Life Doesn’t End When Everyone Finds Out
In June 2016, I resigned from my position at a church after eight years in order to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. By the time I resigned, my struggle had grown into full-blown alcoholism. I would drink as often as I could, and as much as I could. What started as a way to unwind after a long, stressful day in ministry or life in general eventually turned into an addiction that I could not stop. There’s no exciting start to my addiction, just something that started as once per month turned into once per week, turned into once per day, which turned into whatever I could manage without getting caught.
All the while, I was in a community of people who could have (and would have) stopped me and helped me all along but, instead, I kept my struggles a secret. I tried to solve my problems on my own; this only fueled the addiction, as well as the toxic nature of what I was doing.
Our Fear Leads to Isolation
I was afraid that, if people found out what I was up to, my life would be over. I believed that, if people knew I struggled with alcohol, they would view me differently, and I feared that my time in ministry would come to an end. Because of that fear, I kept everything a secret, even largely from my wife. The problem is that sin grows in secret and, therefore, my struggle kept growing and growing and growing.
The reason anyone keeps a struggle a secret is because they’re afraid of the consequences. They typically believe that it’s best to try and solve their problem on their own, rather than deal with what will happen if other people find out the truth. A lot of times, these fears are based entirely in reality. After my confession, people treated me differently. After coming forward, there was good reason that I shouldn’t be serving in specific ministries. As a pastor, I was afraid that if I lost my ministry (which was also my job), I would also lose my way of supporting my family.
And each of those fears was grounded in reality.
Our Fear Reveals Our Idols
While those fears are based in reality, they also revealed something about me; they revealed the idols in my life and where I found my identity. This isn’t to discredit the fear, but it is to point out the reason I wasn’t pursuing sanctification and community was because I had idols in my life.
There were things in my life that I valued and trusted more than Christ. All of my fears were based around losing my idols or control.
I valued my reputation more than I valued pursuing Christ. I trusted my ability to provide, but not God’s ability to provide what I needed. I valued my ministry at church over my ministry to my family.
My life was defined by my ministry, my reputation and my job. Therefore, I believed that my life would “end” if people found out what was going on.
The only reason I thought my life would end was because I had defined my life entirely incorrectly.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 (NLT)
Your Life Doesn’t End
Our identities don’t come from our work. Our value doesn’t come from what people think of us, or a job title. Our identity comes from being created and loved by a gracious and creative God.
All along, I had a family that loved me, a community that would support me, and a God who would give me grace. But, I isolated myself, because I thought that was what would keep my life going.
Nothing could have been further from the truth, though. You don’t live your life with people by lying to them, and hiding who you are from them. And you can’t experience all that God has for you while running from Him.
If only I had realized sooner how my sin was blocking me from the life I was supposed to have. It wasn’t that my life would end if everything was exposed, it’s that I needed to reveal the sin in order to let my life begin.
Sean Chandler is a blogger, speaker, YouTuber, and 10-year student ministry veteran. He has written for numerous ministry publications, including Youth Specialties, RelevantMagazine.com, and FaithIt.com. You can read his thoughts on life, sin, and grace on his personal blog, www.seanchandlerlive.com. For his movie reviews, check out youtube.com/seanchandlertalksabout/.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.