What Headaches Teach Us about “Deliverance”

Sometimes, I think we get too caught up debating the finer points of theology with other Christians. This is most certainly true surrounding the topic of recovery.

Case in point: if I have a headache, I want it to go away. This is a very human desire, because no one appreciates unnecessary pain.

In our modern world, we have multiple options for headache relief. Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, relaxation techniques, temple massage, sitting in a dark room. The list of helpful interventions is plentiful.

I think all of us would want to be delivered completely from a headache as quickly as possible. But in the real world, this doesn’t often happen.

For all of us, there’s a threshold of pain that, once we get above it, we can hardly function and productivity comes to a screeching halt. Yet if we can just get the pain below that threshold, it’s once again manageable.

For example, if my headache threshold is six on a scale of 0 to 10, anything that reduces my headache below six gives me my life back, so to speak. Having a headache below this level at least allows me to resume my daily functioning, albeit less efficiently.

Would I say there’s no deliverance from my headache if the pain we’re reduced from 10 to 4? I wouldn’t. You likely wouldn’t, either.

So when it comes to our besetting sins in recovery, why do so many Christians only label deliverance as the total elimination of their impulses and desires?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m gonna’ pray, just like the next guy, for God to completely and miraculously remove my temptations and struggles. And, I’ll beg God on a regular basis to remove those connected with my besetting sins – the ones I seem to struggle with most often. In fact, God actually invites us to do this kind of begging (see Luke 18:1-8).

But while I’m praying for God to do what I’m powerless to do for myself (miraculous deliverance), perhaps there are established interventions others have found helpful in reducing the intensity and frequency of my impulses towards my besetting sins. Support groups, accountability, recovery readings, application of scripture, times of intense prayer, boundaries, emotional recovery and behavioral modification strategies can all play a role in my sanctification journey away from my besetting sin and towards greater Christian maturity.

True, these interventions won’t yield instantaneous results. But wouldn’t any movement in a positive direction grant us some degree of freedom? Wouldn’t this represent some measure of healing?

So let’s say it takes 1, 5, 10 or even 20 years to see the needle move from the 9-10 range down to 5-6 range. Wouldn’t it be worth the investment in the long-run?

But even in the worst-case scenario, where no reduction of impulse or intensity were gained, is it possible that faithfully walking out a recovery path towards our heavenly Father allows us to participate in the sufferings of Christ in a way that conforms us more to His image? (Philippians 3:10-11)

Perhaps our view of deliverance needs to be re-examined.

If we do, we just might experience more of God’s deliverance and see more of God’s miraculous intervention in our day-to-day lives.

Who knew that a headache could teach us something about deliverance?