Grant Montgomery: Finding hope
In time of heartbreak and need, some may turn to their spiritual roots, a church for example. Unfortunately, the reception in far too many churches can sometimes be rather judgmental. So if you have gone through a divorce, for example, you may experience a subtle judgement of divorcees, sublimely sending the message that divorce is a result of sin. Or in the case of someone trying to stop drinking, that “drinking is wrong” and “you should simply quit”, something obviously easier said than done.
One of the books I read after my divorce is Dr. Henry Cloud’s “Changes that Heal”. To quote a recovering alcoholic cited in Dr. Cloud’s book: “When I was in church or with my Christians friends, they would just tell me that drinking was wrong and I should repent.
“[Comparatively] when I got into Alcoholics Anonymous, I found that I could be honest about my failures, but more important, I could be honest about my helplessness. When I found out that God and others accepted me in both my drinking and my helplessness to control it, I began to have hope.
“Whereas, as much as my church preached grace, I never really found acceptance there for my real state. They always expected me to change. In my AA group, not only did they not expect me to change, they told me that, by myself, I could not change! They told me that all I could do was confess who I truly was, an alcoholic, and that God could change me, along with their daily support. …That was totally different and it changed my life.”
It’s interesting to compare a legalistic church with a good AA group or other support group! In a legalistic church setting, it is culturally unacceptable to have problems; that is called being sinful. In an AA group it culturally unacceptable to be perfect; it is called denial. In the former setting, people look better but get worse; and in the latter, they look worse but get better.
When you enter a culture where you do not have to be ashamed of your failures and truly realize that any and all shortcomings can be forgiven, then truth and grace begin to have their effects in your life. Grace and truth are a healing combination because they deal with one the main barriers to personal growth: guilt.