By Robby Gallaty, Crosswalk.com
For an addict, it’s often difficult to discern how God is “working all things together for the good” when things continue to get worse. It’s hard to experience his grace in our lives when we feel like we’re in the middle of a “Groundhog Day” movie loop—everyday more or less a repeat of our struggles from the day before.
But there’s a message of hope that I want you to embrace, even as you fight your addictions and seek God: The Lord says to you (and me), as he said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
As you feel weak and weary, traveling the hard and bumpy road to sobriety, be encouraged by these five truths about God’s grace:
1. Pain and suffering are gracious gifts from God.
You may wonder why God allows us to experience pain and suffering. I certainly pondered this notion. Every person mightily used in the Bible has endured some form of suffering. God’s divine instrument for shaping us into the image of his Son is suffering.
In “The Root of the Righteous,” A.W. Tozer wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” At face value, his proposition catches us off guard. He offers an explanation to clarify his intention:
“The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.”
After my car accident that led to drug addiction, my life spiraled out of control. Stealing from my parents and living without gas, electricity, and water humiliated me in many ways. But when we’re down to nothing, God’s up to something. A season of sobriety brought hope for the future, but a relapse took me back to ground zero again.
Why is this happening to me? Would I ever get myself out of this mess?
Little did I know, God was breaking me of all dependence upon self. The moment I relinquished control of my life once and for all, he stepped in and saved me.
God will never waste a hurt in your life. There are no accidents in God’s economy, and he’s in full control of everything that happens.
2. You’re a work in progress.
If we imagine God as a builder, then we, those whom he created in his image, are constantly under construction. God’s always working on us. Paul emphasized this point in Philippians 1:6 when he said, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Listen to the hope contained in these words. No matter how good it is now, no matter how terrible, no matter how far away from improvement you may feel, the final chapter of your life is yet to be written.
Regardless of what you’ve done or whom you’ve wronged, God can forgive you and redeem you. This motivates us never to stop praying for those who are far from God.
His grace is greater than all our sin.
God is still working on you, and the best is yet to come—it will be finished on the day of Christ Jesus.
3. God is never in a hurry.
God began writing your life story in eternity past and is continuing to write to eternity future. Unfortunately, we are unable to see the finished product of God’s handiwork as the tapestry of our lives.
We become impatient with God, wanting immediate gratification and instant results. But he doesn’t work that way.
You didn’t get to where you are overnight, and God’s not going to fix it right now. God is never in a rush to do anything. In fact, the only time we see him in a hurry is in Luke 15. When the prodigal son comes to his senses, the father (i.e., God) runs to embrace his repentant son.
Other than in isolated incidents, you will be hard-pressed to identify a time when God is in a rush. It took 13 years before Joseph in Genesis was elevated to the right hand of the Pharaoh. If he had been released from prison when the cupbearer had promised, it is probable that he would have been sold to another Egyptian or to traveling traders.
Without knowing the full story of Joseph’s life, one would question the wisdom of God. But God had to press him, mold him, and shape him for 13 years before he was courageous and accepted enough to stand before the reigning Pharaoh.
God’s timing is best. Certain lessons like patience, perseverance, and endurance can only be learned through waiting upon the Lord.
God uses every pressure, circumstance, and situation to shape and mold you into the man or woman he desires you to be. His choice weapon is pain. Pain reveals an area that needs to be addressed.
It is in the crucible of adversity that character is forged.
4. You can’t save yourself; Jesus is the only one who can.
No amount of willpower, good intentions, or white-knuckling to hang on to sobriety will save you from your sin.
Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation.
After reading about my experiences with addiction, you may be thinking your life is different than mine. Maybe you’ve never struggled with alcohol or drugs, maybe you have but not to the extent of the addiction I had, or maybe you are addicted to pornography, gambling or something else.
Regardless, we ALL share the same sin problem that can’t be fixed by our own good works or meritorious actions. Every one of us needs a Savior to set us free and make us whole.
For addicts, that need is magnified by the dependence on the bottle, the pills, the pornography—or wherever you turn to fill all those longings that God alone can satisfy.
If you’ve never surrendered your life to Jesus completely, I want to encourage you to do that now. The joy, peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction you’ve been searching for is found in him alone.
When you realize you can’t save yourself, and that Jesus is the only one who can, you will experience a new life in Christ.
Sometimes it takes us getting so low that the only place to look is up to God.
5. God’s grace empowers you to die to self daily.
One of the most incredible things about God’s grace is that he equips you to do that which he requires (obedience): “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
Jesus doesn’t promise an easy life just because you’re a Christian. Because we are still in a daily battle with the world, our fleshly desires, and the devil, walking with God will be hard at times.
God says to rely on him to keep going. Every day we must die to ourselves, our will, our desires, and our wants, and seek after God.
God’s grace empowers us to do that.
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Long-term sobriety is not attained from the strength we have within, but from God. As my friend, Tim, reminded me years ago, “The Christian life is either easy or impossible. It’s impossible if you do it in your own strength. It becomes easier as you allow Christ to work in you to work through you.”
You are useful in the Kingdom of God.
For me, every morning is a funeral and a coronation. I die to self and acknowledge Jesus as king of my life.
Every day sober is another step toward usefulness in the kingdom of God. You may feel like you’ve missed out on so much because of wasted years, but don’t be discouraged.
Grasp God’s grace, surrender daily to Jesus, depend upon his Spirit for strength, and watch him work.
Robby Gallaty is the Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN. He was radically saved out of a life of drug addiction on November 12, 2002. In 2008, he began Replicate Ministries to equip and train men and women to be disciples who make disciples. He is latest book, Recovered: How An Accident, Alcohol and Addiction Led Me To God is available on Amazon, LifeWay.com and anywhere books are sold. He is also the author of Growing Up (2013), Firmly Planted (2015), Rediscovering Discipleship (2015), MARCS of a Disciple (2016), The Forgotten Jesus (2017), Preaching for the Rest of Us (2018), and Here and Now (2019).
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Japheth-Mast