By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., SATP, CSAT, Integrity Counseling Services — People often wonder where God is when they struggle with an addiction. At Integrity Counseling Services, many of the men I work with who struggle with pornography addiction have prayed fervently for God to take it away. However, they feel their prayers have fallen on deaf ears because they continue to struggle. Some believe that God doesn’t even care about them. They believe that because of their sins they are unlovable.
While it may be difficult for someone struggling with addiction to see God working in his life, the fact is that God is intimately involved. However, it takes some time and skill to recognize how God is at work in the healing process.
The first thing that a person in recovery needs to understand is the difference between a healing and a cure. The difference is time. A cure is immediate while a healing takes time. In scripture, we read about many cures. Jesus cured the blind man, the crippled man and the lepers. This is what most addicts pray for — an instant cure. While God can do this, it’s been my experience that He prefers to work in healing people’s lives.
God wants to see His children freed from the chains of addiction; however, above all else, His greatest desire is to be in a deep, loving, intimate relationship with each of His children. While most people would prefer a cure, it probably wouldn’t do much for their relationship with God. They would thank God and simply go about their lives forgetting all about Him.
With a healing, God says, “Let’s walk for a while and talk. Let’s get to know one another and build a relationship.” The end result of a cure and a healing is the same: health and restoration. However, with a healing there’s the added benefit of a deeper relationship with God. Here is how God uses our infirmities as an invitation to draw us closer to him. He wants us to know how much he loves us no matter what we’ve done. He wants us to know that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that He delights in us! Once you understand that God is more interested in healing you than curing you, it’s easier to be more patient with the recovery process. You can even begin to enjoy the journey of getting to know Him better.
It’s also important to be able to see how God is active in recovery. He reveals Himself through the people one meets, such as a confessor, spiritual director, support group members, sponsor, accountability partners and therapist. Many people I’ve counseled marvel at all the people God has brought into their lives to help them find freedom from pornography use. It requires great humility to develop such a team for recovery. One needs to let go of control, admit powerlessness and let God truly work in his life.
This is summed up in the first three of the 12-steps:
- We admitted that we were powerless over lust — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Once a man can humbly submit his life to God, recovery becomes easier. He can fearlessly work through the 12 steps. He can reach out for help when needed and offer help to others in need. He will not only grow in humility, he will also grow in other virtues such as honesty, courage, faith, hope, love, trustworthiness, obedience, kindness, etc.
Another reason I believe God doesn’t simply come in and cure people is that recovery is more meaningful when a man takes ownership of it. This requires him to do the work of recovery. In addition to admitting his powerlessness and submitting to God, he needs to immerse himself in a comprehensive recovery program. He must acquire the skills to achieve and maintain sobriety. He needs to identify the root causes of his addiction and resolve them. He needs to mend relationships that have been hurt by his addiction. He needs to help others in recovery. It’s this work that can bring about true transformation in a man’s life. God wants men to experience this!
As one can see in the 12 steps, spirituality has always played an important role in recovery. Building an intimate relationship with God can truly help a person through the tough times and is necessary for authentic healing. However, this rarely occurs without some help. I recommend all my clients find a good spiritual director. This is usually a priest they meet with once a month. They can discuss their relationship with God, their image of God, ask questions about God, and receive guidance in developing a strong and healthy relationship with God through prayer, sacraments, and scripture.
Altogether, it’s not difficult to understand how God is present in one’s recovery and to see him actively working in it. It simply takes knowing where to look and how to look! It’s seeking the healing, not the cure.