In Christ, I Am Not My Problems

addiction-28I was talking to a buddy the other day about the benefits and drawbacks of programs like AA and NA for dealing with addiction. While there is no denying the efficacy and overall benefit of the programs, my buddy struggled with the fact that so often people in the program are trained to identify themselves with their problems. Of course, that only solidifies the addiction’s grip on our life and imagination because we live out of our perceived identities.

Paul David Tripp, again, cuts to the heart of why creating an identity beyond our problems and sins is so crucial for actually overcoming them:

In the press of everyday life, it is easy to forget who we are. As we try to replace old behaviors with new ones, it is easy to take our eyes off our status as children of God. In fact, the longer we struggle with a problem, the more likely we are to define ourselves by that problem (divorced, addicted, depressed, co-dependent, ADD). We come to believe that our problem is who we are. But while these labels may describe particular ways we struggle as sinners in a fallen world, they are not our identity! If we allow them to define us, we will live trapped within their boundaries. This is no way for a child of God to live!

There is a radical difference between saying, “I am a depressed person,” and saying, “I am a child of God ‘in Christ’ and I tend to struggle with depression.” The second statement does not pretend the war isn’t raging, but it is infused with hope. It says, “Yes, I wrestle with depression every day, but I am not alone. I do not rest on my own strength and wisdom. I have come to understand that my Creator and Savior is also my Father. I am beginning to grasp how rich I really am because of my place in his family, and I am learning to live out of the riches he has provided, rather than the poverty of the identities I used to assign myself.” It is never a waste of time to remind people of who they are in Christ. Doing so stimulates hope, courage, and faith. —Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, pp. 260-261

Instead of identifying ourselves primarily in terms of our struggles, the Biblical call is to constantly remember who we are in Christ and the great resources that come with being a part of the family of God. It is only as we are reshaped in light of the Gospel by the power of the Spirit that we are able to become the kind of people who, yes, struggle, but in Christ are defined by his victory, not our failure.

Soli Deo Gloria

7 thoughts on “In Christ, I Am Not My Problems

  1. Great post bro. I wonder if you would (like me) include those who struggle with same sex desire in this helpful category? Instead of saying “I am a homosexual” as a statement of core identity, one could say (if it were so) “I am a child of God who struggles with same sex desire”?

    • Well, with some caveats, probably yes. A great little book from a guy with same-sex attraction issues, and a theologically-solid faith in Christ is Wesley J. Hill’s “Washed and Waiting.” I highly recommend it if you want more on that.

      • I feel that. I was responding more to the current trend that would deny the “love the sinner hate the sin” position on the basis that what they struggle with (or don’t think they struggle with at all) IS their identity.

  2. This is why, in Christ centered recovery programs like Celebrate Recovery, one identifies themselves as “a follower of Christ who struggles with..” or something to that effect. The issue one struggles with is not their identity, but what mars the image of God in them. The identity must always be in Christ. Sin does not define humanity. Yet, the struggle must be spoken out. Sin thrives in isolation, whereas healing happens through community.

  3. Great blog. Some thoughts for consideration…,
    We identify each other in society by labels …the fat baby, the kid with a mohawk (yet another sub group with labels attached!), the dumb/smart one, etc…,and we often spend a lifetime trying to get out of that box, or be worthy of it. Good or bad, it is what we humans do. We teach our children the same behavior.
    Bad influences, bad theology contibutes to our lifelong self “perceived identities”. regardless of whether or not we have addictive personalities. No program, therapy or theology—or disease, is “one size fits all”.
    Most addictions are disease processes. Most theraputic programs are medically based. For most addicts, acknowledging their addictive behavior ( “I am an alcholic”) is the first time they reach out for help to learn how to live with their disease.
    Since most successful programs insert God/Creator/Higher Being to some extent, this is also where addicts may learn/learn more about true Saving Grace. Unfortunately, some will reject the absolute relevance of it because of a prior learned bias, or due to their lifelong “perceived identity” (reinforced by families, friends, churches, etc…).
    If addictive personalities are blessed to have a competant Spiritual Counselor/Pastor/Priest while in therapy (and most importantly, thereafter), he/she will reinforce that while we, indeed, are labeled a product of our aberrant behavior in society, we need not continue to be dictated by it.

    • Totally. I don’t want to knock the AA programs, because it is key to acknowledge you have that problem. Same thing is true with sin. Grace doesn’t sound good until you realize you need it. But then we are to move on from there exactly like you say.

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