by: Brenda Payne

As a parent who personally understands the heartbreak of addiction, I know the desperation of wanting to help my child while dealing with the desolation of my own heart.  With so much at stake, parents need to know where to turn for help. How does the bible address the deep grief of parents of prodigals? What is true about the nature of addiction and the addict as it relates to the body and soul? What biblical responsibility does the Scripture assign to parents and to their adult children? How does a parent face fear, worry, anger, shame and guilt in a way that produces growth and glory? How can parents deal with the ongoing manipulation and deception that marks the relationship with the addict? And, what purposes does God have for the suffering parents that will bring about the expansion of His Kingdom on earth? When answering these questions, parents must compare the world’s wisdom with the wisdom of God. And since much of the world’s wisdom has infiltrated the church, it makes discernment even more difficult.

Whether you read books, blogs, search the web, attend a support group, go to counseling, or talk to a friend, you must remember everyone has foundational beliefs that drive their advice. Addiction is complicated, and at first glance it does not seem that the bible has much to say about the problem. Therefore, Christians often seek help outside the church from “experts”. They are told they need a specialist, but could it be God is using the trial of addiction to show them their need of the Savior?

There are currently more than 400 different counseling models training “experts” all intended to help people change their thinking, beliefs, feelings and behavior. However, not one of these systems will claim absolute authority to know what that change needs to look like.11  In contrast, God’s wisdom never changes and is based on the authority of God Himself! Dr. Michael J. Mahoney, who made major contributions to the field of psychotherapy, admits there is no “Secret Manual of Helping” in psychotherapy that adequately addresses the problems of man, “No one, no committee of experts, no matter how brilliant, can claim such omniscience.”12 Mahoney goes on to make a rather shocking confession that secular counselors are “flying by the seat of our being”. 13 Thankfully God is Omniscient. He is All Knowing! Christian parents can stand confident on the wisdom of God and not fly by the seat of their pants!

The humanistic thinking that applauds self-sufficiency, self-protection, and self-esteem is “worldly wisdom” that  has crept into the Christian addiction literature preaching “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-8). The world offers coping strategies and support devoid of God. Any self-salvation system that advocates trust in someone or something else more than God is hostile to God’s plan for total dependence on Him and His ways. The writer of Hebrews warned the early Christians to distinguish truth from apostasy by admonishing them to become mature in the Word (Hebrews 5:12-14). Parents need discernment to be able to judge between secular and sacred philosophies and methods and bring them in line with God’s Word. In short, they must learn to think biblically. They need an interpretative lens of truth with God as their starting point. In his book, Think Biblically, John MacArthur writes, “A truly Christian worldview, simply put, is one in which the Word of God, rightly understood, is firmly established as both the foundation and final authority for everything we hold true.”   In his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Ed Welch explains that theology (the study of God and His relation to the world) is a framework that protects us from the deception of our own hearts and competing worldviews.

“It sets the boundaries for our lives. Better yet, accurate theology is a kind of treasure map: it guides us and compels us to relentlessly search Scripture for more and more relevant, penetrating, enlightening, life-changing truth. Scripture, after all, makes bold claims. It says that it provides ‘everything we need for life and godliness’” (2 Peter 1:3).14

But biblical wisdom is more than commands and principles, it’s a person. The Scriptures tell us how the power, presence, promises, provision of God through His son Jesus Christ comfort and change us. The world offers solutions, but God sent the “soul-ution” in His Son. Jesus is the wisdom of God and parents will find all the wisdom they need to navigate the treacherous journey of addiction in Him (Colossians 1:28-29).

Parents need the dynamic counsel of the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the support of other believers to avoid the traps of self-help systems and faithfully navigate the issues of helping their addict in a way that brings about personal Christ-like transformation, demonstrates biblical love for their child, and ultimately glorifies God.  In Counseling the Hard Cases, the contributors make the case that there are no “hard cases” too big for God and for which the Scripture is not sufficient to address.  Pastor and biblical counselor Heath Lambert writes, “If Scripture is an overflowing source of wisdom for all counseling , the pressing task of Christians is to be busy mining the text of Scripture for understanding of the manifold problems people experience and for the wisdom to help them.15” The apostle Paul admonished the Colossians to follow Christ by faith and not be led astray by ungodly counsel. Parents of addicts need to heed these same words today (Col. 2:6-10).

8 Current Psychotherapies 8th Edition

9 Ibid

10 Ibid

11 Ibid

12 Handbook of Psychological Change

13 Ibid

14 Ed Welch, Addiction: A Banquet in the Grave

15 Counseling the Hard Cases

Read Part 1 – Desperate Parents Need Real Help!

Brenda Payne

Brenda was the first woman to be certified in the state of Alabama with the Association of Biblical Counselors where she counseled and taught women for twenty years. She is currently a “volunteer” for Jesus counseling and training in her new hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Brenda is completing her thesis project for her MABC at Faith Seminary on “A Manual for Christian Parents of Adult Addicts from a Distinctively Biblical Worldview”. Her interest in helping parents of adult addicts is the result of her own personal journey.

Brenda and her husband Paul have three grown children. She is passionate about speaking, writing, counseling and mentoring to encourage women to seek biblical counseling and discipleship training. She also enjoys hospitality and managing her “Scenic City” Airbnb, enjoying a good cup of coffee over meaningful conversation, and engaging in culture and outdoor activities.

She co-authored theTeach Them Diligentlystudy guide and wrote Motherhood: Hope for Discouraged Moms.  She is the co-founder of Known Ministries ( a non-profit committed to inspiring, equipping and training women in the personal ministry of the Word and problem-solving discipleship. She is the founder of the Chattanooga Biblical Counseling Coalition and the Chattanooga Biblical Counseling Women’s Network.

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