Christians are not exempt from addiction.
Rehab, retreats, hypnotism, cold turkey…I’ve even seen exorcisms for addictions. None of these work, but the Bible clearly teaches us that everything we need for life and godliness is contained within the Holy Scriptures. But what does a Biblical approach to addiction actually look like? So many Christians who are also addicts know the Bible yet they are unable to stop. Reading devotions, going to church, and accountability partners have not allowed them to set aside the addiction. Self-condemnation kicks in as they wonder what is wrong with them that they can’t get free. They want to be free. They have faith that God can set them free, but the chains are not broken.
Those who the Son has set free are free indeed, but are we?
This is what salvation is all about. We have been set free from sin. Well, not exactly. We are credited by God as if we are free and we have been given the power through the Holy Spirit and the promises of God to actually get free, but salvation doesn’t guarantee bad habits will be broken. Christian treatment centers are awesome and I don’t want to discourage anyone from admitting themselves into one. You can find a treatment center here. However, many times, Christian treatment centers will use secular psychology combined with Scripture, prayer, and support groups. Again, I don’t want to knock any facility, but not all treatments are the same. I want to share with you some basic Biblical principles necessary to overcome addiction even if a person does check into a treatment center.
Identify Your Emotional Wounds
Addictions are habits that hit the ‘pleasure center‘ of the brain. The question though is why do we need habitual stimulation of the pleasure center of the brain? It is human nature to escape pain and suffering. We all do it. It is natural. The same way our body will naturally begin to limp after spraining an ankle, our mind will look for ways to avoid, numb, or eliminate suffering. This can lead to many different destructive behaviors from a lack of self-awareness to suicide. Let’s face it. We hate suffering even of the smallest kind. I am suffering right now as a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’ve been suffering for years. Of course, I am just being ridiculous because that is not really suffering, yet my insides are filled with discomfort when I endure another loss. It’s silly, but it shows you how our natural self despises suffering of any kind. So much of our suffering hurts on a level we can’t describe and we will do anything to escape that suffering. And this is where addictions find a place in our body.
We must identify the wounds inflicted upon us by those we have loved and hated, those who have loved us, and those who didn’t. These wounds are deeply hidden in our inmost place. When King David questioned how he could have fallen so far as to commit adultery and murder, he asked the Lord for wisdom, for truth, in his inmost place (Psalm 51). Pain so egregious we put out of our mind, but it remains in our heart.
Imagine if I took a knife and sliced your arm, the pain would reach a new zenith. But then, let’s suppose we never treat this wound. Infection sets in. It fills with puss and all kinds of nastiness. Then one day as you are walking through the mall, some stranger walks by and their loose-fitting sweater happens to brush the wound. The pain would be almost the same as the original wound, maybe more. But if the original wound had never existed, there would be no pain at all.
Nevertheless, our reaction at that moment would reflect the unbearable stabbing sensation. Those who knew nothing of the original wound would be shocked and confused by our response. The emotional wounds of our past create perplexing behavior toward others when they do something, say something, that hits us in the same place. It’s like someone digging their finger into a bullet-hole. Pain like this endures, and our natural self will do all it can to escape the pain, many times by seeking a pleasurable getaway hence the addictions via alcohol, drugs, pornography, greed, exercise, sex.
The deeply-ingrained emotional wounds are the keys to understanding our trigger to drink, smoke, or get high. Just before we fall into the temptation of our addiction, if we will pay attention, we will come to an awareness of an emotional struggle. In this awareness, we can run to the Lord who is our Refuge and safe place.
Find the Truth Behind the Wounds
These wounds create false beliefs. Psychology would call these cognitive distortions. The Bible calls them “lies from Hell.” These beliefs are about ourselves. Whatever happened to us may have made us feel dumb, ugly, stupid, unwanted, rejected, worthless. Sometimes, people even used those words when they spoke to us. Other times, it was more subtle messages with the same effect. The truth about you, however, does not rest with any person in your life, present, or future. The truth about you has been proclaimed since the beginning. You were made in the image of God. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. God knew you in the womb and cherished you before your body was formed. You are His creation, His masterpiece, so how could it be true that you are any of those things.
If I walked into an art gallery to buy a painting and asked two people their opinion of its worth, one might say it is of great value, while another person might say it is a piece of junk. Which one should I believe? Wouldn’t it depend on which one actually knew anything about art? I would never want to spend lots of money on something that a novice said was valuable. I would want to know what the expert thought. Well, my friends, there is only one expert on the value of a human being and that is the artist Himself. We cannot listen to people who can’t even see the value of their own life much less the value of the people around them.
This struggle gets deep within our spirit. As we get older, we work hard to guard our hearts, but when we are younger, we don’t even realize we need to.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
Jesus taught us that if we abide by His teachings, then we would know the truth. The word ‘know’ here means to become intimate. There are things we know, but we don’t know. When we date someone, we know them, but after we have been married to them for twenty years, then we truly know them. What does it mean to truly be intimate with the truth?
Jesus said He is the Truth and the Way and the Life. All three of these concepts are wrapped up in one person. He is the Way to Life, life eternal, and life abundant. Jesus refers to Himself as the truth indicating to us that there is an opposite force that is deceitful. The enemy promises the same things God does-peace, love, happiness. All of his promises not only fall short but turn out to be an ambush killing all that was promised. For every good thing God has promised, Satan has put forth a faux path, a mirage, an illusion promising to lead to what God has promised. But Jesus is the Way. He lays out the path. His direction for our next step always leads to the Goodness of God in contrast to Hell’s pretense.
When we sense the pain of our past, the enemy will lay out before us the same path we have taken for most of our life. We feel dishonored, discarded, and disoriented and a familiar path is revealed. The path is filled with signs that say, ‘Come this way. There is no pain here.’ This is the same path that has promised euphoric escape since childhood, since the teen years. But it is a lie.
I want you to know today there is not one path, but two. In fact, it is a fork in the road and you have a choice. You can let the sadistic propaganda control your behavior pressuring you to escape again. Or, you can take the other path based on the truth that says you have never been what people have made you feel to be. A conscious decision reminding yourself that you are not who you feel. You are not the sum total of all the mistakes that have come trying to avoid the pain. You are a child of God and therefore, have no need to escape. The pain is simulated because its origin is a lie. You feel worthless, but you are a king in the image of God. You feel hopeless, but your God is always working for your good. You feel that things cannot get better, but He is the God of the sunrise dispelling the darkest night. Which will control you, the Word of God, or the whispers of demons?
Intimacy with the Truth begins with the Embrace of Obedience
When we choose to not let the demons of the past dictate our behavior to follow the Way of God, our eyes will see a new destination. What we thought about ourselves will be proven false. What we believed about our situation will prove to be different. The person we thought we were will be undone.
It is not easy because the emotional pull to take the wrong side of the forked way will be intense even as we force ourselves down another path. We will feel one way, but choose to behave another. Our emotions will crave the old path, but the Spirit who gives us the discipline to control what we do and say will empower us to do something different this time. And each time we are able to take a different path, the faith we exhibit will prompt the healing of God. Little by little, step by step, the things of the past will lose their hold.
It is not merely refusing to go down the same old path but choosing a different path altogether. If we sit in a room repeating the words, “I’m not going to get high. I’m not going to get high. I’m not going to get high,” our mind will be filled with thoughts of getting high. Instead, we pursue God’s way who taught us to pray. Our emotions will crave the drug, but we will use the power of the Spirit to fill our minds with the hope we have in Jesus through worship, fellowship.
Freedom is inevitable for those who follow the Way
I do not make light the journey out from under the weight of addiction. I do not want to suggest it is an easy path, but I do want to press hard into the reliability of God and His Way. When we follow Him in behavior, He cleanses our soul. We not only behave in the body but in temperament. Scripture has taught us in all things how to behave, but also how to respond attitudinally. We are to give thanks for our struggle for reminding us we need a Savior. We focus our minds on what is good and give thanks even if we are surrounded by bad. Obedience to the truth never fails. God promises that He who has begun a good work in you will finish it. It is not a matter of ‘if,’ but when. Find out how God is asking you to behave. Ignore that pain born in deceit. Follow the Way and He will set you free indeed! Don’t give up!