Those Who Have Been There
I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. Acts 9:16
It is the duty and privilege of those of us who have found recovery to reach out to help those still struggling. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a necessary part of active recovery, and if we refuse to do it, we put our own sobriety in jeopardy. If we’ve truly found joy and peace, it’s only natural that we will share this with those still living in misery. The addict seeking recovery is best helped by those who have been there.
In my first couple attempts at recovery, I remained unwilling to help anyone. I was more interested in maintaining my privacy and dignity. In my pride, I simply didn’t want anyone to know about my addiction. I didn’t stay in recovery long. Now, I can’t imagine not trying to help those still struggling. As addiction once dominated my life, helping the addicted must now be central to my life. In recovery, I’ve become the opposite of what I once was.
This seems to be the principle behind Jesus’ somewhat unusual words in today’s passage. In the story, Ananias was commanded by Christ to go to Saul and heal his temporary blindness. Ananias was afraid of Saul though, knowing he was a notorious persecutor of Christians. Jesus though, promised that Saul was a new man. I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.
Was Jesus saying that he was going to punish Saul for the rest of his life? Did God not forgive Saul when he became Paul? No. Though Saul arrested, imprisoned, and killed Christians, when he came to faith, he was forgiven. However, because Paul once persecuted those who followed Christ, he was in a unique position to lead others to Christ. In his transformation, Paul became the exact opposite of what he once was. In becoming a follower of Jesus, he would necessarily become familiar with the suffering he once caused others.
This is how God turns our flaws and struggles into something beautiful. Whatever our issue is, we must daily take it to God, asking him what we must do with it. Then we must obey. As we find transformation, we must share that success with those who struggle similarly. No one can help the one struggling, like those who have been there.