True Spirituality, Dealing with Addiction, and Self-Help Manuals

Dealing with addictions can push a Christian to the limits of patience, trust, and exhaustion. The addiction might involve drugs, alcohol, tobacco, food, sex, pornography, power, popularity, wealth, social media, technology, or recreation—and many more. Recovering addicts soon find that they need help—help from God, help from family, help from friends, help from their church. As the battle rages to control the addiction, it has become very common for counselors and addicts alike to turn to self-help manuals. Who hasn’t been helped at least a little by getting some good biblical advice from a significant book like Heath Lambert’s Finally Free,[1] which deals with pornography and lust? (BTW, I am not recommending the volume whose photo I placed as an illustration at the start of this blog entry.)

Why Do We Seek Self-Help Manuals?

However, let’s be brutally honest. Sometimes we multiply our collecting and reading of spiritual self-help manuals because we are either looking for the “magic bullet” that will finally slay the dragon of our addiction, or we are secretly hoping to uncover the reasons for our addiction that we can blame. In other words, we are looking, not just for victory, but for vindication. And, in some cases, we might just be “shopping around” to find someone who agrees with how we want our counseling to proceed—what fits our comfort level.

Where Can We Find Help?

True, some so-called “biblical counselors” offer nothing more than secular and humanistic psychological analysis. But, we should desire to have counseling, preferably from Scripture-based, spiritually-sensitive counselors. If our church does not offer such a service, we need to find it somewhere. If our church is opposed to such an approach, perhaps we need to be members of a church that gives higher recognition to the authority of Scripture.

Before proceeding further, let me qualify what I am saying:

  • Good Christian books exist that help the believer to better understand the Bible and what Scripture says about the issues we face in a fallen world. Reading some of them is always a good thing.
  • God endowed us with minds to examine ourselves, our fallen condition, the fallen world in which we live, and to use our brains to observe ourselves, other people, and our behavior. Not everything in psychiatry finds its source in some anti-God philosophy or world view.

The Bible—The Ultimate Manual

The Bible clearly teaches believers that we must think, ponder, contemplate, analyze, evaluate, and examine ourselves, the world in which we live, and the situations in which we find ourselves.

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3 nasu)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. (1 Corinthians 3:18–19)

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell [or, ponder, logizō] on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

However, biblical faith and the Scriptures must form and drive our worldview, our philosophy, and our thinking. In fact, examination of the Scriptures characterizes noble-mindedness (Acts 17:11). On the contrary, ignoring the Holy Spirit’s instruction in the Word of God results in a mind “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God” (Romans 8:5–8, esp. v. 7).

Instead of purchasing and reading a lot of Christian self-help books on addiction, spiritual warfare, and biblical counseling, read the Bible. Christians need to go to the Lord and to His Word.

  1. Take an issue like lust or anger or pride and study the topic for yourself throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.
  2. Keep a journal of your reading and what you find.
  3. Pray about what you find.
  4. Pray for the Spirit of God to illumine your mind to what He says through God’s written Word.

This is the remedy we need more than anything. Indeed, we ought not seek any other help until we have at least begun the process of submitting ourselves to God and His Word. No self-help book can do what the Scriptures can do:

“The wise men are put to shame,
They are dismayed and caught;
Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
And what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9)

When engaged in spiritual battle, we must “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10–17). Nowhere in the description of that armor do we find any piece of armor or any weapon consisting of words written or spoken by men or women in self-help books or counseling sessions. The only offensive weapon we have is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Go to the Scriptures! The Scriptures teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness, and equip believers “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Start Your Recovery

Having trouble taking every thought captive and vanquishing every addiction? Here’s the answer with which to start your recovery:

the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

 

Endnotes

[1] Heath Lambert, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).

  • bkmitchell1

    Very imp point, Dr. Barrick. Too often I see Christians fall into the trap of self counseling but seeing them prescribe to self what they want to justify/vindicate their own choices that clearly violates God’s design for themselves. Thank you!

  • Gum Boocho

    Biblically addiction is slavery (be not enslaved to wine). Cure: if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. Nevertheless, whatever is the plague of your Old Man, he will ever be lusting & exerting his opinion (the flesh lusts vs the Spirit – Gal 5). (I am a licensed drug counselor). At least part of the remedy is found in Eph 3, intercessory prayer as Paul did for the Ephesians where is found a cure-all for all of our spiritual problems, int prayer => strengthened with power by the Holy Spirit => by faith (the human part) Christ dwells in the heart (not the periphery) => love => filled to all the fullness of God (not to leave out the exceeding abundance above all we think).