Overcoming Addiction: The Importance of Serving Others Mercifully

A key transformation principle for anyone seeking to overcome a life-dominating sin is seeking new ways to serve others. Matthew 22:37-40 is clear about loving God and loving others: And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” These biblical principles apply to all Christians and I emphasize them when counseling someone struggling with an addiction.

What is Mercy?

The catchphrase definition of mercy is “not getting what you deserve” and it is best understood when we recognize that we deserve God’s divine wrath and righteous judgment but do not receive it because God place it upon His Son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross. His death, burial, and resurrection is good news for us hell-deserving sinners who are trusting in Christ alone by faith alone. Mercy offers a sure hope that we have escaped the wrath of God.

For the idolater once enslaved to an addiction, mercy is reason to celebrate. The drug-addicted idolater once worshipped and served self, not God. Pleasing oneself with an addictive pleasure of choice has been replaced with worship of the One True God largely due to God’s mercy. Birthed out of that new found love for God, giving mercy to others becomes something repentant idolaters are now eager and able to do because of the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s true – “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

One Example

At Vision of Hope in Lafayette, Indiana, we have the opportunity to show mercy to hurting souls through a ministry of Faith Church called Safe Haven. Subaru of Indiana Automotive and Faith Church partnered together to build the 3-bedroom, 2 bath, 1500 square foot home to offer fully furnished temporary housing to victims of fire, flood, domestic violence, and other emergencies. They are given a place to live for 30 days rent free as they seek out permanent housing. It is a wonderful community outreach resulting from a joint partnership of our church and the American Red Cross to place needy families in the home.

Placing the family in the home is only the beginning of the waves of blessing of having this ministry outreach on our Faith Church East campus, though. Right next door to Safe Haven is Vision of Hope, a residential program for women struggling with life-dominating issues such as self-harm, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy, and addictions of all types. And as God allowed, it just so happens that the leadership of Faith Church sought to purposefully place these 2 homes right next door to each other, on a street named none other than “Mercy Way.” These young women of Vision of Hope, ages 14 and older, are in the program to receive the merciful help they need to overcome their sin struggles. One of the key tenets of the program is that they learn to serve others, which they do in a variety of ways, one of which includes helping the families who stay in Safe Haven. The residents at VOH will shovel the snow at Safe Haven in the winter, mow the grass and tend to the landscaping at Safe Haven in the summer, bake cookies, deliver the cookies and sing Christmas carols (in December), visit the family and ask what they might need, and share their faith in Christ if the family is willing to invite them inside to do so.

It is always good for a resident in the VOH program to serve others offering the same mercy that they have received. I Thessalonians 5:14 which reminds us: And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weakbe patient with them all. I underlined three phrases in this verse to emphasize that they all are birthed from a heart of mercy. The Safe Haven home is an opportunity to provide mercy and the VOH residents’ acts of kindness are designed to overwhelm the Safe Haven family with mercy while simultaneously providing them a chance to offer help and hope to hurting souls. In God’s economy, acts of kindness and mercy always serve more than one purpose.

Extending Mercy, Helping Others, and Keeping the Focus off Self

When counseling someone in a life-dominating sin struggle, always find ways for them to serve others because it will glorify God, help hurting people, and enable the servant to find a purpose that focuses upon one key element of the Gospel: mercy. Any addiction group is successful when they focus upon helping others. There is no denying that serving others is critical in the transformation (or recovery as some call it) process of a once-enslaved, addicted idolater. Serving others, especially those who are undeserving, is one way to get the focus off of pleasing oneself, the idolater’s root problem. James 1:27 calls this type of service to the most vulnerable in our society “pure religion,” and I believe it’s critical component in helping a person stay unstained from the world: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.


  1. How are you offering mercy in helping those who are struggling?
  2. How can your local church offer a safe haven to persons temporarily displaced?

-Pastor Mark Shaw (blessed to be someone who continually receives the mercy of God)

Mark Shaw
Mark Shaw has 22 years of counseling experience working in a variety of settings including faith-based residential programs, dealing with issues surrounding “addictions” of all types, and supervising staff positions. His experience in the biblical counseling field began in 2001. He has written 14 published works including The Heart of Addiction; Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies; Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts; Addiction-Proof Parenting; and Hope and Help for Self-Injurers/Cutters. He also co-authored a chapter in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling (2013).