In recovery programs, there are typically 12 steps that are worked which result in a level of freedom. In my personal experience, I have found these steps bring me closer to God, sanctification, and my fellow sisters and brothers.
Working the steps is an ongoing process that is never quite done. Just like we will never be perfectly holy on this side of heaven. However, by working steps, we can get healthier, and most importantly closer to the Lord.
Step 6 states that we were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character (emphasis added). Being ready is really the keyword here. Could God actually remove all of our character defects? Sure, He could easily do it but when we look at many biblical examples, that rarely happens.
Having a “thorn in our side” may actually cause us to be wholly reliant on God versus prideful on our own accord.
Step 6 is often described as the step which separates the boys from the men. That is because it’s tough, it takes maturity, and humility that few boys possess.
The 12 Steps
The 12 steps are to be worked in a specific order and each one spills into the next. Pretty much all recovery programs do the same 12 steps. Here are the Celebrate Recovery 12 steps and Biblical Comparisons:
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18 NIV
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 NIV
3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 NIV
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40 NIV
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16a NIV
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 NIV
7. We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 NIV
9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16a NIV
12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1 NIV
As I said earlier, each step spills into the next one and therefore the steps are to be worked in a specific order.
In step 4 we make a moral inventory of ourselves. This is a big one where we identify all resentments and past relationships. Then we go onto identify:
- How we were hurt
- How it affected our lives
- What was our part in the situation and/or how did we form unhealthy coping skills
- Our character defects
- Additionally, I have my ladies identify the lies they started believing about themselves as a result of the hurt or relationship
The point of step 4 is to really get a better understanding of ourselves and identify the character defects which have been driving the ship for many years.
Step 5 is where we confess it to God, ourselves, and another human. Then there is step 6…
Deeper Dive into Step 6
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
The word, “ready” changes the meaning of this step entirely. I’ll argue that it’s biblical.
God will chisel us to be more and more like His son, Jesus Christ if we allow Him. If anyone knows anything about chiseling they know it’s a painful process. However, as in the example of Paul in the bible, God may allow for there to be some remnant left behind to remind us of our imperfection. This is what Paul describes as the thorn in his side.
We are never told what Paul’s thorn is. Perhaps it’s a physical ailment? Or maybe it’s a temptation that he struggles with? Perhaps it’s an unfulfilled desire? Or what if it’s a character defect that comes up from time to time. Whatever it is God doesn’t remove it from Paul even when Paul pleads three times with the Lord.
Instead, God’s response to Paul is, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Wow, can we handle that? We might not be rid of all of these character defects that we’ve come know as weaknesses. Furthermore, we had to work through layers of pride to even get to the point of being willing to be ready to have God remove them, and yet, He might not.
I think we can handle it if and only if we can fully surrender to Christ and humbly admit our weaknesses day after day. And in that scripture, God makes a promise. He says, “my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I’m clinging to that promise and will pray that over and over again to my Savior.
How Do We Respond?
Paul goes onto write, “therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
To me this is the heart of recovery and why we come together week after week, meeting after meeting – to admit our weaknesses. For when we are weak, we are strong. These things we struggle with lose power as we tell on ourselves, make amends, surrender to God, and pray.
One of my favorite scriptures is from Revelation 12:11a, “And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” Who is him in this context? It is Satan and it’s very clear how he is defeated. Firstly, by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus dying for us (the blood of the lamb). Secondly, by sharing our testimony!
Yes, don’t you know that every time you share your testimony you get a little more freedom. This is what we are called to do.
Step 6 is about working through our pride to become willing and ready to allow God to remove all these defects. However, He might not and will tell us His grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness.
Though, He doesn’t leave us hanging. The key is that we have to be ready to surrender it all to him. And that surrender, my friends, might be the hardest and most fulfilling step you’ll ever take.