Understanding Intimacy Disorder and Addictions – Part 3

Integrating our spirit, emotions, thoughts, and body under God’s oversight leads to an internal transformation.

Restored Spirit

As we seek to make sense of the wreckage of our lives, we have evaluated from the top of the iceberg, moving down through our behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and spirits. Examining our behaviors helped us discern our thoughts. In turn, our thoughts provided the key to our emotions, which allowed us to unlock the secret condition of our spirits.

Looking at your sheet of paper, your life might look like an awful mess. That’s good—in the sense that it means you did the exercise correctly. For many of us, only when we clearly understand our true condition—fallen, broken, wounded, damaged—will we be able to clearly see the alternative that resides with God—a healthy, integrated, intimate approach to life.

Completing this exercise was not done to simply show your life horrors and leave you at their mercy. The point was to open up your hidden, festering wounds to God’s healing light and love. By integrating the spirit, emotions, thoughts, and body under the realm of God’s oversight, an internal transformation begins to gradually work its way into the behavioral realm of our daily lives.

If you were worried about this being another “Just pray harder” method, pay closer attention. Because our Heavenly Father is the only One who can redeem our deepest wounds and fill our deepest needs, this transformation is actually His work, not ours. Like a parent changing a baby’s soiled diaper, it’s something we just can’t do for ourselves. We can never work hard enough, jump high enough, or earn enough religious points to finally get it, fix it, recover from it, or do it ourselves.

As we are drawn into the ready availability of our Father’s perfect love, He will increasingly diminish our fears.6 This sanctifying recovery process increasingly provides sufficient grace, moment by moment, enabling us to refuse our old false idols of intimacy and receive Christ’s pure abiding intimacy.

The Iceberg model’s first steps involved working down through the levels to uncover the dangers below the surface of our lives. Hopefully, you now realize how difficult it is to change bad behaviors without changing what lies beneath. Completing this process requires letting God work His way back up—healing, restoring, and transforming us as He moves though our lives.

Draw a new iceberg and fill in the insights God brings through this return journey to the surface.

Cleansed Heart

Within a restored relationship, God can create a clean heart— purifying wounds and fighting years of infection.7 He will forgive you regardless of your past, helping you forgive those you never felt you could—allowing bitterness and anger to melt into gratitude toward Him. Finally, He will help you to forgive yourself (which involves accepting the forgiveness He offers). If your heart was once numb, you can be freed to experience deep emotion again. While emotions are not appropriate for the driver’s seat in our life, neither should they be relegated to the trunk. Rather than deem them “untrustworthy,” make them your early warning system. Listen to them. Let them inform you.

Jesus had a full range of emotions. Remember when he took four days to get to Lazarus’ house and arrived to find him dead? At first, it might seem ironic that Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Not only had He told His disciples on the way that Lazarus was dead, but that He intended to awaken him.8

Our Lord possessed both full knowledge of the situation and the immediate capability of restoring Lazarus’ life, yet Jesus allowed the emotions of the situation to sink in. He didn’t rush to remove the pain He and the others were feeling. Jesus, Lord of all, valued the emotion of grief.

As children, some of us the learned the shortest verse in the Bible without understanding its great lesson: “Jesus wept.” Our Lord was far from hyper-religious stoicism. He wept over his friend because more than any other person, He understood the tragedy of sin and death. Our emotions, especially the negative ones, tell us the world is not as it should be and that only in Christ can life be made new.

The process of determining the “why” of our feelings takes patience and time. Practically, we can journal, pray, confide in someone, or seek professional help to dive beneath our iceberg’s tip. The “why” becomes known as intimacy with God inspires a greater awareness of our broken state before Him.

Renewed Mind

As you grow to love God with a renewed heart and informed awareness of your emotions, it’s now possible to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”9 With God’s empowerment you can begin to “take every thought captive”10 and “have the mind of Christ.”11

The Bible teaches that, “For as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.”12 Through personal discipleship and the assistance of mature Christians, we can train our thought lives to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,” and “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”13 This process isn’t a matter of trying harder, but of training—as an athlete trains intentionally to win a race.

As you discover them, keep a record of those renewed thoughts—the things Paul described as good, holy and pure—that allow you to refute temptation and erroneous thinking.14

Integrating the levels of our iceberg requires a new way of thinking. This pursuit of mental growth will not necessarily require the help of a therapist, as various recovery books, tapes, and videos are becoming more readily available.15 A skilled therapist, can help evaluate such issues as distorted thinking, developmental wounds, basic life skills that are lacking, or personality deficits for which we must learn to compensate. Learning to affirm God’s truth greatly impacts our developmental recovery. What we think is an investment in what we become.

Redeemed Behavior

We didn’t develop self-defeating behaviors overnight, and, indeed, the reversal process doesn’t usually occur overnight. There can be immeasurable joy in the journey as we begin to experience Christ’s transformation within us.

When you’re finally ready to abandon your entire body, mind and spirit to God, He can reunite these damaged components and transform them through a daily and ongoing process of becoming more like Christ, Himself.

With all aspects of our lives integrated, we can view each moment as a divine opportunity. We can allow past pain to inspire a closer relationship with God in this moment. People who practice the spiritual discipline of fasting use every hunger pain as an invitation to prayer. What would our lives look like if we allowed every lustful thought, compulsive urge, or lonely ache to drive us back to our Father’s warm embrace?

Conclusion

When we learn that our conflicts are rooted in the need for intimacy, and when we’re ready to find significance in our suffering, we can be transformed.

Looking back on your scraps of paper, the reality of a transformed life may be apparent: life is a journey, not an event. Healing will take time and sometimes be discouraging and painful. Yet, as we are freed from the mire of our past wounds, we find our rest in God.

Realizing and accepting our desperation and hopelessness, we encountered the intervention of God’s amazing grace. At first, we clung to the effects of His grace— salvation, sanctification, and healing—but now we find that God Himself is enough. Instead of pursuing the gifts, we find contentment in the Giver of all good and perfect gifts.

Copyright © 2004 Rob Jackson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Endnotes

6 1 John 4:18.
7 Psalm 51:10-12
8 John 11:11. 
9 Romans 12:2.
10 2 Corinthians. 10:5.
11 1 Corinthians 2:16.
12 Proverbs 23:7.
13 2 Corinthians 10:5.
14 Philemon 4:8.
15 While it is true that numerous resource materials are becoming available, most of these materials do not reflect an evangelical Christian view, which indicates that the “good works” of recovery must be dedicated to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Other books may lack a Christian worldview and emphasize the disease model of addiction and recovery. Not all recovery materials are equal. Be discerning when choosing such resources.

About the author

Rob Jackson is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice who specializes in intimacy disorders, including sex addiction and codependency. He also speaks nationally on a variety of topics, including intimacy with God and family. www.ChristianCounsel.com.