Last week, we talked about making the decision to leave or kick out a loved one struggling with addiction. One of the hard, cold realities of addiction is that doing so is sometimes necessary not only for our own survival but for their overall well-being.
Allowing someone to hurt in order to help them doesn't seem like a very Godly thing to do. It hurts us to see our loved ones hurting (most of the time, that is! Somedays, it's more like, "Ah! That's it! You're getting what you deserve- maybe it'll make you change!").
Generally though, we do not like to see the ones we love in agony.
But over and over again, God shows us in His Word that He does allow us to hurt. He is a God of natural consequence as much as mercy and when it comes to our loved ones, I feel like there are times we need to be wise to get out of the way of God and stop intervening in God's consequence.
Quick examples of ways we interfere in natural consequences
Covering with family members and friends:
This is a tough one to navigate because if our loved one has done too much to us, our families and friends may downright hate them. This makes reconciliation much more difficult! But there are times we keep what's going on to ourselves in a effort to not damage our loved one's relationship and reputation with our friends and family in hope of reconciliation.
Use your judgement here. Being disliked by friends and feeling the anger from family may very well be a natural consequence.
"Wake up! Go to work!" We justify it because we need the money, after all. But this is totally intervening. Yes, it sucks if your spouse or child loses their job but at the same time, we must trust that God will take care of us. It is a move of faith. If your loved one can't be trusted with your vehicle, then they will have to find another way to work. That's the natural consequence. Walk. Ride a bike (people can ride bikes VERY far! Bonus- they'll stay in shape!). Make more money and Uber. Phone a friend. Don't have any friends left?
Again, tricky! If you're married, separating the finances may not be possible but continue to try and find a way to be sure that you at least have your (and your children's if you have them) needs covered. If it's a child you're covering for, again, this is very difficult! What mother wants to see her child ride-less, food-less and out on their precious bums because they didn't pay their rent (again)? No mother. That's who. But so long as you are bailing them out- you are NOT helping them because they will never learn to help themselves. It's really only helping your guilty conscience (their addiction is not your fault!).
I can give advice but each situation is so different, I know that I cannot (and wouldn't be wise to) tell you what to do. However, here are some ways to help you figure out what the best decision is for you and your family.
Sorry mom's, this is mostly wife-directed but I'm sure plenty applies if you flip it for your own situation!
Bad reasons to stay with (or not kick out) an addict
1. Love is not a reason to stay.
Don’t stay because you love them. There’s a reason they say people become “love crazy”!
Stay because you know it’s right. Stay because God has given you hope and knowledge that your loved one will change. Stay because you know the season isn’t over yet and you need to wait until spring. Stay because deep, deep down in your soul you can feel that it’s something you have to do.
But don’t stay for love. One-sided, sacrificial love is not enough to make the relationship work.
2. Money is not a reason to stay.
Finances are fluid. They come and go. We trust God to answer our prayers for healing and happiness but seldom with our finances (it's difficult, I know). Our Father is rich, my friends. Ask Him to take care of you and He will.
“Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” -Matthew 6:26 (CSB)
Being realistic, I understand that there are practical reasons money can hold us back from leaving. We don't have family to take us in, we don't have the deposit for a rental, our credit is shot because our credit cards are maxed out, we have little kids at home and cannot afford daycare- there are reasons!
But money can only be the reason for so long.
Maybe you're not able to leave right now but you know that if you had the finances, you would. Start saving! If you saved $5 a day for a whole year, you would have $1,825. Sure, a year seems like a long time but how long have you felt the way you do? How many years have you been in a toxic situation? That same five dollars a day, in three years would be $5,475.
In the meantime, pray for provision. Maybe God will send you a tax-back check from the government (that totally happens! When I was a struggling, single mother I got random checks ALL THE TIME! Almost always, exactly enough to cover what I was short for). Maybe God will show you an opportunity to make money from home or a job that has daycare available. Whatever the solution- stay faithful that it will come. Do not resolve that you are going to always be stuck in a bad situation.
Do you need help figuring out if you're in an abusive situation? Here are three posts to help!
3. Don’t stay because you’re afraid of being lonely.
Being alone is a beautiful thing. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a mom and feel like I haven't been alone for the last ten years (okay, it's a little bit because I'm a mom and I haven't been alone in ten years!). But the Bible teaches us that God is in the lonely places. Jesus often went off to be alone to seek His Father- without distraction, we have plenty of time to do the same.
If you’re in a place where you know that you have to leave the situation but you’re afraid to be alone, spend more alone time with God in your home- right now. Practice sitting in a quiet place, reading His Word and listening for His voice. The more time we spend with God, the less afraid we become of loneliness because we come to realize we are never alone.
Similar, but not quite the same, don’t stay because you don’t know anything else. There’s a lot of words to describe this and it could almost be an addiction in itself. Essentially, we become addicted to the chaos and cannot be "normal". Or, we think we don't deserve "normal". We are too damaged for "normal".
Being afraid of loneliness or starting over is not a loving action, it's fear and there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). God specializes in turning broken people into blessings- yes, I said that right! Broken people with broken lives have a special and unique ability to bless others with their empathy, understanding and compassion. [Read: You Mess is Going to Make an Awesome Ministry]
So if you need to go, remember that, "You Go Girl!". You can be the most fabulous broke girl ever! *snap *snap *snap
4. Don't stay because you're ashamed of being a divorced Christian (duh, duh, duuuhhhhhhhhh).
Oh no, not the divorced Christian! Even worse, the divorced Christian who everyone thinks has the perfect husband.
"Tut, tut, tut, such a shame," they'll say, "Her poor husband! I'm sure it's her. She's always miserable- who could live with that!".
It gets worse still, when blame is put on top of blame because not only are you now the divorced Christian but you're the divorced Christian who drove your husband to have an affair.
Seriously. People really say these things!
I'm going to just come out and say it- sometimes "people" are stupid. They know nothing about what happened behind closed doors. Regardless of the situation, divorce is always difficult and painful (not to mention expensive!). Even if both parties want to leave, it doesn't make it easy.
The fact is, some Christians get divorced. Sometimes it's for a good reason and sometimes they simply give up. Considering the amount of shame that goes along with being a divorced Christian, I believe it's safe to first presume there was a good reason.
I'm not trying to condone divorce, I simply want to remove the shame of it for those who it is right for. Yes. Right for. There are times divorce is necessary. Even if you're a Christian.
In the midst of a bad situation, divorce is not a lack of faith, it is not inappropriate nor unforgivable. It's very important to study the original Hebrew and to take the teachings on divorce in their original context (again- not condoning ALL divorce! Shame-slandering here!)
"Didn’t God make them one and give them a portion of spirit? What is the one seeking? Godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, so that no one acts treacherously against the wife of his youth. 'If he hates and divorces his wife,' says the Lord God of Israel, 'he covers his garment with injustice,' says the Lord of Armies. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously."
People often quote this verse as, "God hates divorce" but that translation is wrong. It makes it sound like God will hate US if we get divorced and that couldn't be farther from the truth- God is just as sad about it as we are. I'm not going to go into this too much because I'm writing a "super post" on it but long story short: This verse (in a better translation) shows us it is not the divorce that is the primary error but the error is found in the one who has "dealt treacherously with their wife".
"But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace."
"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Can a person consumed by addiction, hatred, malice, slander and evil spirits, who has replaced dependence on God for dependence on something else- be one with a believer? Has God joined them together in their oneness? No. As "true Christians", we cannot be one with someone who has so much darkness in them. It's not spiritually possible for our light to be one with their darkness.
"Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?"
There are a lot of verses that back up that theory.
All that said, addiction in itself is not necessarily cause for divorce. God is the King of restoration! As I said in last week's post, it truly goes situation by situation. Only God can release you from your marriage and He WILL if it's right. But God also enables us to stay in situations that are difficult. A praying, Christian wife has an inherent "power" (through faith) to bring healing and restoration to her marriage through the power of the Holy Spirit and petitioning to the Lord.
"But I (not the Lord) say to the rest: If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. Also, if any woman has an unbelieving husband and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce her husband. For the unbelieving husband is made holy by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy by the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy."
The only one who really knows what you need to do is God. He will tell you and you can trust what He says!
Good Reasons to Stay with an Addict
1. They show you they are sincerely trying.
I mean, really trying. It takes a long time to change years of addictive behaviour. Don’t expect a quick recovery! A month in rehab isn’t going to cut it. ONE YEAR in rehab isn’t going to either. This is a long, hard road. The road of "long-suffering" but you know what? You’re both going to be better people in the end. You're earning your mansion in heaven, my lovely!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control..."
2. They’ve committed to putting recovery into practice.
Practice makes perfect, right? When they relapsed, did they drag themselves to a meeting and fess up or did they hide it from you? Are they back to all their old bad habits or are they trying to refrain from them as best they can? For example, quitting smoking or coffee. That’s putting recovery into practice and it’s a solid effort worth staying around for.
3. You can STILL picture a healthy, happy future together.
As long as you can still see it, keep working at it. It does take two to make a marriage work but you’ll be the one pulling the majority of the weight some days. Keep pulling. It’ll be worth it.
4. You want to honour God in your marriage.
If staying in your marriage is a personal decision that you have made out of obedience to God- He will take care of you. We honour Him when we stay out of a place of servitude and faith (not fear or condemnation!). It says in God's Word to stay married and do all we can to have a healthy relationship with our spouse. It is totally possible to take emotional or physical time and space from your loved one without dissolving the marriage- should you need to.
5. Stay together for the kids.
Woah, here we go. Let me clarify before I break Twitter.
IF your spouse is:
A) Showing you they’re sincerely trying.
B) Committed to putting recovery into practice.
C) In the picture for your healthy, happy future.
D) Part of honouring God in your marriage
...and you’re still considering leaving, consider your little people (If you have them of course).
Children should never be in a toxic environment or in harm’s way [Read: The Unexpected Trauma to the child by the Beast of Addiction] but if the environment is tough, not toxic… consider them.
Divorce is also hard on children. Going between two homes, with two sets of rules can be challenging. What happens if your spouse resumes their addiction on the weekend they have the kids? What happens if they get totally clean, have a Jesus-reckoning, get a six-pack and start dating some new woman? What if they become a pastor?!?!?!?!?!!!!! You'll be glad you were around.
Never let kids be the only reason to stay with your spouse. What I'm saying is, if all the pieces of recovery are in place but you’re sick and tired, out of trust and totally over it, it's important to consider them. They matter. A lot.
"Then Peter approached him and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?' 'I tell you, not as many as seven,' Jesus replied, 'but seventy times seven.'"
(I was right there with you, Peter- seven times forgiving was hard enough!)
Remember, Recovery is not Renewal
Like an addiction, recovery has many faces. Everyone’s journey through recovery is going to be different. Some will soak up instruction and fully complete every step of a twelve-step program. Others will be resistant to change and rebellious within personal limits. Most will find their own groove. There’s no guarantee any recovery process will work but like I said last week, it will be their choice to make.
Going into recovery doesn’t guarantee a total renewal. Your loved one can stop their drug of choice and still be the same... just, sober. It’s hard to believe after going through such a difficult process of will and self-control that one could come out unchanged but it does happen.
Recovery means they’re no longer using their drug of choice.
A renewal, on the other hand, will bring with it the restoration of your relationship, a changed attitude and mindset and grasping their true identity as a son or daughter of Christ. It is a smackdown, total breakdown that only God can facilitate.
It's also an emotional position that many Christians haven't even experienced. Some never will!
Recovery is good but a total renewal is what we truly hope and pray for.
If you’re in a place where you need to make some decisions I hope this helps in some way! Pray a lot. There is rarely a perfect solution to anything. Sometimes our options are equally good and bad. We look for the solution that’s going to be the best one but there isn’t one choice obviously outweighing the other. And you know? That’s O.K. The beautiful thing about making choices in faith is that God blesses us, even when we do the wrong thing!
May God bless you as you go forward in your time of trouble.