hopequest blog

Ever Compare Your Recovery To The Recovery Of Someone Else?

As sons of Adam, we have a propensity to classify our sin in one of two ways: we’ve broken a rule (black and white legalism) or we’re not as bad as that other guy (comparative liberalism). The danger with a legalistic approach to life is that we can justify certain thoughts and behaviors if we are careful not to break stated rules.

(For example, since the Bible never mentions the word “masturbate” explicitly, it can’t be sinful to masturbate.) And if we tend to compare our actions with the behavior of others, we can always find someone acting “worse” than us and feel smug about our own condition. (“I just look at pornography. That guy has had dozens of affairs. I’m not as sinful as he is.”) The truth of the matter is that God is not really looking at the behaviors we are doing; he is concerned with the motive of the heart behind the behaviors. That’s where sin starts—in our hearts…

…Whenever we look to sex or substances or work or ministry or whatever to meet our desire for love, acceptance, significance, security, comfort, or control, we are committing the sin of idolatry…

…The sexual thoughts and behaviors you are struggling with are not the primary sins in your life. They are sins resulting from a choice you have made to look to things other than God to meet needs only He can fill. At the core of your sexual addiction is an idolatrous heart. That means that no matter how you classify your sin in an effort to justify your thoughts and behaviors, God sees a heart that has forsaken Him. And from that reality, you cannot run or hide. You have been living dependent on your own resources instead of His, and in doing so, you have sinned…

– Troy Haas, Building for Freedom

Finding Safe People: You Can’t Trust Just Anybody…

You need to be meeting at least once per week with a group of three to five men as you undertake this process of building for freedom. These men should be guys with whom you can feel safe sharing your secrets. Anything said in a group meeting is to be kept strictly confidential, so that group is a safe place to start practicing being honest and real about your struggles. Other safe people with whom you might share include your pastor or an elder in your church, a qualified counselor, or a mature believer whose life and character you respect. You will need a lot of support and help on the journey toward freedom. Even two men can’t move a 750 lb. boulder by themselves.

I do want to make a few comments about safe people before we close for the day. It is important to begin being real with others, but it is also important to have wisdom and discretion as you share. Before you make yourself vulnerable to another person, look for these qualities.

Safe People:

  • Accept and love me unconditionally.
  • Are comfortable with my humanity. They don’t expect me to be perfect, but they don’t minimize my sin either. They encourage me to be real and discourage all pretense.
  • Don’t gossip about me.
  • Don’t try to fix my problem or offer solutions. They simply listen, encourage me, and pray.
  • Don’t need my love or approval to be okay. They can handle my angry outbursts and stormy emotions because they know who they are in Christ.
  • Are aware of their own brokenness. Humility and integrity are the hallmarks of their character.
  • Are more concerned about relating to me and loving me than about giving me advice.
  • Are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. Only believers can be truly safe people.

Because you are very vulnerable right now, it is also very important that you guard yourself from unsafe people. 

Unsafe People:

  • Condemn or blame others for my problem.
  • Deny or minimize my sin.
  • Try to “fix” me by suggesting things I should or should not do.
  • Give unwanted advice.
  • Cannot keep confidences.
  • Only stay in relationship with me when I am happy and hopeful. They are too uncomfortable with or embarrassed by grief and anger to allow me to feel negative emotions.
  • Are arrogant and self-righteous.
  • Are unable to see the Holy Spirit at work in me. This would apply both to non-believers and immature believers who walk more in the flesh than in the Spirit.

– Troy Haas, Building for Freedom

Why Should We Invite Others Along Our Recovery Journey?

When we detach ourselves from God and others because of the fears that rule our hearts, the only thing we accomplish is the perpetuation of the enemy’s purpose for our lives. Satan, the father of lies, thrives on stealing, killing, and destroying. If he can get you to believe that no one, including God, could love you if they really knew the truth about you, then he has succeeded in his agenda for you. When you build a wall of secrets around your heart and life to protect yourself from rejection, you inadvertently cut off the supply of the only thing you really want—unconditional love. No one can get in to hurt you, but you can’t receive life-giving supplies either. And that brings us down to the biggest false belief driving this whole mess: I can’t trust God or anyone else to meet my needs; I can only depend on myself…

…If you are going to eradicate patterns of sin that have dominated your life, you must begin to expose all of the secret places of your heart and your secret thoughts and behaviors to God and to other safe people. That’s the first thing to do in preparing the site—calling for help. Secrecy kills; honesty heals. And I want to add something very important here: Telling your secrets to God is not enough. You must involve other people. Why? The Bible tells us that healing only comes in relationship (“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”–James 5:16).

– Troy Haas, Building for Freedom

Secrecy Kills, Honesty Heals

The problem with secrets is that they only seem to protect us. We think that our only option is to hide the truth—that we’ll be rejected or hurt or destroyed or abandoned if the truth is exposed. And when we are talking about our relationships with other people, some of our beliefs may be valid, at least in part. If you had a physically abusive father, it was dangerous for you to mess up in some way and be honest about it with him. If you were sexually violated or abused by another person as a child or adolescent, all kinds of fears kept you silent—fear that others wouldn’t believe you, fear that the abuser would hurt you, fear that you were to blame, fear that others would think you were gay, fear that others would reject you. Now in your present life you have all of the old fears ruling in the depths of your heart, and as you try to calm those fears and soothe the feelings of shame, you behave in ways that create more fears. You hide your use of pornography and/or your unfaithfulness from your wife because you fear her rejection and scorn. The first secrets beget more secrets until your whole life’s goal is to conceal and hide your struggle from others. And in the process, you also hide from God—or at least you try to.

– Troy Haas, Building for Freedom

What is Addiction?

Definition of Addiction

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addictive Behavior Can Be Characterized by 5 Specific Features:

  • Inability to Abstain
  • Behavioral Control Impairment
  • Craving
  • Diminished recognition of Significant Problems
  • Emotional dysfunction

Source, and further information: 

https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction

Reclaiming Families Seminar Workbook

Beginning Your Journey with a Solid Foundation

Think about your life right now. If your life is a piece of land on which God wants to build a home, what things are going to have to be dug up or filled in or taken away in order for him to have a level lot on which He can pour a foundation?

The first thing that needs to happen as we rebuild for freedom is the eradication of a pattern of sin that has dominated our lives. That means we need to stop acting out sexually and start living a life that reflects who we are in Christ.

…Don’t worry. I’m the last person to tell you to just stop sinning sexually and expect you to say, “Okay, I’ll quit. No problem.” I know how it feels to be powerless—to promise yourself that you’ll stop and find yourself breaking those promises the very next day. I understand the shame and the feelings of condemnation which have taken up permanent residence in your heart. I’ve lived with the self-hatred and aching loneliness. I know. But I also know that there is hope…

…Think about it. Can you imagine leveling a lot by hand without any help from another person or any tools or machines? It’s impossible. You can’t move a 750lb. boulder by yourself. Sure, you can pull up weeds and thorns and poison ivy. You’ll get a lot of scratches and itchy places. The problem is, as soon as it rains all of it will grow back, and you’ll have to start the process over again. You can kick a little dirt into a gaping ravine, but there is no way you will ever be able to fill it up. Of course, the hopelessness of the task is enough to make even the most determined man throw up his hands toward the sky and say, “Why did you do this to me, God? Why did you give me a job I can’t do? I can’t level this lot! I’m not strong enough. I don’t have anything to protect my hands from the thorns. I don’t have any tools to help me! Why, God? Why?!”

And that’s the point.

– Troy Haas, Building for Freedom

Don’t Be a Loser at the Blame Game…

Blaming others is giving ourselves away in little pieces. Every time I blame I give power to someone else to define who I am. And every time I give power away to others, I lose the ability to control myself.

Real change can only happen if I harness all of the power God has given me to fight the temptations and trials I am promised on this journey. Our propensity to refuse ownership by blaming others weakens us greatly. Sometimes it is the reason we fail.

Power is released from God in us toward sinful attitudes and behaviors that we own. His power covers, heals, and restores—working in us to make us whole and useful. But when we blame, power leaves us and moves instead to the hand of the enemy who uses it to fuel the destructive cycle of shame, failure, and regret.

Choose to take ownership, and you will choose life.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

 

Recent Blog posts on Blame:

Walking Free – Week Forty-Three

Walking Free – Week Forty-Three

Blaming Others

Passing the buck seems to be a part of human nature. It’s so instinctive, in fact, that we find the first “Blame Game” taking place between the first man and woman. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He questioned them about their sin. Adam’s response? He blamed Eve, who then blamed the devil.

People haven’t changed much since then. We still search for ways to excuse our poor choices. For those of us struggling with sexual sin, we may blame our parents, our wives, even God, for our behavior. But these excuses hold us back from true repentance and delay God’s work in our lives.

It’s human nature to dodge responsibility for our failures. Yet excuses can hamper our recovery and hinder our healing. It’s essential that we take full responsibility for our actions and choices. Honesty will lead us to repentance and humility, and allow God to truly change our hearts and minds.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Forty-Two

The space you make for the Living Word in your heart will determine your destiny in the Kingdom of God. A life with space for Jesus is characterized by humility, teachability, dependency, and true love. It is whole-hearted living with my soul tuned to the sound of God’s voice, and a knee that consistently bows throughout the day to the agenda of a Boss worth serving.

Is your heart a place worthy of a King? Ask God to help you renovate your heart for Him.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Forty-One

Not Allowing Room for Jesus and What He’s Saying to You

During one of His public teachings, Jesus had an interesting dialogue with His audience. The topic was their Jewish heritage, and the resulting right to be called God’s children. But while Jesus acknowledged their lineage, He questioned their actual relationship with God. Jesus wondered if they were truly God’s children, why they didn’t have room for His word to them.

We can make the same mistake. We can grow too confident in our way of doing things. As we begin to overcome certain thoughts and behaviors, our progress can actually make us feel less dependent on God.

The Jewish people knew they were God’s children. But this knowledge caused them to become arrogant and resistant to His voice. Their confidence was in themselves, and not the God they claimed to serve.

Likewise, it’s important that regardless of how far we’ve come and how great our personal success, we always allow room for God in our lives. Because no matter how much progress we make, it’s vital that we continue to listen to His voice.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Forty

Controlling is the opposite of trusting. It is often our first reaction to fearful or painful situations, and it is probably the greatest overall challenge you and I will face on this journey. We resist dependency on anyone other than ourselves, but we were created to be dependent, so we end up being dependent on everything and everyone except God.

The walk from bondage to freedom is paradoxical because we must give up being dependent on ourselves (which is bondage) and embrace being dependent on God. When we place ourselves as bondservants in relationship to Him, we actually receive freedom—not freedom to control our destinies, but freedom to not be controlled by our desires and behaviors.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Nine

Staying in Control

The book of Exodus chronicles the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. For over 30 years the Jewish people had suffered as slaves. Finally, after their miraculous release, they were making their way to freedom.

But the road between slavery and freedom is not easy. After their initial euphoria wore off, the Israelites began to have second thoughts. Even though they had been slaves in Egypt, they had maintained some control over their lives and routine. Now in the desert—the toughest part of their journey—they were completely reliant on God for direction and support. This lack of control actually made them long for the predictability of slavery.

We often fall into the same mindset. Sexual sin gives us a degree of control in our lives. As we make our own journey from bondage to freedom, we are tempted to return to sexual sin to ease the pain. But we must be careful to avoid viewing our past through the deceptive haze of nostalgia. Instead, we can choose to trust and rely on God during our journey to healing and restoration.

Brother and friend, don’t go back to Egypt!

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Eight

Every longing that you have is important to your Father. Ultimately, He wants to use your desires to draw you into relationship with Him. So, don’t ignore your longings. Instead, acknowledge them to God. Talk to Him about your desires—even the ones that have led you to sinful places in the past. Ask Him to show you where your longings come from, and then ask Him to satisfy you.

You will find that the more you acknowledge your hunger to God, the greater control the Holy Spirit will give you to choose to be filled in healthy and worshipful ways. And you will begin to discover that God is more than able to meet your needs. He really does satisfy.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Seven

Ignoring the Hunger in Your Heart

We all have a natural desire for intimacy and personal connection. God created us with a deep need for relationships. When we feed this hunger the way God intended, we experience emotional satisfaction, overwhelming joy, and lasting freedom. Our God-given needs are met.

But when our heart is not full, and our hunger not fed, we are tempted to find harmful ways to satisfy these needs. If we isolate ourselves from God and others, we face the danger of making choices that can tragically affect our lives.

If we have an emotional void, we are more susceptible to temptation. It’s essential that we daily feed our desire for intimacy through healthy relationships and spending time with God. Because if our hearts are full, we won’t hunger for things that can hurt us.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Six

Naaman was an influential man and highly respected. He had made a name for himself—or so he thought—in spite of a shameful and debilitating disease. I can relate to Naaman in that way. I too was respected for my accomplishments. Many affirmed me for all that I had done and was doing but the shame I felt because of my struggles never was silenced. I knew the truth about me, even if others could only see my victories.

It was the Naaman who everyone thought was great who showed up at Elisha’s home that day. He came with his full entourage expecting to be treated like a great man instead of a sick one. Elisha didn’t even darken the door. He sent a messenger with the instructions. Instead of being grateful, Naaman felt disrespected and dishonored. Not only that, Naaman had envisioned a much grander and glorious healing experience—not a disrobing in front of everyone, showing how deformed and disfigured the leprosy had made him, and dipping seven times in the muddy water of the Jordan.

What about you? Are you coming to this group like the guy who everyone else thinks is great? Or are you presenting yourself humbly as a sick man in desperate need of healing? Are you expecting God to heal you in a grand and glorious way and mad that He hasn’t already? Or are you willing to disrobe and let people see what you are most ashamed of so that you can be healed?

You will receive healing and restoration to the degree that you surrender. Don’t belabor the process. Choose surrender first instead of making it your last resort.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Last Week’s Blog about Naaman:

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Five

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Five

Making Surrender Your Last Resort

Naaman was the commander of a large army. But even though he was a powerful soldier, he suffered from leprosy, a painful skin disease. Naaman traveled to receive healing from the prophet Elisha. Yet he balked at Elisha’s strange directions. Naaman looked in the right place and asked the right questions, but did not like what he heard. This soldier only acted on Elisha’s words as a last resort.

We all understand that surrender is necessary for healing, but there’s a difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Just like Naaman, we can hear truth – and even understand it – but we may not act on that wisdom.

Naaman’s last resort was surrendering to God. We can make the same mistake. Don’t wait until other efforts have failed before you surrender to Him. Make surrender your first choice, not your last resort.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Read Naaman’s story here: 2 Kings 5:1-14

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Four

Every journey begins with a destination in mind. That destination determines how we plan for the trip. And with any good plan, we should anticipate the challenges we may face.

Imagine you’re planning a hiking and camping trip in the mountains. While you’re excited about the adventure, it’s always wise to prepare for an emergency. You anticipate a safe trip, but you will probably pack a first aid kit. While the weather report predicts clear skies, it makes sense to pack your rain gear. And even though you want to escape from an always-available world, it won’t hurt to have your cell phone for emergencies.

As with any journey, the path to healing and freedom is filled with potential obstacles that can get us off track, or even derail our progress.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Three

Deadly mindset #3 is a close cousin to the deadly mindset of blaming. I’m calling this mindset re-naming, but a more familiar word is rationalization. When we rationalize our behaviors, we acknowledge that we did them but then justify our actions with a reason or excuse. “I was stressed out,” or “I had a really bad day at work,” or “It’s my job to take clients out to eat wherever they want to go.”

Re-naming can also be a strategy we use to try to spin the truth: “I did not have sex with that woman” is a classic example of re-naming.

If I re-name sex in my mind to mean intercourse only, then I can tell the world that I didn’t have sex, when in reality I may have had oral sex or cybersex or some other sexual experience with or without another person.

This mindset is deadly to recovery because it excuses sinful choices instead of repenting from them. God already knows the truth. He just wants us to be honest – without offering excuses.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-Two

There is a huge difference between shame and conviction. Conviction is when we are made to see our sin for what it is. Shame is when we are more consumed with our “badness” than our sin. It is simply another form of self-obsession, and that is the reason it leads to more selfish acting out. Christ took our shame on the cross. If we are in Him, we will be convicted of our sin and see it as He sees it. Then we can CONFESS IT – agree with Him about it – and receive His forgiveness.

When we focus on Him, both His view of our sin and His provision of forgiveness for it, we can move on in grace! Christ took our shame. We are no longer defined by our sin.

And that is very good news.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Walking Free – Week Thirty-One

The second deadly mindset is a subtle but powerful enemy of truth. It is shame – a mindset of self-hatred that fuels destructive behaviors and distorts reality. Shame proclaims, “I am worthless and defective, hopelessly screwed up, and if you really knew me, you would never love me.”

When shame becomes our mindset, we often get trapped in a cycle of sin that perpetuates the enemy’s lies about us. To numb the pain of our self-hatred, we act out – experiencing momentary relief. But then we feel even more shame and self-hatred. The urge to find relief overwhelms us, and it isn’t long until we’ve acted out again – despite our efforts to stop. See the cycle?

Fortunately, we have a Savior who bore our shame. In Him, we can finally find the freedom to value ourselves as children of God.

– Troy Haas, First Steps