You Are That Man: The Nathan Approach to Confronting an Addict

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Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul.
2 Samuel 12:7

Be on Your Toes

Working around life threatening situations was an every day occurrence for many of my nursing career days.

Most of those days were spent in an Open Heart Recovery & Open Heart Unit with very ill patients. You had to be on your toes and a step ahead all the time. Anything could happen within a given shift.  Thinking quick on your feet, knowing what to do, taking quick action, and training your mind to recognize early signs of trouble were all skills that every nurse was expected to possess in this high acute area.

Most patients breezed through the surgery, their broken hearts mended and given a new lease on life.

However, there were always those few patients who literally confronted the “gasp of death” and had to be revived. Some did not make it off the table, some did not make it through initial recovery. Sadly, some died.

The same is true as we fight for the lives of those we love who are addicts. Some make it out, some don’t, some die. This is a reality  of the possible consequence of substance abuse.

The good news is the majority of open heart patients make it through with flying colors, without the slightest hint of complications. Which should give tremendous hope to people facing open heart surgery and their families.

What should also give us hope is to know people do and can emerge from the abyss of chemical addiction.

Many times I had to confront the “gasp of death” from my patients. What helped was that I knew what to do if a patient showed signs of impending trouble, stopped breathing or had cardiac arrest.

While dealing with someone you know who is an addict, the concept is the same. You have to know what you are dealing with so you can begin to know how to recognize signs of trouble, take action, and learn how to confront the situation.

Is this easy? No.

Is it worth it? Yes.


Because, by taking the painful step of confronting the addict you may be helping him move towards getting his life back.

Will you make mistakes? Probably.

So be on your toes, learn all you can about chemical substance abuse, but whatever you do, don’t drink Pepto Bismol.

Don’t Drink Pepto Bismol

There is a knot in my stomach.  This develops when I know confronting someone is on the horizon. Even though I would like for Pepto Bismol to take away this churning, this is not the antidote to confronting an addict.

The point being, there is no room for passivity, avoidance, or dismissal of the problem. Confronting has to be done.

I could drink the whole bottle of  pink chalk, and it still would not be the answer to my ailing stomach. And my aching heart.

Even though Pepto Bismol will not untie the knots, cure my digestive woes, or soothe my aching heart, there is an answer. God’s Word teaches me to turn to Him because He cares about me and about my anguish (Psalm 31:7, 1 Peter 5:7). He cares for you too. And for the one you love that is in the vortex of addiction.

You Are That Man

2 Samuel 12 is a fabulous story! There is no better biblical model to me, than this story, when it comes to confronting someone you love who finds themselves caught in the snare of addiction.  The implications of confronting are all over this text.

Here is part of the quoted text:

1 So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. 9 Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. 0 From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

11 “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view.12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”

13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Read the whole story here: 2 Samuel 12

The Nathan Approach 

Did you catch the approach Nathan used to confront David?

Emotional manipulation, anger, yelling, and threatening? Passivity? Avoidance? Dismissal?


Out of our own frustrations we often resort to such means because we do not know what to do or how to deal with the circumstance. Those tactics do not work. They just don’t.

If not these strategies, then what and how do you deal with confronting? 

I think Nathan’s approach of confronting can help us.

# 1- The Lord sent him. Your approach: Go in the strength of God, not your own strength. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God to allow you to see what He sees. Ask God to give you a heart like His, one of compassion & mercy. Ask God to remove any pride you have , to search your own heart, and to reveal your own issues. Don’t think for a minute you  can not succumb to falling yourself.

#2- Nathan exposes the secret. Your approach: Expose the secret with the facts and evidence you have accumulated, whether subjective or objective. Whether paraphernalia, or physical, emotional, social, or mental changes. Understand secrets are common for the addict. A few reasons. One, they are caught in a web and they are snagged with the drug; they may even enjoy the effects. They may not want to quit. Two, there is a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Three, the addict may believe there is no hope, that he will never be free. After all they may have tried, fallen back, and relapsed more times than they can count. Four, fear. Fear of not being able to live without the drug, fear that he can not be helped, fear they can not change, fear that this is all he has known for so long and it’s easier to stay in a place of familiarity. So when confronting, know the motive is not to shame or guilt them, the motive is to bring the secret to light so there can be healing. How many times will it take an addict? What if they relapse? My motto (taken from a Beth Moore book on prayer), “Get back up. How many times? Until you are free”.

#3- Nathan does not use emotional manipulation, threatening, crying, yelling, or anger. He goes with a motive of restoration. Your approach: Take out the emotion, use evidence and facts. For example: “I found these burned spoons in your room with q-tips and the doile is burned. You say you are not using, but here is the evidence that says you are”. “I keep finding cut straws in your pockets when doing laundry”. “There is a cutting device with white powder in your drawer”.

Maybe it is more subtle: They are staying up days on end, then sleep for days. They avoid eye contact or any contact with you by isolating themselves. Their color is ashen. Maybe they have lost a significant amount of weight. Maybe they are extremely agitated.  The idea is to have your antennas up and your radar on if you suspect drug abuse. If they are using, you will find the evidence. An addict keeps his paraphernalia on him or in close proximity, and he will display physical, mental, and emotional symptoms eventually. The drug will wear on him.

Finally, have the end goal in mind: Restoration. There is nothing more beautiful than witnessing the redemptive process of God in action in an individual’s life!

# 4 The problem is not between Nathan and King David. Nathan was the messenger boy. Your approach: Understand that no matter how much the addict blame shifts, guilts, or manipulates, or attacks you, the problem is not you personally, you are the messenger.  So don’t make it a personal issue too. Get back on track, and focus on facts and evidence of usage. The issue is between them and God. That is not to say the addiction does not affect you, it does. You are a victim by association.

# 5 God did not tell Nathan how King David would respond or react. Your approach: Brace yourself for just about any reaction, especially defensiveness and anger. Most addicts will usually lie when confronted. When there is evidence they will try to explain it away, or react by becoming very angry and walk off. Notice King David was “furious” when first confronted. Don’t let anger deter you. Just maybe they will respond by admission. That is a HUGE step for them!

#6 Nathan speaks the truth in love to King David. Your approach: Stay focused on the truth of the facts and resist speaking with venom yourself. Always check your motive before confronting. When speaking the truth and presenting the facts, do so with a heart that reflects God. There is a way to be firm and not buckle under emotion. Notice in the beginning how God told Nathan to tell David a story? What this can mean for you and I is to be prepared in how we will approach and confront. He told a story, and spoke the truth in love, not hate, not anger, not manipulation, not pleading. Nathan was prepared in how and what he would say, so be prepared. What will you say and how will you say It?

#7 When confronted King David confesses. Your approach: Realize a confession may come, or not. You are making tremendous headway if the addict is honest. That is so huge! Acknowledge him for this! However, most will fight the truth and fight to keep the secret. Please do not be discouraged if this happens. There may be several confrontations before the truth is admitted.

#8 King David faced consequences for his actions, but God was still merciful. Your approach: There are consequences for our wrong choices. And remember the point is not to discourage or to keep someone down. You can still extend mercy even with consequences. For example, an addict who may be living with you uses. The agreement being no drug usage while living in your home or the addict has to move out.


Not necessarily. Maybe the consequence is detox, then 30 days inpatient rehab, recovery plan for the next year. Then consider living arrangements. Remember detox is not recovery.

Think through the consequences you will implement. You will have to set what the boundaries are and STICK TO THEM! Always remembering the end goal is restoration.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Confronting is only the tip of the iceberg!

There is the issue of setting boundaries, recognizing enabling traits and characteristics, intervention, and how to get help.

Another day. Another blog.

Thanks for letting me share my heart with you. I pray your faith in God would prompt you to continue on in the good fight and to persevere in the faith.

There is an absolutely fascinating redemptive end to King David’s story! What applies to King David’s life can also be a reality in an addicts life.

You can find the story in Psalm 51.



Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave This book is so worth the buy! Even a section on confronting and intervention.

So, what do you think ?