Jesus is all about recovery. He stated his mission clearly: “The Father has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). For three years, Jesus “sponsored” 12 aimless men, whom he left behind to build something we now call the church. Jesus was all about setting people free–from chains, sickness, and strongholds. Jesus was, and is, all about recovery.
Three specific stories reveal Jesus’ battle plan for recovery. All three are recorded in the Book of John.
Overcome Addiction with Desperation (John 5:1-15)
Jesus came upon a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He found him by a pool that was thought to have healing powers. Jesus asked the man a strange question. “Do you want to get well?” (5:6). Anyone who is chronically sick wants to get well, right? Actually, no. The reality is, most of us–especially addicts–are more comfortable with a familiar sickness than an unfamiliar solution.
Jesus was really asking the man, “Are you desperate? Are you willing to do whatever I’m about to ask? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? If you are the only one to get well today, are you still all in? Do you really want it?”
The man found recovery in his focus on his Higher Power. He said to Jesus, “I have no one to help me” (5:7). He was saying, “I’ve tried everything else. This pool I’m laying by didn’t work. The finest doctors couldn’t help. I’ve played my last card. I’m out of options. Now I turn to you.”
Jesus told the crippled man to do the last thing he could have imagined doing. “Pick up your mat and walk” (5:8). But when he did the improbable, he experienced the impossible. When he became willing to look the part of the fool, in front of all his friends, he found healing. We only find healing when we are truly desperate. When the pain of pornography and shame of acting out are painful enough, when they cripple us, only then are we ready. We must be desperate.
Overcome Addiction through Death (John 11:1-44)
The story of Lazarus is a template for recovery and the definition of hope. His friends came to Jesus with sad news: “The one you love is sick” (11:3). That’s good news for each of us who suffer. Jesus loves sick people. He does not just love us after our addiction, but in it.
Then Jesus promised, “This sickness will not end in death” (11:4). With one statement, he put his entire reputation on the line. Why? Because the man died. Jesus said so himself: “Lazarus is dead” (11:14). Four days later, he was still dead (11:17). But hear Jesus’ words carefully. “This sickness will not end in death” (11:4). He never said Lazarus wouldn’t die. He said it wouldn’t end there. God gets the final word.
Death represents surrender. For the person who is hooked on porn, he must die to himself and surrender to God. Death is the ultimate state of surrender. As a pastor, I did over 500 funerals. Not once did the corpse “do his own thing.” Death equals surrender. Three times, Jesus raised the dead. Each time–Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son–they did exactly what Jesus commanded. “Get up. Walk. Come forth.” They obeyed. They were restored because they surrendered.
Overcome Addiction with Disclosure (John 4:1-26, 39-42)
Jesus met a woman who had been married five times. It was time for disclosure. Her secret had to come out. Jesus said to the woman, “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (4:18).
Jesus met the woman at a well, where she had gone to draw water. He promised her a “living water” that would quench the thirst of her soul (4:14). But first, she had to come clean. Jesus called her out for multiple marriages and fornication. The woman, like many of us, was out of control. Her lifestyle had relegated her to an existence of shame and secrecy.
That’s what addiction does. It takes us further than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and costs us more than we want to pay. At the root of addiction is secrecy. And the only answer is a full disclosure. Only by being known can we be well.
In order to bring restoration to this woman, Jesus shed light on the sins of her past and the isolation of her present. Disclosure changed everything. So profound and unexpected was the change that within days, “Many of the Sadducees from the town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony” (4:39). When the addict comes clean, it affects others.
You Can Find Lasting Recovery!
Jesus cares about sick people. Those of us who have risked everything at the altar of our addictions are the definition of sick people. But there’s still hope for each of us. Jesus is for addicts, more than any person who ever lived. You can get well, but only if you do it his way. In desperation you’ll find hope, in death you’ll find healing, and in disclosure you’ll find a life you have only dreamed of.
Desperation. Death. Disclosure. Those are the keys to lasting recovery.
Mark Denison, D.Min., along with his wife Beth, founded There’s Still Hope, a national sexual addiction recovery ministry. Mark has a Master’s in Addiction Recovery and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. The author of The Daily Walk and Porn in the Pew, Mark is a former church planter, pastor, university board chairman, and NBA chaplain. For help in your own recovery, visit his website at TheresStillHope.org.