BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 2 in a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Mark Shaw. You can read Part 1 at Preparing to Intervene.
4 Elements in a Family Intervention Letter
There are four elements to include in your letter based upon 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
You will notice each element in the abbreviated sample letter that follows:
Dear Addicted One (Name),
I am so glad to get this opportunity to read this letter to you now. I value our relationship and realize how unrighteous it has been from my standpoint. (If necessary, CONFESS YOUR SIN, PRESENT A BRIEF PLAN FOR YOUR REPENTANCE, and ASK THE ADDICT FOR FORGIVENESS right here.) I have much to learn and a lot to change in myself. However, I believe in the power of Christ to change me and you. I want to help you in any way I can.
(TEACHING) My relationship with you should have been better and will be better by God’s grace. You and I can have a very good relationship based on solid, biblical principles for love, understanding, communication, mutual respect, and service to each other. I know it will not be perfect, but I do expect it to be much improved as you and I learn more biblical principles for relating to one another in a healthy manner. One important change is that I cannot “enable” your addiction any longer.
(REPROOF) I admit I have not loved, respected, and communicated with you in a godly manner at times. I have asked God to forgive me and now am asking you to forgive me for these sins. Will you forgive me? Likewise, you have sinned against me by lying, manipulating, stealing, disrespecting, and being unloving. (You can list a few specific instances here if you think it will be helpful.) Your addiction has created problems not only for you but for many of us who love you. Addiction is a sin problem that requires repentance (Ephesians 5:18). You are a gifted person capable of much more if not enslaved to this problem. You are destroying the relationships with the very persons who love you the most; treating us like objects rather than persons.
(CORRECTION) Because I am concerned for you, I want to tell you that there is hope for change. If you are willing, we will do all we can to help you. You are not an innocent victim to an addiction. You are responsible for your addictive choices and it is sin. The Lord holds you responsible and you can change by His power. The same power that saved you and made you a Christian will change you by making you more Christ-like. You must change or you will lose the relationships with the people who love you most. More importantly, you must change or you will die in these sins. However, it starts today with you. You must be WILLING to change. I know it will be difficult but I know it will be worth it, too.
(DISCIPLINED TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS) Jesus died on the cross and shed His innocent blood for your sins and mine. Obviously, if Jesus gave up His life for sin, then sin is a big deal to Him. You cannot overcome your addiction fully without acknowledging it as sin and taking it to the cross. I know that you can overcome this addiction but it will require repentance and a complete change of mind. Here is our plan. I will expect you to weekly attend _____________________ (list all aspects of the plan for repentance including worship services, Bible studies, accountability meetings, fellowship time with other believers, counseling, and more; be specific). I will pray with you daily and expect you to study your Bible daily (Add more expectations here if you like but I recommend not being too specific at this point because you do not want to overwhelm the addict.)
You cannot do this alone. Therefore, I am committed to helping you. The following people are as well: __________________ (list as many people as you can here). *(If not present at the intervention: “I spoke to them before this meeting and they agreed to help you as much as they can.”) We will help you to restructure your life so that you can live in a pleasing manner unto the Lord and begin to serve others with all of your God-given gifts and abilities. You have so much to offer this world and it hurts me to see you squandering your gifts on selfish living in an addiction.
Will you willingly commit to receiving the help you need today? Will you do everything in your power to repent and restructure your life? Will you do these things, not for me or anyone else, but for the Lord because He alone is the One you must seek to please?
Speaking the truth in love,
Again, this is just a sample. Adapt it to your situation or write your own. I would not make the letter too long. I would ask for a commitment in word and then in deed (action) immediately represented by a signature on a commitment contract prepared in advance.
If willing to repent, you may want to get the addict into a new, safe environment (if possible) so as to minimize any temptation to sin. The addict can move into a program like Vision of Hope or into a disciple-maker’s home right away. Move as quickly as possible with the “next step” for the addict. The specifics of the plan need to be in place well ahead of the intervention and some places have waiting lists so call in advance to find out if they will reserve a space for you immediately following the intervention.
If unwilling, the addict must know the consequences of his choice. You may want to continue to work with the addict but you may be at the point where you look to Proverbs 22:10 by faith in God: Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. If moving out, then be sure the addict knows that he is making this choice in willing disobedience. It is his choice to make, not yours. You are simply drawing a line in the sand (Ephesians 5:11) and his choice to repent will lead to new life and support. Place the appropriate amount of responsibility upon him so that you are not allowing him to think like a victim of circumstances but as a culpable person making choices.
Interventions are often dreaded because of the hard work to prepare, the fear of what might transpire, and the heartache if the addict fails to repent. Yet as believers, we are called to love others sacrificially and although our love may be misunderstood, we must be willing to demonstrate the love of Christ. Immerse your intervention in lots of prayer asking the Lord for His amazing grace. You might not see your loved one repent immediately yet seeds will be planted that may yield a fruitful crop down the road (see Luke 15:11-32). Doing an intervention is an act of faith trusting that God will determine the outcome according to His wisdom and good plan (Proverbs 3:5-8).
Join the Conversation
How have you seen God’s faithfulness demonstrated as you’ve helped family members struggling with a loved one enslaved to an addiction?
What principles discussed here could be applied to interventions in other areas of sinful enslavement (i.e. intervening to help the angry man, the sinfully afraid, etc.)?
What biblical residential programs are available in your area to assist addicts in restructuring their lives?
Excerpt taken from my book, Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts (FOCUS Publishing, 2007) SAMPLE “INTERVENTION” LETTER from Appendix C, pp. 99-101.