lead to self-destructive and life-dominating habits. These common factors include, but are not limited to the following: an inaccurate view of self, avoidance of conflicts or trials, a lack of trust in God, “perfectionistic” tendencies, desires “quick fix,” motivated by fear, patterns and habits are formed, peer pressure, trigger situations, and family influence. These are just some of many factors that may result in a person submitting themselves to the destructive lifestyle of addiction.

Fifth, biblical counselors must offer helpful and practical ways to battle temptation. Here are just a few practical tips that biblical counselors can suggest to encourage addicts:

1. If an addict sees an image on television that promotes sin, lies, or any other form of addiction, then change the channel or turn off the television. If an addict sees an inappropriate image on a sign, look the opposite directions (unless driving!) Do anything you can to submit yourselves to God rather than the devil (James 4:7).

2. Do not entertain worldly thoughts in your mind. Replace them with biblical truth. Martin Luther always warned his theology students to not be left alone with their thoughts. The mind is one of Satan’s favorite battlegrounds.

3. Be active and resist the lies of this world whose father is Satan, the father of lies. Addicts can resist the lies of this world by not going to certain places like bars, some restaurants, parties, and neighborhoods where they once purchased drugs

4. Avoid certain people and things that trigger a desire to use drugs or alcohol. The world calls these types of relationships, codependency. The Bible calls these relationships idolatrous. Therefore, addicts must avoid any person, place, or thing, that will hinder their relationship with God.Become active! Addicts must replace the time that they spent “using” and with something that is beneficial. These activities may include exercising or playing sports. Regardless, any kind of a physical activity will help keep one’s mind from wandering into the darkness.

5. Become active! Addicts must replace the time that they spent “using” and with something that is beneficial. These activities may include exercising or playing sports. Regardless, any kind of a physical activity will help keep one’s mind from wandering into the darkness.

Conclusion

Contrition, confession, and counseling can happen, but not without the help from God’s Holy Spirit. All three of these activities can happen, but not without an addict’s change of heart. There are three ingredients for every successful recovery: God, counselor, and addict. First, God must be involved in the process. Second, a Christian counselor is needed in order to walk through this tough situation with the addict. Third, the addict must be responsible and submit themselves to the authority of Jesus Christ. The first two ingredients are normally a given. It is the third ingredient that typically hinders the process – an unwilling addict.

Because of sin in this world, everyone is pre-programmed to serve the self. All of us need re-programming so that we can serve God. No matter how bad we want someone’s life to be changed, it will not happen without help from God. God must change an addict’s heart, motives, and will before they will ever want to serve Him.

Therefore, pray for those who live a destructive lifestyle as a result of a life-dominating sin. Pray that God would heal them and give them hope of eternal life. Also, pray that God will use you to be an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer.

[1] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 679.

[2] Mark Shaw, The Heart of Addiction, 141.