We all understand the importance of physical hygiene for our own health and to keep from repelling others. I sometimes draw a spiritual analogy. When we’re generally keeping clean, a quick shower helps us stay fresh. Spiritually, reading a few verses to meditate on through the day will be enough. But if we’ve gotten into a really grimy job, we need some serious scrubbing. Spiritually speaking, sometimes it takes a long, luxurious bath in the Word of God to “deep down clean.” It will depend on the depth of your relation and whether or not you can say things such as, “You need to practice some spiritual hygiene or you’ll start to stink.”
Keep in mind in all this that unless the Holy Spirit is already at work convicting of sin and drawing your friend back to God, you’re in for a rough and potentially fruitless exercise. Sometimes a spouse or someone else will start pressing for change. This can sometimes be useful to trigger healthy spiritual motivation but, on its own, it’s not enough. As you have your initial engagement, pray the Lord will give you insight about the timing of getting involved and the depth of your involvement. Then, be responsive yourself! Pushing at the wrong time can actually slow things down. Let the Holy Spirit direct you as you seek to restore one who has lost a spiritual battle.
One practical thing you can do for your friend is to help him or her establish some healthy boundaries in the process of “making no provision for the flesh.” They might need to not travel alone, check in for spiritual support a couple of times a day, meet with you every so many days. Every case will be different but assuring your friend that you are walking alongside will make a tremendous difference in the process of restoration.
Remember to have fun together. When everything is serious and focused on the past failure, even though you’re working together on recovering from it, people can get bogged down. So do something you like to do together, hike, watch sports, do a craft, play a game, anything to laugh together. Restoration is a key time to exercise the proverb: “a merry heart does good like medicine.”
One last thing, be patient. Spiritual failure is the result of a process. Spiritual restoration needs to be one too.