Pretend Recovery, Pretend Faith

Pretend Recovery, Pretend Faith

Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Joel 2:12

We cannot recover for anyone else. We may help an addict find recovery, but if one doesn’t want to change, it is impossible to force that person to change. Often though, the addict’s destructive behavior leads to consequences that coerces him into some recovery activity. Being pulled over repeatedly for drunk driving will likely compel one into treatment. The addict or alcoholic may go, to satisfy the legal requirements, without ever truly finding recovery.

I know this all too well as I’ve done it. In my first attempt at recovery, it was made clear to me that if I wanted to continue life as I knew it, I needed to jump through certain hoops. I did so, but I did not change. I sort of wanted recovery, but I still wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, I simply made cosmetic alterations to satisfy what was required of me. My pretend recovery didn’t last long.

This is the same behavior that the prophet Joel exposed in today’s passage. In the story, God’s people wandered from him and suffered the consequences. In their misery, some of them truly repented, changing their hearts, but some only changed their outward appearance, tearing their clothes in pretend repentance.

Many of us do this. We may not all struggle with chemicals, but many of us engage in this same kind of pretend faith. We claim to follow God, but our behavior exposes what we truly live for – ourselves. In our self-centered behavior, we may cause some hurt to ourselves and loved ones, compelling us to attempt to change. So, we go to church, putting on a repentant face for a while, but we never truly allow transformation. Our pretend faith, like my pretend recovery, never lasts long, and soon we are back at following ourselves.

If we truly want faith and if we truly want recovery, we must listen to the words of Joel, making not just cosmetic changes, but committing to radical transformation. If we want to know the life, joy, and peace of following God, we must daily do whatever it takes to abandon our will for his.

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