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“We’re All in Recovery”: Scott Sauls

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 28, 2023 5:15 am

“We’re All in Recovery”: Scott Sauls

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 28, 2023 5:15 am

From his own darkness, Scott Sauls chose to share with his congregation his shame and fear—and discovered we're all in recovery. One person remarked, “Today, you became my pastor. Through your story I feel like now we can relate.” Beautiful people, he says, don't just happen.

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I think one of the things that's so important, especially for Christians, the question of like, why do I want to run from suffering? Well, because you're not made to suffer. And yet we live in a tragic in-between time where we have to.

We have to experience what is not natural to the way that we're wired and the way that we're made. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Dave Wilson. And I'm Ann Wilson. And you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So, yesterday in our program, we had a well-known pastor and author say he woke up in the middle of the night with a panic attack. Didn't you find that interesting that he was that honest? I love that.

Because a lot of times people in positions of influence aren't always super open with their lives, and he let us in. And I feel like really honored. I bet our listeners do too. Yeah, I was blown away by it because that is very rare. It shouldn't be, but it is.

And it's very honest and vulnerable. And he's still sitting here. Scott Sauls is back with us in the studio. Welcome back, Scott. Yeah, we don't normally start a show talking about the guy who's sitting across the table from us. I know. It's like, you guys are talking about me.

I'm right over here, guys. But I mean, this is your sixth book. We're talking about Beautiful People Don't Just Happen. You modeled it in some way. I mean, you're a pastor of Christ Presbyterian in Nashville.

As I said, written books, very influential. I love what you write. I love how you think. You're just one of those guys I follow and want to be influenced by.

But you don't often hear people in your position or not that are that honest. And as we're talking, your subtitles is How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans. I think we know the journey to become the better human.

God wants us to be the beautiful person is going to be a journey. And we've got to go through. We've got to walk through those pain points that we mentioned yesterday.

Regret, hurt, and fear. But I think we hide. We don't want anybody to know we struggle with hurt or fear. Well, especially, like, you've been in the pastorate for a while.

You've been a Christian for a while. And so, there's a part of us that can think, I shouldn't have this at this point. But if we do, we don't tell anybody. It's something that I don't want to be that vulnerable. And you were—I mean, yesterday when you said that, I'm like, oh, my goodness.

A lot of pastors would never say, even if you had a bandit cat for five hours last night, they would have been a secret, and nobody's going to know. And so, the journey doesn't happen because I'm isolated. I'm going to be quiet. So, talk about that journey.

Why would you voice something like that? Well, I can think of two answers in the moment. There's a personal answer and a theological one. I'll start with the personal part.

Good. One of many anecdotes over the course of my life in ministry, I'm at this church that I'm at now, Christ Presbyterian, probably two years into my ministry, give or take. I can't remember if I write about this in the book.

But I'm given a message, and part of the message, I decide for the first time with my church, I'm going to share a little bit of my story about anxiety and depression and how that's been part of my story. At the end of that sermon, a guy comes up to me like he's this big, you know, definitely worked it, like he's jacked, like biceps, like all the things. I know, I know, Scott. I know.

Look over here. But, you know, successful business leader, like all the things, right? And I'm thinking, and he's coming at me with this really intense look on his face. I'm like, oh, no, he's going to start a petition to have me removed as pastor because he didn't like that. Nobody wants to be pastored by somebody who's weak. And, you know, he comes up, kind of grabs me on the shoulders. He's kind of a close talker, which makes it even more scary. And he's like, you know, I've been sitting under your teaching now for two years, and you're a gifted communicator, but I just want you to know I'm not, and I've never been impressed by that. He said, I want you to know that today is the day that you became my pastor because the things you shared today convinced me that you and I are the same. And, you know, and then I started thinking about my own story and what drew me in to the faith and Christianity in the first place, and it's that people were willing to share their stories of regret, hurt, fear, all the rest, and then talk about how Jesus Christ met them in that and came alongside them in that and gave them people to walk with them. And, you know, it opened up this whole new world to me about what living in a tragic world, which we all live in a tragic world, can possibly be like, and it doesn't have to be Ecclesiastes. It doesn't have to be everything's meaningless.

Why even try? Because even our successes are going to be taken away one of these days. Even if we, you know, are on top of the world, we're going to be forgotten.

Like, how many of us around the table right now can say off the top of our head who the seventh U.S. president was or who's won more Grammys than anybody else? Like, we will be forgotten, you know, and so we live in a world that's tragic, but seeing people able to go through hard seasons and suffer and have hope that was authentic, not fake, not contrived, but real, have a vision for their future, even in hard times and scary times, was what drew me in. And then there's the theological part, right, where Paul the Apostle I'm so drawn to because he just gets so real.

He's like, look, I'm in jail, you guys. Rejoice in the Lord always. And again, I will say rejoice. I'm awaiting my own execution. Rejoice in the Lord always. And again, I say rejoice.

No, I really mean it. Like, rejoice like I am right here, like Philippians, the letter of joy. He's writing from the most destitute conditions.

And his honesty. I'm the chief of sinners. I'm the chief of sinners. And then where does that lead? He says, but there's great news about that. That just shows you how big the mercy of God is and how it can reach anybody.

If it can reach me, it can reach anybody. It's kind of a follow-up passage to that. You know, he talks about how suffering produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope. He talks about his thorn in the flesh.

Like, I begged God three times. Like, this thing came from Satan. It was a messenger from Satan that was given to me, and the New Testament Greek, that word given is the same word grace. It's charos, charity, a gift from Satan. Well, Satan is not a gift-giver, which means that even in the stuff Satan's doing, God's involved.

My mentor, Tim Keller, says, oh yes, God will constantly be giving Satan some rope in the life of a believer, but only enough rope with which to eventually hang himself. Because Christians now, because of who Jesus is and the resurrection and all the rest, we have a resource to be able to live fully in a tragic place, like one of my friends Chip Dodd likes to say. I just, I don't know, I've been in this Christianity thing long enough to realize that I probably wouldn't have made it this far. At least not as a person who is mostly happy and joyful, even during hard seasons, without Christ. But Christ changes everything.

I love this quote. It kind of goes along with what you're saying. You said, beautiful people don't just happen, but when they do happen, even a wheelchair can become a pulpit, a chemo room, a place of worship, chronic pain, a path to holiness, burial dirt, a plot of resurrection soil, and death, a festival on the road of freedom.

And I think because, as you said that, you're open because this is the world we live in. It's broken, it's hard, and yet, and yet Jesus, and yet the gospel, and yet he gives us hope and freedom in the midst of the pain and the suffering. Interesting, that last phrase, death is a festival on the road to freedom, was from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his letters from prison as he was awaiting his execution for opposing Hitler. So that was the place where those words were first written.

Which I guess, again, is another example. But one of the chapters, I was talking about banana bread, which is my favorite bread, because you get to call it bread even though it's cake. I didn't know where you were going. When I picked up that chapter, I'm like, where is he going with banana bread? Well, yeah, banana bread. So I tied it to Romans 8.28, which, you know, generally speaking, we want to be careful about quoting it to somebody who's going through a hard time, but it's always good to quote it to ourselves. And, you know, when we need what it says, and that's that God works all things, and all means all. He works all things together for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose. And so that word together brought to mind the idea of a recipe for me.

Like if we look at all life's circumstances as kind of the recipe that God is putting together in order to shape us and make us and mold us and build us into the people that he's made us to be. My thoughts went to banana bread because a lot of the recipes of our lives include rotten things and rotten seasons and rotten this, rotten that. And for banana bread to be amazing, the most important ingredient is a rotten banana. Not a banana, but a rotten one.

I didn't know that. You've got to go brown and salty and gross. And think about some other things you wouldn't eat by themselves, like the salt.

Terrible if you eat it by itself. Or, you know, flour would stick your tongue. Baking soda. Baking soda, like all that. Oil.

I mean, who wants to swallow oil? But if you put it all together, that's that word again, together, God works all things together. A good chef, a good baker works all things together for good. What ultimately comes out after you put it in the heat, it becomes this amazing thing.

Not in spite of the rotten component, but mysteriously because of it. And which goes back to the Elizabeth Coopler Ross quote that we talked about in the previous episode where she talked about how beautiful people don't just happen. And like another way to summarize what she says leading up to that is, you've got to have some rotten ingredients in your life to be developed into a tender, humble, like beatitude, you know, Matthew 5, blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor in spirit, you know, all the rest.

You have to go through the valleys in order to be able to scale the mountain. I love that metaphor. Me too.

Yeah. And yet, as I hear you say that, and I agree a thousand percent, I still have something in me that runs from adversity, runs from, like, I'd love to talk about your second word. We talked a little bit yesterday and today about regret, hurt, a lot of different kinds of ways you can describe that. I know you're talking a little bit about emotional.

And you even said yesterday, I'd never heard that quote about the older you get, the more you feel things that you've always felt. I don't think I've felt hurt as deeply as I have in my life as I have in the last three, four, five years for various reasons. But man, oh, man, it's been hurtful.

Things that have happened, people, things done. I know we've all experienced that. There's a part of me wants to run from that or almost like just brush it away rather than engage in it and say, OK, God, what are you doing in this and how is this going to make me a beautiful person? So walk us through some of the hurt discussion. And I know my wife's looking at me right now like, what, you've been hurt? No, it's funny, you were saying that and I thought you've had so much hurt in your life.

Yeah, when I was a kid. But it's interesting, it makes me tear up. It's interesting for me to watch you get older because you become so much softer. You're more beautiful than you've ever been because I think you've experienced it and you talk about it. You used to run away from it so quickly and not even want to engage in it. And you've become, it's made you so much more beautiful. I feel more attracted to you than I've ever been. And I think part of it is because you've been willing to talk about and engage in your pain.

Whereas before you would just not, you didn't want to talk about it. I run from it. Yeah.

You go play basketball or something. We've got a guest over there that's watching us have this conversation. Great, you guys.

You're carrying me right now. Scott has a lot, he reminds me a lot of Dane Ortlund. When we have Dane as a guest, he talks and I just weep the whole time. I'm doing that with you, Scott. I don't do that with every guest. I think it's because of the power of the Gospel that you paint the picture and remind us so beautifully of what Jesus has done.

It's so compelling and draws us so close to him. So thanks. I don't know what our original question was. Your question was, I run from pain. And I would say, why wouldn't you?

Why wouldn't anyone? I mean, you're created in the image of God. You came from a perfect world, Garden of Eden. You're going to a perfect world, the new heaven and the new earth.

You're made for another world. You're not created for a world that's filled with suffering and sorrow and pain and death and guilt and all the rest. I think the image comes to mind of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus where he wept, which is a signal that he didn't like it. And sometimes I don't understand our English translations. Like in Ephesians, most of our English translations say, in your anger do not sin, but it literally says in the original language, be angry.

It's a command. Be angry and sin not. And in the same way, most of our English translations say Jesus was deeply moved in spirit. But what it really says is that he was infuriated with death. And I think there's something about us that's uncomfortable with the thought of Jesus.

And maybe that's why he also gave us the flipping the table scenario. Like I got hot in church without sin, y'all. Like I broke stuff in church without sin.

There's something in there. I think one of the things that's so important, especially for Christians, is to remember that we are fully created in the image of God, which includes our emotional composition. And we live in a part of the world that tells us to run from our emotions instead of feeling them. You're too emotional.

Stop crying like a baby. Who said it was bad to act like a baby? Didn't Jesus say unless you learn to process all of your life like a little child, you'll never see the kingdom of heaven?

And so where do we get this crazy idea that we should try to not be like little children? And what's amazing to me, though, Dave, and I think this gets to the question of like, why do I want to run from suffering? Well, because you're not made to suffer. And yet we live in a tragic in-between time where we have to. We have to experience what is not natural to the way that we're wired and the way that we're made.

But isn't it a beautiful thing that God, He gives us, and this is again, Chip Dodd, who I quoted I think earlier in this yesterday. He says there are basically eight core human emotions. There's gladness, and then there's sadness, guilt, shame, fear, hurt, loneliness, and one more that's also a distressed emotion. So we have seven painful emotions and one glad one. And you look at that and you think, that stinks. But at the same time, think about how God has wired us with seven different ways to respond to a world that we weren't made for, in order to equip us to respond to all the things that we're not meant to have in our lives.

And my imagination just goes there. This isn't the Bible or anything, but my imagination goes there like, what will our emotional makeup be when suffering is out of the picture? What will the redeemed emotional life look like? We know it won't have any of the sorrowful stuff. So will it just be gladness or will there be all these other emotions we haven't even gotten to experience yet? Because God just decided to give us one in order to signify that we're going somewhere.

And like C.S. Lewis says, we're made for another world, which is why we never feel at home in this one. I don't know, but the short answer is we should hate suffering. We should welcome what it accomplishes as we submit to it. We can become cynical and grumpy and bitter.

That's one route. Or if we go the route that God wants to take us down, we can become more thankful, more joyful, more able to be compassionate. Like the whole secret to the recovery movement, right? Like you've got non-Christians who are getting better faster than Christians are because they do the gospel better than most Christians do.

What do you mean by that? So I talk in the book about like the difference between the church basement and the sanctuary. The church basement is where the recovery groups meet, where they just get raw, honest with each other.

They do it in community. And the one thing that brings them all together is they share a common addiction and a common hope of getting better. And ideally, you've got God in that picture as well to give you the power and the sustaining ability to get well and stay well and all the rest. But they give you a sponsor who's basically a mentor who's been through it. It's a discipleship program. It is.

Nationally, yes. And then you go in the sanctuary and you've got all these people. Let's say the basement's filled with people who don't believe in Jesus and yet they're getting better.

You know, I've got my coin for five years as a variety or whatever. And then up here, you've got all these people who believe the Bible and affirm all the truths. And yet there's this pretentious, like performative, I have to look a certain way. I have to be perceived a certain way. Like if my children are messy, that's going to bring shame on our family and it's not going to make us not look good. Or if people really saw how hard our marriage is or if people knew that we were fighting all the way to church and we kind of really don't like each other right now. Like hide that, hide that, hide that. Meanwhile, Jesus is just kind of sitting in the corner with his arms folded, just kind of looking at us like, y'all just don't know what you're missing. You know, Tim Keller says that the hardest thing to give is in.

If you could just give in and give up on this masquerade, you know, window dressing that you're trying to, you know, this highlight reel that you're trying to present to the rest of the world as you hide the very things that are the pathway to your redemption. That's so interesting. I remember going to a women's retreat and I go to the cabin because it's a weekend retreat. And I get there and I'm the pastor's wife and they're like, oh, no, Ann, I don't know if you want to be in our cabin. And I said, why? And they said, we are all in recovery together.

And I said, yes, yes. These are the groups that always go the deepest. They just like, this is who we are.

This is what we've done. So honest, so beautiful. And as a result, it makes everyone around them be so real and open. I used to love when the head of our Celebrate Recovery or Divorce Recovery would ask me to come in and give, usually once or twice a year, to their group.

And at first I was like, oh, do I want to? And then after I did a few times, I'm like, what you said, I'm like, these are the most honest people in our church. These are your people. They are, they're honest. You walk in there and they're like, there's nothing hidden.

They're like, we messed up and we're sharing that with one another and we're finding hope. And I would, I'll close with this. Scott, you know, when we started, we talked about you sharing your struggle, you know, with anxiety in your sermon. And I thought, and you know this, but what you did is you brought the church basement up into the sanctuary and you created a, I mean, I've never been to your church. I've watched you. I've heard you. I've never been in your culture, but I know your culture.

And I know people feel like I can bring my stuff here because the lead guy is like us with Jesus. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Scott Sauls on Family Life Today. You know, Dave's got a story you'll want to hear about the power of bringing our sin into the light. That's going to be in just a second. But first, Scott has written a book called Beautiful People Don't Just Happen. How God Redeems Regret, Hurt and Fear in the Making of Better Humans. Wow.

What a title. Well, we wanted to get you a copy of this book as our thanks when you give all week. You can go online to or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Now that can be a one time gift or a recurring monthly gift.

Again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, as Scott says, beautiful people don't just happen and beautiful marriages don't just happen either. So what if I told you that the foundation of your marriage wasn't all on you to figure out?

That'd be kind of a relief, right? Well, God has laid it out completely, but sometimes we don't know how to give our marriages the attention they deserve. So why don't you take three days and let your focus be on each other? Family Life's Weekend to Remember Getaway is happening all over the country. And if you register this week, you and your spouse can get 40 percent off this event.

If you want to find out more, you can head over to, scroll down and click on the Weekend to Remember link to register and find out more information. All right, here's Dave Wilson on the power of bringing our sin into the light. As scary as that might be. I remember the first time we were a year old, our church, and I shared in a message my struggle with porn.

This is way back before there was even a digital thing. And my co-founder buddy walks right, I hadn't even walked off the stage and he just, he walks up to me. I didn't tell him I was going to do this.

I just did. And he said to me, you just changed this church. And I go, am I in trouble? He goes, no, I think we just, we just said this is who we're going to be, a community where you can be honest, but Jesus is going to meet you there. I would just say, man, we all need to have the courage that you had that day. And I know you've done it many times since to say, I'm not going to hide. I'm going to step into my regret, my hurt and my fear. I'm going to share that in a community with people that will walk with me.

And that's going to take me to become a beautiful person. Have you ever heard of the term helicopter parent? I think you probably have. That's the parent that kind of hovers over their kids and doesn't let them do anything that might be dangerous at all. And we think there are a lot of helicopter parents out there, but maybe that helicopter parent could be you. Well, tomorrow, Dave and Ann are joined again by Scott Sauls to talk about how it's actually healthy to let our kids fail. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-02 18:57:48 / 2023-04-02 19:08:31 / 11

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