Connecting to the Larger Narrative

This past week, I took some time off work to celebrate alongside one of my friends as he made a public proclamation of God’s faithfulness to sinners. More to the point, perhaps, this brother of mine had recently hit the 10-year mark in his recovery from alcohol and, as Providence would have it, he was given the chance to tell a roomful of people about it the very next day.

Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Perhaps my idea of fun and excitement needs a serious tune-up, but this is the sort of thing I would not miss for the world. Walking with other men and women as they slowly get traction on stepping away from destructive, monstrous evil is exactly what gets me up out of bed every day. Disney World is pretty cool, yes, but it doesn’t hold a candle to having a ringside seat to human beings casting off depression, despair and death.

On Friday, I listened attentively as addict after addict spoke about the very real statistics that go hand-in-hand with any attempt at rehab. The sad truth is that most addicts don’t make it. The majority of addicts, with proper treatment, are able to shake off the behaviors that fuel addiction, but typically only for a short period, less than five years. When the harder realities of life come knocking on the door – job loss, divorce, or death of a loved one, for instance – the recovering addict is only left with a storyline that focuses in on his or her individual well-being. Because God has set eternity into the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we all intuitively understand – correctly – that our own lives of 70, 80, or even as much as 100 years don’t tell the whole story. It’s just not enough.

So what do we do when a person suffers losses so severe that he or she no longer cares whether they live or die?

In the 10-plus years during which I repeatedly have been given the privilege of entering into the lives of people, many of them getting ready to toss in the towel, there is one truth that every story of recovery points to: It’s not about you.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God,(1) and to enjoy him forever.(2)

  1. First Corinthians 10:31: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Romans 11:36: For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
  2. Psalm 73:24-26: Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. John 17:22,24: And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one…Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

You are probably already aware that the majority of modern rehabilitation techniques have by and large sought to disconnect Jesus from the storyline of recovery, primarily (I suppose) so as to not offend someone who really wants to shake off meth but has no interest in God. As Christians, we can all agree that it is far better for our society for someone to put down the bottle, the needle or the pipe and make a more positive contribution to society. Therein lies much in the way of common ground.

Does your recovery regimen help keep you sober? Yes? Amen and hooray! Does it also provide a satisfying and (key point) inexhaustible canvas against which you can now paint the remainder of your life, triumphs and tragedies included? Oftentimes, this is precisely where clinical methodologies fall flat. Pressure applied by others from the outside – “Your life is important!” “You’re going to lose your job!” – runs the risk of being met by the vacant stare of another human being who just can’t handle the vicissitudes of life any longer and wants to die as painlessly as possible.

What marks the successful recovery of the Christian, in my estimation, is that the healing Presence bubbles up from inside the individual, not primarily from the external application of even the most painful of consequences. Entirely unique to all of human history, Jesus alone offers the correct diagnosis for our sickness (Matthew 15:17-20; Matthew 23:27-28). Because He is the great Physician, He alone can offer an addict the completely-cleansing cure (John 3:1-21; James 5:16). Our problem is not that we are sick, and need a Band-Aid applied to our hearts, our problem is that we are dead and need a resurrection to new life that He alone offers.

Friday was a great day for me. I got to see my friend speak boldly about his recovery and offer hope to others. I got to look into the eyes of other people who were just broken enough that the light and life Jesus offers might just get through to them. I saw a lot of people who (as far as I could tell) remain unconvinced that their lives matter, that all of their tears are being counted and kept safe (Psalm 56:8), and that God truly has an amazing plan for their lives (Jeremiah 29:11). My friend and I need to travel back to that room more often and pray more fervently for the souls that Christ Himself loves and died for.

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