“He knows the way I take, When He has tried me, I shall come out as Gold.” (Job 23:10)
Be Honest with Yourself and God
For men in a faith-based recovery program, the first step they’re encouraged to take when they’re disappointed in God is to be honest with Him. We tell them to open about their disappointments, and allow honest and open communication.
Even his most trusted followers, the earliest apostles – the ones that saw firsthand the miracles performed at the hand of Jesus – were disappointed and failed to fully trust Him. At times, they even failed to believe that God is all-knowing.
God knows your thoughts, heart, and ambitions. If you are disappointed, share with Him which expectations He has not met.
Did He not give you an answer in a timely manner? Did you lose a loved one unexpectedly? Did you not land your dream job? Tell Him what’s on your heart.
get back on track
Perhaps you can’t recall an exact event or circumstance that led you to feel disappointed. Maybe your faith today is a reflection of what you were (or were not) taught as a child about God. You just know that’s where you are right now.
Or, maybe you know the exact point in your life that you lost your faith, but you don’t know how to get back on track.
Similarly, if you go hiking, and you find yourself lost, you probably don’t know where exactly you made a wrong turn. All you know is that you’re off the path, and you don’t recognize your surroundings. The easiest way to regain your bearings is to turn around and walk back on your original way you came. The same is true about your faith journey.
If you have come to a point where you have only found disappointment, ask God for help and strength, and “turn back” to when you started feeling that way. Go back down the path of difficulties, and work back to the point on the trail you went off course.
Trust that God is always teaching and only wants what is best for us. One of the hardest, but most essential, pieces of faith is to trust Him more and our own “map” less.
your disappointment isn’t a punishment
It’s also important to point out that your disappointment is not a punishment from God. Christ took that punishment for you already.
God is not a punisher. He might hand out discipline, but never punishment. The difference is that discipline is done out of love for growth and learning, while the other is out of anger and worry. Your loving Father in heaven always wants you to grow and learn, even if that means you face some big battles in life. He will continue to give you the good and the bad.
In other words, God isn’t spiteful. That disappointment is usually a sign of our own shortcomings and unrealistic expectations of ourselves – not God’s.
god’s purpose through the pain
Revisiting your journey to disappointment can help you uncover the “why” behind His purpose in putting you in that situation. Usually, in the midst of a difficult season, we have a hard time understanding zgod’s “why”. It’s not until later when we take time to reflect that we see His hand at work.
“He knows the plans he has for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This means not just a future here on this Earth, but a future much more meaningful.
However, before that future can be given, you will be forced to face trials, solve problems, and rectify disappointments. With this comes God’s work of preparing us for what He has planned for us after the hardships.
“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
If you only look at life through a disappointed lens, you’re robbing yourself of witnessing His strength and grace. Even at your lowest and most disappointed state, He will provide you with the tools you need to endure life’s challenges. It’s up to you to find and use them.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)
One of my favorite hobbies is photography. It combines two of my favorite things in life: being alone and the beauty of the world around me. I’m able to steal a moment and forever hold it if I choose to. For that very reason, I’ve always loved taking pictures of flowers.
I love any flowers really, it doesn’t matter the type; even weeds are pretty in their own ways. However, I am fond of recently bloomed flowers. There is something special about capturing the most beautiful step in its life cycle.
It’s so incredible when the bloom springs from its bud and opens itself fully to the world around it for the first time. The flower selflessly shines into the world around it with no need for a thank you. Just being itself. The world can look upon it as God intended.
This selfless budding reminds me of what is taking place here at No Longer Bound, a faith-based rehab.
With only a few short months passing by come the days where the buds begin to show – steadily growing and beginning to really open up. To begin with, it gains comfort within itself, receiving direct sunlight upon what it really is and what it is meant to be. It still has some time before it will fully open up.
Similarly, guys get here as barely growing stems, desperately needing help. The staff puts in work, the culinary crew gives some nutrients, and God provides healing and time. All of these things working together lead to buds starting to show within our community.
At this point, there is really no amount of coaxing that can further this process along quicker. Just like the flowers, it is visible when a man gets to this stage. He has hesitation to open up to the community. At the same time, he has glorious moments of maturity and growth. Meaning, he suddenly has the want and need to open up, however, there is still comfort in remaining closed off to the world around him.
It is safe to remain in the bud. We feel so much comfort hiding from the world in layers of protection wrapped around the pretty parts.
Help Without the Hurt
Eventually, however, our nature comes through, and we spread out our petals and allow the real us to be seen for the first time ever, possibly. It is truly beautiful when we bloom.
Over time, we have a willingness to not just help others, but be helped without resentment or hurt feelings. We are open to making changes from the environment rather than blocking them off and hiding from our much-needed changes.
Ultimately, we watch grown men really accept and become the helping hand, shoulder to cry on, a crutch to lean upon, and a guide to follow. It is an impressive and touching thing to witness.
This leads to another favorite thing of mine: the effect of one bloom on the buds around it.
We watch as one bud blooming affects the buds around it. In other words, it’s almost as if it’s calling to the others to follow it on the wonderful journey it found itself on. It’s like it selfishly or apprehensively doesn’t want to be the lone bloom, and needs its surrounding buds to follow into blooming themselves.
Similarly, it’s a process we all go through here. As men, we watch our brothers start off as closed-off individuals, only interested in protecting themselves from the outside world and content with being alone. Then, they transform in to opening up day by day, little by little, to what everyone around them has to offer.
As a staff member, it must be amazing to watch each wave of men blooming together and opening up in their own time. Eventually, this campus becomes a full community of open men. They allow the beauty God has bestowed upon each of them to shine, and they can serve as a light to guide the people behind them towards their own blooming.
Reflecting on the Growth
Finally, I’m blessed to be able to capture this event in photos. The growth I’ve seen through my camera lens is truly amazing. It is my blessing and privilege to witness the blooming of our community. It is something I will always remember as I have captured these memories forever. These photos are reminders of the growth we have all physically, mentally, and spiritually gone through. Put simply, they’re reminders of our blooming into what God knew we were always meant to be.
“I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5-7)
Once of the strongest tools is both a feeling and an action: intimacy.
A word that was once one of the least “manly” words (in my opinion) is used to strictly describe a relationship. It’s used by guys that want to sound more appealing to the opposite sex, as if they’re more in tune with their feelings. They use the word “intimate” to show off a vernacular that awakens something in a female’s brain because it sounds better than “love” or deeply caring.
As a resident in a faith-based rehab in Georgia, I recently realized my opinion about this word was born from an immature place, from a heart that didn’t fully comprehend or value the true depth of its definition.
How could I have? As someone still realizing day by day what it means to love one’s self, it comes as no surprise the word “intimacy” was (and still can be) uncomfortable at times.
However, it is exactly what we, as humans, desperately seek. Oftentimes, we confuse intimate relationships with unhealthy, codependent control over what we think love for another person should be.
WHAT DOES INTIMACY MEAN?
To be intimate with God, yourself, and others is to strive to love like God loves – that is, unconditionally. Don’t set unseen expectations or unjust “goal posts” for someone just so they can unknowingly miss. What ends up happening is you hold it against them when they continuously fail. They fail through no fault of their own other than being an imperfect human being.
Ultimately, you are positioning your “love” as a token or prize that’s dangled in front of them. Your “love” is forever out of reach, like the old cartoon cliche of a carrot in front of a bunny or a steak in front of a dog. This is the opposite of unconditional love.
Love your neighbor, just for love’s sake. Don’t set out to control it. If someone shows they aren’t the one for you in a relationship, love them still, just a bit further away.
Love people for who they are and what they can become. Be honest with who you are and what motivations drive you. Be content with who you are as a person and understand that your love for yourself will eventually turn in to love for others. Eventually, it will be an intimate kind of love. This love won’t be trying too hard to mold something into what it was never supposed to be.
GOD’S GIFT TO US: RELATIONSHIPS
God gave us a great thing when he gave us each other. We were not meant to be alone. But we were never supposed to leave God behind when we found someone to be with either.
Without God, intimacy wouldn’t be an adjective used to describe relationships. Intimacy is an amazing gift, even if it is a frightening one.
This is also not a word only used to describe romantic relationships. God wants us to have intimate, profoundly deep, meaningful, life-changing friendships as well. For that, we should all be thankfully vigilant for our next opportunity to find and love someone with no strings attached.
Love by pure intention, just as God intended when he told us to “love thy neighbor”.
How their thoughts and actions are pathways to getting their needs met
Everyone’s thoughts, actions, and words fall into one of two opposing categories:
An attempt to gain value for ourselves or increase our chance of acceptance
To protect or insulate ourselves from feeling that we are not accepted.
Innate Needs: Love, Acceptance, Worth, and Security
Growing up, men in addiction tried to obtain approval, attention, and affection, as do most young children. However, later in life, they denied that they had these needs at all. Over time, they practiced ways to protect themselves from feeling the pain of rejection.
At No Longer Bound, men are taught that they do have needs, and they are important. Their innate needs are love, acceptance, worth, and security – what we call LAWS. They take an inventory of their lives, understanding the value placed on the acceptance and affection from others.
False Beliefs Shape Our Identity
Most men in our program deny that they care about or even need the approval of others. However, to break free from this way of thinking, they learn to uncover the faulty core beliefs about themselves. They learn that their unhealthy coping mechanisms stem from their false beliefs.
This is where the assignment on “The Roots and Fruits of Rejection” is so impactful. Men list seven memories of their formative years (earliest memories up to age 12-13). Then, they describe the attached emotions and formed beliefs.
Common beliefs would be:
I am alone.
I am unwanted.
I am not enough.
No one cares about me.
I am valued if I do well.
When a father never shows up to any of his son’s ball games, he could come to some traumatizing beliefs about himself, like, “why am I not important?” A boy could come to the conclusion that he will never be good enough no matter how hard he works since his father always re-mows the lawn.
Uncovering Your True Identity
Some of these lies that we tell ourselves can be so far from the truth of what happened. And yet, it is the reality that our subconscious uses to build all of our coping mechanisms. The enemy works hard to whisper in children’s ears that what they are experiencing is an indicator of who they are.
In many traumatic or life-changing memories, the victim can logically see that it wasn’t their fault, but their feelings tell them a different story. They find it so hard to find freedom from the lie.
When it comes to addiction recovery or healing from trauma, this is the emotional mound that must be removed. Through this assignment, the men lean on each other and God to expose these lies, call them for what they are, and boldly step into their identity.
However, once the lie is exposed, the work is not done. They must develop self-awareness in order to see the dysfunctional coping mechanism in the moment and remember the truth about who they are.
This concept takes months to practice until it can be done successfully in the moment. It’s normal for negative emotions to stir inside you when someone makes you feel disrespected, ignored, or under-appreciated. But the healthy way to respond is to remember that those emotions are due to the lie we believe about ourselves – not because of the person. Freedom is found in that realization.
An individual’s motivation for power, especially for those in faith-based addiction treatment, is to acquire control over his environment. A certain amount of controlling behavior is a healthy, natural survival instinct, but after a point it becomes harmful.
When that happens, normal survival is no longer the motivator. Underlying the quest for power is fear, and the desire for power is to eliminate fear. The more fearful a person is, the more control over their environment they believe they need to feel safe.
In her book, Freedom from Fear, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Saddam Hussein were all raised by brutal parents who frequently beat them. Growing up, they lived in daily fear. All of them went on to become dictators, who maintained complete control over their people through the use of fear-inducing terror.
Is fear a good motivator?
It can be very effective at certain times in parenting. Rooms get cleaned, not out of a personal sense of ownership, but out of fear of consequences.
When it comes to finances – on one hand, you save money for fun and a preferred future, but on the other hand, you save money for fear of not being able to provide for my family.
Fear is important.
It’s our internal alarm system, triggering fight or flight. Hairs stand up on our arms to alert us of danger, adrenaline pumps into our body to charge our system for a hard fight or a fast run from danger. Critical to our survival. Fear removes us from danger and helps us make our way to comfort.
So what about the fear of God?
Does God need to use fear to control us? Scripture uses the word fear in context with God over 300 times.
Are we to be literally afraid, or is it used more in context to respect and reverence?
The subject becomes even more mysterious when we read something like 1 John 4:18 that says that “perfect love expels all fear.” So how do we marry this dichotomy? How can we fear God while he expels all fear?
The answer lies in simplicity: in child-like faith.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
God is your father; He said so. So it has to be true.
If you’re a parent, do you want your children to fear me?
If they fear you, they won’t come to you.
If they fear you, they will resent you.
If they fear you, they will keep secrets from you.
If you feed fear, it gets hungrier.
For those that want to dig deeper, here are a few resources: