Misguided Strength

A Surprising Discovery)

Early in my recovery journey I went into the mountains to attend a three-day spiritual retreat based on the writings of John Eldredge. While there, I discovered a deeper and more consistent connection with God than I had ever known before. I gained an understanding of my past and a roadmap for my future. One of my takeaways was that I needed to start writing. I came back home and started a story blog, later expanding into this spiritual blog and a novel.

My initial motivation for writing was simply to do something creative, something that I had loved in my youth but abandoned somewhere along the way. Much to my surprise, though, the act of writing also became one of my greatest tools in recovery. As I wrote consistently, I felt my desire to lust decrease to a level where I could easily turn it down. I hadn’t started writing to gain sobriety, but that was what had happened even so.

I found this a strange, if welcome, phenomenon, and I started paying close attention to my behavior and feelings. Through my self-examination I believe I found the link between my writing and sobriety. Perhaps this concept will help you on your own journey.

Energy Costs)

One thing I noticed was that my writing took real energy. Sometimes I would try writing when I was tired because I thought it would be a calm and sedentary activity, but it didn’t work. I really struggled to compose anything, and whatever I did get down was of inferior quality. I found that I did my best writing when I was still fresh and full of energy. I might not work up a sweat with my writing, but it does take real mental energy.

And this, I discovered, was the same with lust. Lust takes a story of energy, even when one is only sitting at a computer. It expends your strength and leaves you weaker than you were before. Thus, I found that my act of creativity was burning the same fuel that was used for lust. When I gave my energy to my writing, there simply wasn’t any left over for vice.

This made me consider how one of my earliest triggers for lust was being bored as a teenager. Sitting around with nothing to do had left me with pent up energy that needed some sort of outlet. At first, I had spent it in my writing, but when lust presented itself as an alternative, I moved over to that, leaving my writing behind. I was able to do one of these activities but not both, and if I didn’t want to do one then I simply needed to do the other.

The Strength of Man)

I don’t think that my situation is unique, either. As I consider men as a whole, I can’t help but notice that so many of us have problems with anger and lust, two high-energy vices. This has led me to theorize that God has given men great strength, in order that we might do a great work. But too many of us are not seeking what that great work is. We miss our calling, but we still have this great strength within us and it’s got to come out in some way.

If this is true, then one of the key things for real recovery is for a man to find what his calling is and spend his strength in it. Exactly what that calling would be is something that he must discover personally for himself. For me it was writing, but that won’t be the right calling for everyone.

One thing I am curious about is whether this phenomenon of pent up energy leading to addiction holds true for women as well. The addiction recovery groups I have been part of have been exclusively male, and obviously I am a male myself. I would defer any insights on the addiction patterns of women to someone who is more directly connected there.

But for men, at least, I think there is some real truth here. I am still evaluating this theory, and perhaps my opinions will evolve as to how energy, productivity, and addiction relate to one another, but I am at least certain that it is always good to seek one’s calling and put one’s strength into it. I am certain that doing so can only help one in their sobriety.

If you have desired sobriety for yourself, but been unable to attain it, I would recommend that you take some time to consider what calling God has for you, and how you can pour your heart and soul into fulfilling it. Join a group, work the program, and find your purpose in life. It is a wonderful way to live!

How to Get the Praise You Deserve: Part Seven

Seeking the Approval of God)

Thus far in this series I have discussed our need for approval and validation in our lives, how we can accomplish some of this through self-care, and how these needs are only completely satisfied when they come from God. We’ve since moved on to considering ways that we can feel that approval of God in our lives.

I have looked at how we receive God’s approval by keeping His commandments, and this is important, but gospel living is meant to be more proactive than simply avoiding forbidden fruits. In my experience, the place where I feel God’s pleasure the most is when I go beyond merely following commandments and actually start trying to put good into the world.

A Glorious Purpose)

A key plot point in the film Chariots of Fire is Eric Liddell’s desire to be useful to God, while also pursuing a running career. He and his sister have committed themselves to a life of ministry and missionary work, and she is concerned that he is starting to lose his spiritual conviction, being seduced by the pull of fame and worldly praise.

Eric reassures his sister that this is not the case at all. He tells her “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” With this frame of mind, Eric trains for and ultimately wins gold at the 1924 Olympics. Along the way, his convictions to God are tested, but Eric remains faithful. The press highlights this drama in the papers, spreading abroad the story of the athlete who is first and foremost a man of God. After the Olympics, Eric does become a missionary, and the experiences he shared while running help him to give glory to God wherever he goes.

Eric’s sister’s concerns are understandable. Athletic prowess is a way that people can become self-centered and pursue their own glory, but as Eric attested, for him running was the way that he felt the pleasure of God. It was a special bond that they shared, a tool to further the kingdom. Given these facts, it was not only permissible for Eric to run, it was imperative!

Hidden Talents)

In Matthew 25, Jesus recounts the parable of the talents. In the story, a ruler leaves to a far country, and before he goes, he distributes his wealth to three servants. One receives five measures of money (called talents), another two, and another one.

The servants that received five and two talents put the money to work, and by the time the ruler has returned they have doubled his investment. He praises them and then calls upon the servant who received only one. That servant revealed that he has hidden the money away, burying it in the earth, and has no profit to show for what he was given. He is declared to be an evil servant by the master.

The moral of the story is that God gives to each of us opportunities and abilities, and we are actually expected to do something with them all. Frankly, it isn’t enough to only keep from evil and enjoy the beauties of this earth. We are also expected to actively put more good back into the world. God’s sun rises, his wind blows, his water runs, and all of it brings glory and beauty to the world. We are also His creation, and there is just as much expectation for us to also be functional and beautiful. And when we are a vibrant, active in the talents God has given us, then we also bring glory and beauty to the world, and we are sure to “feel His pleasure.”

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; - Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

My Calling)

An interesting effect I have seen in those living a life of addiction recovery is that they often start taking the “talents” they have received from God and seeking to do more with them. After being saved from their vices many of them have gone back to school, changed their careers, and leapt into the work that they feel called to do. Several have become therapists and counselors, helping others as they were once helped. Some have begun podcasts, sharing the stories of addiction recovery with the world. Others have become public speakers, using their hard-earned experience to motivate audiences around the world.

I, too, have felt called to a work. It was early on in my recovery that I recognized God had given me creativity and writing as a way to bring glory to Him and to “feel His pleasure.” As a result, I started writing a story blog, this spiritual blog, and a novel. Sometimes I’ve lapsed in this work, but when I commit to it with a pure heart, I really do feel His approval and validation. I feel that I am making Him pleased with me, because I am doing my part to shine a light into the world.

Remember what Jesus told to his disciples. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This is more than a suggestion it is a requirement if we are ever to have that sense of self-satisfaction that we all crave. If you find yourself longing for the world to shine a spotlight on you, it’s time to start considering instead how you can start shining your light into the world!

How to Get the Praise You Deserve: Part Four

I have been examining our need for approval and validation in our lives, and how we can seek it from other sources than the people around us. Thus far I have discussed the practice of giving approval and validation to our own selves, and this certainly an important practice, but it isn’t the end of the story.

Today we will start to examine another source of approval and validation, one that is higher than any other. We will start by looking at the most perfect example of a man living with this sort of higher approval in his life.

Divine Approval)

The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. - John 8:29

And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
And I knew that thou hearest me always. - John 11:41-42

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. - Matthew 3:17

We often speak of the pain that Jesus endured, but he also must have had moments of wonderful rapture as well. Can you imagine knowing with the same surety that he did that God loved you, saw you, and appreciated everything that you did? Can you imagine hearing God’s voice literally speaking out loud to say that He was pleased with you?

Forget about the validation of other people, what further approval would you need if you were regularly having experiences like this?! I believe each of us knows, deep down, that somehow this is the sort of the validation that we were made for!

If we are the children of God, then we are wired to need His approval. Children need to know that their father sees and appreciates them. We speak so much of our need to be obedient to Him, but that’s only half of the story. We need to be obedient to Him so that we may feel His approval. You cannot get away from this need, it is part of your identity as His son or daughter.

And that is why saying “I don’t need anyone else’s approval to be happy” is misguided. Or rather, it is misguided when it is applied to more than just the human race. Each of us has inside of us a hole that only God can fill, and so long as we keep trying to fill it with the approval of other people, or deny that the hole exists at all, we are going to be left agitated, incomplete, and perpetually frustrated.

Most of the time, we don’t even consider the absence of God’s approval when we try to make sense of this frustration inside of us. We might even ask Him to bless us with the approval from others, and then wonder why He didn’t answer that prayer! He doesn’t, because in His wisdom He knows that isn’t what we really need.

In conclusion, the world doesn’t meet the need for acknowledgement and approval that we need, nor indeed can it. This need for praise is based in our relationship as children of a Heavenly Father, and His is the only approval that can satiate our souls.

Which is all well and good to understand…but now how do we get to hear those sorts of messages from Him? We’ll take a look at that with tomorrow’s post.

The Epic Life- Matthew 16:21-23, Luke 14:26-27

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.


Jesus began to shew unto his disciples, how he must suffer, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me.

If anyone has ever had a divine purpose to fulfill, certainly it was Jesus. He was born for a very specific cause and all the world depended upon his completion of it. Jesus needed to do what he was here to do or else all of us would be forever lost.
Of course one can see how Peter was well-meaning in his arguing against Jesus fulfilling that role. Peter’s perspective was limited. This was the death of his friend being talked about, and how could he be expected to approve of that? Peter was full of all manner of good intentions, but his suggestion that Jesus not go through with his calling would be the most heinous crime to humanity imaginable! Peter’s friend would be saved and the whole world would be damned.

If any man hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

As Jesus had testified earlier, it was essential for him to bear his cross and fulfill his role, regarding it higher than his brother Peter. And when Peter tried to dissuade him, Peter had to be reminded of the hierarchy of Jesus’s love. In the moment that Peter tried to pull Jesus off of his divinely-appointed path he was not a true friend.
Of course a disciple can have families and friends and love them. But Jesus’ point is that when we have found the wonderful, epic life that God has given us, when we have found the cross we must bear and the path we must follow, then friends and family must be made to understand that that is what we are going to do! And if they try to dissuade us in that, they must be made to understand that even if their intentions are good they are doing us no favors by trying to derail our destiny.

The Epic Life- 1 Samuel 17:22-24, 32

And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.


And David ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name. And all the men of Israel fled from him, and were sore afraid.
When David visited the army he found Israel in dire straits. A hero was being called for, and not a single one could be found. Thousands of soldiers, to be sure, but not any hero. And among so many fearful, who would have blamed David if he cowered, too? He could have heard that giant’s taunts, shrugged his shoulders and slunk away. No one would have blamed him. If anything he had more excuse than all the rest, for he was still a youth. They were soldiers and he was merely a shepherd!

And David said, Let no man’s heart fail; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine
Yet David did not slink away, tail between legs. Because in spite of all rational reasons to be scared, he wasn’t. Or if he was, that fear was overrun by the call that he must answer. He was not just a lowly sheepherder, he was a son of God, and obligated to defend his country.
The giant was calling for a challenger, old King Saul was calling for a champion, God was calling for a representative. Many heard the cries, but it was David alone who elected to answer. This is the beginning of David’s great life, and he lived it only because he applied to the position.

The Captive Heart- Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.


He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted
To preach deliverance to the captives
Recovering of sight to the blind
Set at liberty them that are bruised

After fasting for forty days Jesus officially began his mortal ministry He did so by formally announcing who he was, the Son of God, and clearly laying out exactly what he was here to do. In this moment he was essentially giving his divine mission statement to the world. And in all of the stated objectives that he gave there was a common theme of healing the people who are hurt.
But he didn’t just want to do good., Jesus further specified that he was anointed and sent of God. Thus his desire was united with power. He can help us, and he wants to. There remains only one other variable then, and it is the one that is determined by us: will we let him help us?

Who Am I?- Matthew 4:21, John 15:16

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.


James, and John his brother, in a ship , mending their nets; and he called them
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Yesterday we considered how Moses was not a prophet when God called him to be a prophet. Now that might seem stupidly obvious, but it is actually a very important lesson for our own journey of self-identity and it is a pattern that was later repeated when Jesus called his disciples.
They were not disciples originally. They were fishermen and tax collectors, individuals that had already carved out a definition for themselves and had their own lives, which he came along to disrupt. And Jesus didn’t limit the surprise callings to his lifetime, either. After his death and resurrection he came to Saul, who had defined himself as being against the church, and called him to be a disciple instead. It frankly didn’t matter who the disciples were, only who they were to be.
And sometimes they didn’t measure up to the identity he gave them, but still he gave it to them, and did so repeatedly. Whether they were ready for it or not, whether they would perform it well or poorly, whether they even wanted the identity or not…they were all still called, named, and given who to be.

Who Am I?- Exodus 3:10-11

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?


And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
When God extended His calling to Moses, Moses showed surprise. “Who am I, that I should go?” he asked, believing that he wasn’t the right person for the job. His doubt is understandable, because who Moses was at that time was not the person that God was calling him to be. But then, who exactly Moses was had been a very fluid concept his whole life long.
Moses had been born a Hebrew slave. But that was not who he was meant to be. He was liberated from that position and instead given the role of an Egyptian prince. But that was not who he was meant to be either. Moses rejected the identity he had been given, and finally chose one for himself, that of a shepherd in the desert.
But that was not who he was meant to be either. In the end, Moses’s identity was not to be defined by the situation of his birth, or the titles others tried to put on him, or by the vocation he, himself had chosen. In the end, his identity was to be the one that God alone gave to him.

Who Am I?- Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV), Jeremiah 1:5

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.


For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee
The question of who we are must eventually come to terms with the truths proclaimed in these verses: that we are creations of God. I say “come to terms” because this notion of being someone else’s creation rubs against the grain of our modern culture. Each of us crave to be a self-made man or woman, one who doesn’t owe anything to anyone, someone who no one else has any claim on. To suggest that that we might be a creation offends a part of us.
But…it also makes another part of us very excited. For we also speak longingly of finding somewhere where we feel we belong, a calling that we were meant to fill, a situation that we were uniquely fitted for. But how do we belong, or are meant to fill, or are uniquely fitted, unless we were designed–created–by another to be so?
There is no shame in saying that we are another’s creation, but there is a humility in it.

Who Am I?- Genesis 17:5, Genesis 32:28, John 1:42

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.


Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham
Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel
Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas

There is a theme in the scriptures of people being given a new name in association with finding their calling in life. This is a moment of extreme importance, usually based around a turning point, where the old person is remade into something greater.
Especially important is who it is that is giving out these new names: God or Jesus Christ, the same individuals who seek to give us a new life, a new identity, a new purpose to follow. These are the original creators of our souls, and also the creators of our new soul, after we choose to come to them.
Therefore, the question of “who am I?” can be replaced with another question, that of “who will God make me into?” Though it goes entirely against the grain of worldly philosophy, we do not make ourselves. Perhaps we choose our own destiny, but we choose it from the options that He gives us. If you ever want to really know who you are, you have to start asking Him who He thinks you are.