Jesus said that if we hold to his teaching then we show that we are his disciples — and we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). As Christ-followers we can and should believe that all truth comes from God. So what does this mean for those us of in recovery from pornography, masturbation, affairs, sleeping with prostitutes, going to strip clubs, sex outside marriage, sex addiction, or the like? Does it mean that if we slip we are not his disciples, that we are not really Christ-followers?
Absolutely not! While we should not seek sin out because we have been saved by grace and grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:1-4), we are no less a son of the sovereign Lord because we slip, mess up, fall into or jump into the ditch. Condemnation is a lie of Satan and performance-based religion. Reject it – it’s total crap. The truth is that Jesus has set us free and we are no longer slaves to sin (John 8:34). We have been reconciled to God through Christ’s work on the cross and we now love God because of He has first loved us.
So we are now in a relationship with the very God of the universe, and nothing we do can remove us from the hand of God. I’m not looking to argue theology here, but if King David can murder a man to cover up an affair, continually get prideful with God, have multiple wives, neglect his role as a father to his children, and repent and ask forgiveness and then still be called a “man after God’s own heart,” I think we are pretty safe!
So what is the truth about recovery? The truth, from what I have found, is this:
- Recovery is relational.
- It is hard freaking work.
Let’s break those two statements down.
First, recovery is relational. To recover, I must maintain a conscious relationship with the Triune God (loving God and asking his forgiveness, spending time with him daily), a healthy relationship with myself (loving and forgiving myself continually) and honest relationships with others (my support community, Samson brothers, accountability partners, spouse, children, friends). All of these relationships are crucial.
Second, recovery is hard freaking work. It is a lifelong effort, not a one-and-done kind of thing. I used to believe that if I said the right prayer, read the right book, implemented the right principles, listened to the right podcasts, attended the right intensive, had the right accountability software on my devices, then I could free myself forever. Well, that’s simply not true. Yes, I am freed from spiritual death and separation from God, and yes I will have victories in this life as I follow Christ and his teachings. Yet (and this is a Very Big Yet) we are never told that we will be freed from the temptation of sin. Life is a long series of battles that continually bring us to the end of ourselves and make us realize that we need God more than anything else in this life, that we need him daily, hourly, by the minute and the second. To stay in this fight we must work a plan, be vulnerable, keep accountable, stay honest, be humble, forgive and seek forgiveness — and keep doing those things over and over and over again. We need to practice healthy self-care that is non-abusive to ourselves and others, and probably spend a lot of time with counselors and/or others who are farther along the path.
The Apostle Paul described this ongoing battle in his own life in Romans 7, admitting that even though he had been a Christian for a very long time he still wrestled with doing the right thing and struggled with sin that lived in his flesh (Romans 7:15-25). We are always under threat. There is an unholy trifecta (sin, the flesh and the devil) continually waging war against us. However, Psalm 23 says that God will guard us, protect us, give us rest and security. This is why in Samson we begin each meeting by reading the 23rd Psalm and end with the Lord’s Prayer, reminding ourselves that we need God always. We need him to guard us, protect us, lead us, provide for our every need and to deliver us continually from temptation.
So don’t get bogged down with the false idea that this fight is something that will go away. Don’t believe the lie that failing means you are not a man after God’s own heart. Instead, lean into your Samson brothers, your community, your relationships with God and others for support. Don’t let the shame monster destroy you or convince you to abandon the Path.
The War is God’s to win, which he did on Calvary. The battles are ours to fight, with His help and the help of others. I have said it before and I will continue to say it, God is using Samson to save my life, to restore and rebuild my relationship with him, to connect with a community of men and with the family He has given me. I must continue to remind myself throughout my days that this life is about progress not perfection and the opposite of addiction is connection. These last two truths, along with nurturing my relationship with God, learning to love myself and building relationships with others, and then doing the hard work of recovery, are what I have found to be true about recovery and the most helpful in my journey. I pray they are helpful to you too.
— Jason Cohen