Do you really want to get involved with those who suffer (Addiction, Abuse, Shame etc.)?


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By:Matt Carter

Do you often find yourself in the path of those who are suffering?  Are you a pastor that has a lot of hurting people in you care?  Do people think you are a “good” or “serious” Christian” or a “leader,” and as a result perhaps avoid sharing their real struggles with you? Let me put it this way, Do you really want to get involved with those who suffer (Addiction, Abuse, Shame etc.)? 

I would like to recommend a book to you.  In fact we are going to start sharing books that we feel will be helpful to you, given the amount of influence they’ve had on us.  This one is called Redemption: Freed by Jesus From the Idols We Worship & the Wounds We Carry. I am honored to be friends with the fellow who wrote this one, Mike Wilkerson. Pastor Mike is the Redemption Groups and Counseling Pastor at Mars Hill Ballard.  I want to be perfectly clear, that I am not doing him a “advertisement favor” here but I’m doing you a favor by recommending it.  So, let me ask you again, do you really want to get involved with those who suffer?

If you do, it is important to first get a grip on your own sin and suffering, acquire an understanding on how the two are related, and gain a Biblical frame of reference of how God’s people suffer as well as how God interacts with them.  This is an area in which I spent the vast majority of my life  in TOTAL ignorance of.  I wrote about this in a previous post, where I explained how I vehemently avoided the topic of both others’ and my suffering, to a level of complete denial.   My avoidance of the concept of suffering exposed what I would consider to be an extreme amount of selfishness and lack of love and care for others on my part.  Through traveling the country, meeting Emery fans, hearing their stories, reading their emails and messages of brokenness, abuse, rape, addiction, in addition to God himself forcibly bringing my sin into focus, I am glad to have come a long way in this area.

One of the biggest milestones in my life was participating in something called  Redemption Groups , founded by the author of this book, Mike Wilkerson.  A Redemption Group is a small group (a group of 6-12 people that meet regularly for community) that deals with seldom discussed areas of life; deep stuff like addiction and abuse. These groups are really useful for connecting your life and story to Jesus, regardless of your background.  It was in this sort of group where I, for the first time, truly confronted  my own suffering and brokenness. Ironically, I thought I was there to “learn” about how these groups function and better equip myself to “help others.”  As it turned out, I was there to get my ass kicked, (by the Holy Spirit, not an aggressive group member/leader btw).

Redemption serves as the curriculum for the teaching portion of Redemption Groups.  It traces the journey of the Israelites (found in Exodus) from Egypt through the wilderness. It does so by telling the bible story while integrating real people’s stories of slavery, addiction, and struggle, tangibly relating the two.  It does a tremendous job of bringing the ancient narrative into a crystal clear frame, clearly demonstrating that God IS near every time we are suffering.  He always has been. The Israelites make many of the exact mistakes we do, and we tend to be just as idolatrous as them.

This book connects your porn addiction to the Passover and to Jesus on the Cross.  It highlights the consequences of the Egyptians and the Israelites’ sin, in a similar light. In turn, it reveals God’s character and mercy as it makes clear that our hope for recovery is in Jesus; not a group or process, a nationality, or a religion.

This book is a great place to start for a heroin addict  in a ditch or a teaching-pastor of thousands.   Perhaps you are like me and you often find yourself in the path of hurting people.  Maybe you want to take some steps in understanding more the issues of suffering.  If you want to take steps in implementing a more effective counseling ministry (one that digs deeper) in your church community and small groups, begin with this book.

Pastor Mike Wilkerson is the Redemption Groups and Counseling Pastor at Mars Hill Ballard.

What do you think?

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