By Mark Dance
Pastors are reluctant to give up on addicts because we believe in the life-changing power of the gospel. We often face pressure, however, to fix broken people in our ministry or family who don’t want to be fixed.
Perhaps we ask ourselves:
- How many relapses are too many?
- How many lies should we believe?
- How many chances should we give?
I have addicts in my family and ministry whom I genuinely love, but don’t know how to help. In my hope to find answers to these and other questions, I read Robby Gallaty’s new book, Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, & Addiction Led Me to God.
I hope these takeaways help you help someone who’s enslaved by an addiction of some kind.
1. Love them unilaterally.
In the last three decades of pastoral ministry, several addicts have pushed me to the brink of exhaustion and frustration. I’ve had to fight off an emotional numbness in my cynical soul.
Ministry is much easier when I surround myself with healthy believers, but that’s not what Jesus has called us to do. [epq-quote align=”align-right”]We need to expect great things from God, not from a struggling addict. [/epq-quote]
God is always at work behind the scenes to seek and save the lost because His love is faithful and stubborn.
Our stubborn love for addicts must be unilateral and unconditional. We need to expect great things from God, not from a struggling addict.
Gallaty’s college friend planted a gospel seed that wouldn’t take root until seven years later. A handful of female friends from that same school stood in prayer for him for seven years and drove two hours to hear him preach his first sermon.
Addicts need to be reminded God hasn’t given up on them, nor have His people.
2. Create clear boundaries.
“There had to be solid boundaries when I was in hot pursuit [of drugs,] or I would chase something right over the nearest cliff…Mom understood that you couldn’t just throw your arms open for the addict and ignore the issue. Addiction is a war, and it’s not fought with pillows and warm hugs…the tough love of my mother saved my life” (pp. 88-89).
Gallaty’s family refused to enable his addictions. Through multiple relapses, they refused to rescue him or reject him personally. At times they withheld their resources and trust, but they never withheld their love.
3. Support them, don’t save them.
Addicts need your love and support, but their recovery requires more than you can give.
When Gallaty finally came to the end of himself, he stopped blaming drugs, friends, parents, cops, and his accident on his addictions. Once he genuinely owned his problems, he was saved by his only real Savior.
Robby writes that addictions are rooted in sin, which he eventually turned from when he turned to Jesus. Although you and I are powerless to fix sin personally, we can proclaim freedom for the captives (Luke 4:18).
“The only person who can set us free from sin is the One who conquered sin, death, and hell: Jesus. The reason I went to rehab twice was because the first time I attempted to do it without Christ” (p. 234).
Am I asking you to stand down? No, I’m asking you to remember who the true rescue hero is. Giving an addict to the Lord may feel like giving up, but it is the polar opposite.
4. Work with others who are also trying to help.
God used lots of people to help Gallaty: family, students, and professionals including doctors, therapists, and police. We see mostly Joes, not pros, on the front lines of his addiction battle.
After his conversion, Gallaty had people like David Platt and Tim LaFluer to disciple and mentor him. Four years ago, Gallaty asked me to be his accountability partner, which has been a blessing for both of us.
It’s an honor to help him win at home, at church, and in private.
Who is someone others have given up on you can proclaim freedom to? Who have you asked to cheer you on to the finish line?
MARK DANCE (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats–often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He is currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.