Bible-based addiction recovery material
to support your ongoing spiritual growth.

  • Blog

When Pain Is Not Enough

By Don Umphrey

(scriptural citations from the NIV)

 Our earlier posts have described how addicted individuals stay in denial by lying to themselves about the adverse effects of their addictions.  

 We also observed the painful consequences of an addiction may lead to a much-desired moment of clarity,  allowing the individual to start seeing themselves with a measure of objectivity. 

 But what happens if the addicted individual continues to self-destruct despite mounting painful consequences but never has a moment of clarity?

Time for an Intervention

 An intervention may be in order.  But beware!  This is not something that loved ones try pull off on their own. 

 The Mayo Clinic describes an intervention in this way:

 “...a carefully planned process that may be done by family and friends in consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or directed by an intervention professional (interventionist). It sometimes involves a member of your loved one's faith or others who care about the person struggling with addiction.

“During the intervention these people gather together to confront your loved one about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. 

The intervention:

“--Provides specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on your loved one with the addiction and family and friends;

“--Offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines;

“--Spells out what each person will do if your loved one refuses to accept treatment.” 1

(Additional information is available at

Intervention on King David

Although not conducted in the manner described by the Mayo Clinic, the Bible contains examples of interventions.  

Perhaps the most well known occurred when the Lord sent the prophet, Nathan, to get King David out of denial. This occurred after David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his army’s best soldiers. 

As described in 1 Samuel 11, the affair left Bathsheba pregnant with David scrambling for a way to cover-up his sinful behavior. First, he tried to arrange for Uriah to come home from war and sleep with his wife.  Failing at that, he sent orders to the general of his army to put Uriah in a vulnerable position where he would be killed. 

He then married Bathsheba, brought her into his household, and she bore him a son. 

David’s denial continued for at least nine months.  

Here’s what he subsequently wrote about the pain he experienced during that time: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” Psalm 32:3-4.

Nathan started the intervention by telling David a story about two men who lived in close proximity to each other.  (See 2 Samuel 12:1-4.) One of them had one female lamb that was loved by this man and his children, and it was treated as a member of the family.  Nearby was a rich man with many sheep and cattle.  He killed the one precious lamb owned by his neighbor and prepared it as a meal for a guest in his home. 

 Upon hearing about this situation,“David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity’” (2 Samuel 12: 5-6).

 Of course, David’s sin was much worse than killing a ewe lamb. His response is known as an example of  “If you spot it, you’ve got it,” Or, “It takes one to know one.” Or, “When you have a finger pointed at someone else, you’ve got three pointed back at yourself.”

 “Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).  

 After this Nathan told David about the consequences he would face: “the sword will never depart from your house” (2 Samuel 12:10); the Lord says, “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.  Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to your and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight” (2 Samuel 12:11).

 Then David finally came out of denial, when he stated, “I have sinned against the Lord’.” (2 Samuel 12 13). 

 But Nathan wasn’t through.  “But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die” (2 Samuel 12:14).Unsuccessful Interventions

 The second consequence of David’s sins probably turned out uglier than anyone could have imagined as it included members of his own family.  You may read about this in 2 Samuel 13-19.

Unsuccessful Interventions

 Reflecting real life, all of interventions in the Bible did not come out successfully.  In fact, even gentle nudges from a loved one such as, “Do you think you might be drinking too much?” might be met with hostility.  

 For example, after the Lord sent a prophet to call attention to the wrongs of Amaziah, ruler of Judah from 796 to 767 B.C., the king retorted, “Have we appointed you an advisor to the king?  Stop!  Why be struck down?”  (2 Chronicles 25:16).  

There was also the case of Asa, ruler of Judah from 911 to 870 B.C.  When the Lord sent a man to intervene on him,.  Asa “was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people” (2 Chronicles 16:10). 

 Due to the advancing alcoholism of two different men at a church I attended, each of their loved ones conducted interventions guided by a professional.  

One of the men has now been clean and sober for more than 15 years.  

The other one chose to leave his family to continue drinking.  He developed cancer of the tongue, apparently from years of drinking straight vodka.  As a result, a part of his tongue was removed. Lying on his death bed about a year after the intervention, he was unable to communicate with his family.  The doctor told his family it was the only time he had seen that type of cancer in someone who was a non-smoker. 


  If you or a loved one is addicted and has a desire to stop, I am glad to recommend 12 Steps to a Closer Walk with God: The Workbook (3rd edition) in conjunction with Journey to Recovery: CASA's 12-Step Study Bible.