What God Does for the Addicted
Romans 6:16 You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.
The addict, in his misery, ironically, knows only one way to feel better. He finds respite in the pursuit of that which made him miserable in the first place. The one enslaved to self, pursues sex, drink, money, toys, or status because those things do provide some momentary pleasure. The pleasure does not last though and then the misery of remorse sets in. In his pain, the addict sees only one way to find comfort, to return to that which he knows will bring pleasure, even if it will later lead to more destruction. The addict is trapped in this cycle of slavery to self and can see no way out.
This is the human condition to which Paul spoke in today’s passage. As it turns out, Paul knew quite a bit about addiction. He insisted that we are slaves to that which we obey. Most of us can identify with being enslaved to some defect of our flesh nature. This addiction is a compelling need to do something despite harmful consequences. It may manifest as an indulgence in anger, food, sex, greed or pride. We are all different, but we all have something we follow which distracts from who we are supposed to be. We have all promised to never do a thing again and then broken that promise. Then, in remorse, we made more promises, only to fail again. This is addiction.
Paul said that we always follow something. He insisted that we are either slaves to our own flesh nature, leading to ruin or we follow God, leading to life. We think we are free in following our own desires, but we are not. To be sure, not all of our desires are destructive, but following self above all will always enslave us to ourselves.
There are those, of course, who are content with this situation. If you do not see the pursuit of self as a problem, if you feel that following your desires is the point of life, then you may not have much need for God. If, like me though, you have realized the misery of using momentary pleasures to mask the consequences of your dark side, if you are sick of addiction to self, then God offers what you (and I) need.
God, simply offers freedom. To the addicted, God offers himself as the only adequate alternative to the enslavement of self. Sin and self always enslave but God never enslaves. Through Christ’s death, God offers us freedom and life. In Christ, we are free to pursue the one thing that will provide all the joy, purpose and meaning we were seeking in the empty pursuits of self. It is our broken nature to pursue purpose and meaning in our own desires. We are only complete however, when we find those things in God because that is how He made us.
To be sure, we may abandon drink or drug without finding God. Many do. Something will always fill that vacuum though. We will always pursue something. Many have found the futility of replacing one destructive pursuit with a slightly less destructive one. God however, offers the only perfect alternative to us. We may continue to wallow in our self-addiction, or, we may find freedom in God.