“But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me.” – Daniel 4:34
One thing that didn’t get covered in the previous chapter was the significance of the last word in the second step. The assertion it makes is huge. “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” I hear some of you now. “Oh, great! First I have to confess I’m in denial about my particular problem. Then admit I have no power over it and the only hope I have of defeating it is by relying on the power of Jesus Christ. I get all that. But now you’re telling me my sin made me insane? Wow, you’re just full of good news!” While you might see it that way it’s only because you’re substituting crazy for insane. Like the word hope, the term “insane” has various connotations in today’s world. I’m not talking about a bug-eyed, Charlie Manson-type psychopath. Nor am I referring to a drooling, locked-in-a-straight-jacket padded room inhabitant or a grass-grazing Nebuchadnezzar. Rather, what I speak of here is a lack of spiritual sanity. A condition so subtle that even your closest friends may not detect it. Insanity is defined as “a state of mind wherein one is very foolish and/or doing senseless things” whereas being sane means having “soundness of judgment.” At Celebrate Recovery we opt to invoke Einstein’s famous quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result each time.” It encapsulates our ever-futile yet repeated attempts to overcome our hurts, hang-ups and habits on our own before we hit rock bottom and finally reach up for help. I consider it appropriate to call it insinity because our sinful nature is behind the whole charade. (I love it when spell-check underlines a word I made up, indicating it doesn’t exist. I’m an incorrigible literary rebel at heart.) Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote, “Insanity is knowing that what you’re doing is completely idiotic, but still, somehow, you just can’t stop it.” True dat.
I’ve established that insanity doesn’t mean that, while in the grip of our afflictions, we were, by default, slobbering maniacs run amok. However, we should be humble enough to admit that our thought patterns and the leadings of our heart were not on the same page with God’s will. It’s sad, but we just can’t trust ourselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it?” We can so easily march down the path to destruction while declaring with a wink that we’re just “doing our thing” and that it’s okay because “we’re not hurting anybody.” Herman Melville expressed it well: “Where does the violet tint end and the orange tint begin? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blending enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.” Some New Age religions preach that if you simply follow the leadings of your heart you can’t go wrong. The Bible doesn’t concur. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:3, “…the hearts of all people are full of evil, and there is folly in their hearts during their lives – then they die.” In other words, you can go through life thinking that because you’re a really nice, friendly “spiritually-minded” person whom everyone likes you’ll sail into the great beyond on silver wings. Only to find out too late you were deceived by your pride into believing you didn’t need a savior. You focused on maintaining your own well-being and lofty reputation instead of surrendering to and glorifying the great I AM who created you. Turns out you were as much a sinner as the pervert you looked down your nose at! Proverbs 14:12 explains: “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.”
A big problem we sinners have is our propensity to think we can control our “bad side,” the one that does shameful things. Heinrich Heine quipped, “Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.” That description fits many of us. No writer ever captured the struggle between the dark and light sides of our psyches as well as Robert Louis Stevenson did in his classic novel, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” In the story Jekyll, by ingesting a homemade cocktail of chemicals, aims to separate his two opposing natures. He figures that in so doing his better half will be free to flourish and grow unimpeded. The plan hits a snag when his evil counterpart turns out to be a far more vicious animal than he anticipated. Hyde’s name is appropriate because he’s hidden from view. The author was pointing out that even the most admired of people live in a state of denial about what lies within their hearts. Kenneth Tynan said, “A neurosis is a secret that you don’t know you’re keeping.” Hyde has no regard for others, he wants only to satisfy his every desire. When Jekyll becomes aware of his enormous capacity for committing evil acts he stops taking the potion and vows to never let the monster surface again. He still thinks he can “fix” himself on his own. He starts doing good deeds to atone for what Hyde did. After a while Jekyll starts thinking he’s got the beast licked due to his genius. But one day, while basking in the warm glow of self-righteousness that has made him think he’s superior to the common man, he experiences a harsh epiphany. “At the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering… I looked down… I was once more Edward Hyde.” It seems that Hyde found a new home in Jekyll’s ego. The doctor realizes he was a fool. He can’t control his iniquitous side at all. Devastated, he tragically does himself in. Often when we find out how wicked our heart is we cover up the fact with good works but it only leads to our pride swelling up over how “in command” we are. Our conceit tells us we’re not so bad after all and before we know it Mr. Hyde reappears. He’s wearing a different disguise but he’s just as evil as before. Bottom line: We can’t mend what’s broken inside us. Only God can do that.
So what does Celebrate Recovery suggest we do about our unstable makeup? It should be no surprise we recommend asking our Father in heaven to restore us to spiritual health, “for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God.” (Philippians 2:13) Our best of intentions can’t do what only God can. John R. Rice said, “You cannot do God’s work without God’s power.” We must rely exclusively on our Lord to supply the strength we need to straighten out what’s twisted in us while, at the same time, we must strive to develop a strong, loving relationship with Him. Why? R.C. Sproul wrote, “Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy God, an idol made by our own hands. To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts.” The healing grace Christ distributes so generously will grant us the kind of spiritual strength needed to peer through Satan’s veil of distortion and see things with a sane, rational mind. Psalms 46:1 tells us, “God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble.” Psalms 73:26 goes even further: “My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.” Nothing is confirmed more consistently in the scriptures than God’s ability to heal us of our blindness. All we have to do is ask Him to do it.
We must not only accept ourselves as sinners who’ve “fallen short of the glory of God” but realize that everybody else is in the same boat. No one before or since Jesus is without sin so to think that because we’re Christians we’re better than anyone else is despicable. As believers who know we’ve been saved solely by God’s amazing grace we must be tolerant and forgiving of our neighbors. In fact, we’ve been instructed to love them as much as we love ourselves! Romans 15:7 says for us to “receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory.” We must embrace the liberating truth that we’ve been granted a new life. Christ didn’t just smooth out the dents in our frame. That jalopy got hauled off to the scrap heap. We’re brand new people! 2 Corinthians 5:17 announces the spectacular news: “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” If some of your pals and acquaintances opine that since you accepted Christ you seem different you can exclaim, “You better believe it! Meet the new me!” They’ll know you aren’t joking because you’ll no longer be wearing a mask. You’ll be truthful with them. You’ll treat them like brothers and sisters. You’ll acquire what you may not have ever had before, integrity. Rick Warren wrote, “Integrity is built by defeating the temptation to be dishonest; humility grows when we refuse to be prideful; and endurance develops every time you reject the temptation to give up.” Some folks won’t be comfortable around the new you. They may call you a “goody two-shoes,” a “Jesus freak” or worse. Don’t let them deter you from loving them. Sam Storms said, “Integrity does not mean sinless, but it does describe a person who, by God’s grace, “sins less.”
As in Billy Joel’s song, it’s all a “matter of trust.” There’s no gray area. You either trust in the Lord or you trust in something or someone else. Steve Gallagher said, “The truth is that a person will only find relief from the insanity of a fallen mind to the degree that they surrender to God.” Rest assured that God rewards those who put their faith in Him sight unseen by lighting their path. Theodore Epp wrote, “As we trust God to give us wisdom for today’s decisions, He will lead us a step at a time into what He wants us to be doing in the future.” Not only are Christians a part of God’s plan, so are non-believers whether they know it or not. Jerry Bridges said, “If God is not sovereign in the decisions and actions of other people as they affect us, then there is a whole major area of our lives where we can’t trust God; where we are left, so to speak, to fend for ourselves.” Perish the thought. Yet we can be more concerned about what others expect from us than what our Savior expects from us. Proverbs 29:25 reads, “The fear of people becomes a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be set on high.” Being courageous in our faith may be the toughest thing to do because the persecution it brings, whether light or heavy, can cut us to our soul. But if we want to find healing from our hurts, hang-ups and habits we must believe boldly. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Jesus Himself taught us in Matthew 6:34, “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.” Trust and faith are prescriptions that must be taken one day at a time.
I like the quip from Rita Mae Brown that says, “The statistics on sanity are that 1 out of every 4 Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your 3 best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.” Humor aside, being made aware of spiritual insanity can be devastating. It was for me. When my wife discovered my secret addiction to porn she informed me in no uncertain terms that what I was doing was not normal. That shattered my world because I’d always thought highly of my intellect and self-control. To be confronted with the fact that I’d been indulging in immoral behavior and deeming it “alright” brought me face to face with my insanity. Some define insanity as “such a mental condition, as, either from the existence of delusions, or from incapacity to distinguish right from wrong, with regard to any matter under action, does away with individual responsibility.” Well, if the shoe fits… I’d been schooled in the Bible throughout my first 18 years so I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t aware that Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I deliberately chose to ignore Christ’s explicit warning for decades as if he’d been misquoted. That’s the insanity of sin. I reckon we’re all insane one way or another until God opens our eyes. I blinded myself (with help from the devil) to the truth. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 reads: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.” I couldn’t see that my obsession was making me bitter and self-absorbed, fueling my sense of entitlement and stoking the fire of my resentments. Yet my addiction was but a symptom of my root disease: Pride.
At Celebrate Recovery we can label almost every hang-up or bad habit as a manifestation of pride. When our ego rules the roost there’s no room for Christ. Pride is lethal and only God can resurrect what it kills. John F. Walvoord wrote, “Man is spiritually dead and does not originate in himself a movement toward God and spiritual life. It’s supernatural, and it is a work of divine power. Spiritual renewal accordingly is a divine miracle in which that which was dead is now alive.” Thanks to those who volunteer their time to be in the Lord’s service via the CR ministry, I came to understand that I needed supernatural assistance to overcome my character defects. However, those folks didn’t save me from myself, Jesus did. They merely picked me up, dusted me off and sent me up the road to wellness. Once I was headed in the right direction I realized I could no longer be a passive Christian. I had to go all in. Wesley L. Duewel wrote, “The most direct route to personal renewal and new effectiveness is a new all-consuming passion for Jesus.” I couldn’t continue to go through the motions and be a believer in name only. I had to commit. But the power to do that wasn’t in me. It had to come from God. While I was insane it didn’t occur to me that I was out of control. I believed I could quit any time. I was in denial because I wouldn’t stop until Jesus, convicting me through my wife’s utter disappointment in me, revealed just how cruel and destructive my sin was.
It’s important to tell you that following Christ is not burdensome. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Billy Graham wrote, “Jesus made everything so simple and we have made it so complicated. He told us that all we have to do to be born again is to repent of our sins and believe in Him as our personal Lord and Savior. You don’t clean up, give up, or turn around yourself, you just come as you are.” The door to redemption is open to all at every CR meeting. There’s no dress code and sanity is optional.