Withdrawal and Temptation
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Over the years in the Emergency Room, I met many alcoholics who, when drunk, asked for help, only to recant when sobriety and withdrawal set in. While they were drunk and their thirst was sated, they could see the mess of their lives and they wanted out. As their blood alcohol level dropped though, the misery of withdrawal started and their thirst won out, driving them back into the bottle.
I too, have known the maddening hunger of withdrawal. Though physical dependency is but one facet of addiction, when the mind and body becomes accustomed to a drug, dependency becomes an irresistible force. Many times, I swore to God and man that I would stop. When the shaking, sweating, agitation, insomnia, aches, nausea and hunger returned though, my promises meant little.
My physical dependence to the drug came to rule my decision making. In my futility, I looked at this verse and laughed cynically. Paul, in the passage, promised that God would not allow me to be tempted beyond what I could endure. I did not believe that to be true as I found myself in a position in which I could not say no. My inability to resist the temptation stood as evidence that Paul had lied to me. I became bitter at God for this lie.
My logic was of course, as sick as my drug-polluted mind. I had taken a thousand steps in one direction and then demanded that God undo all my habit-forming behavior in one magical act. I repeatedly exposed my mind and body to a highly addictive substance and then wanted God to miraculously remove the effects of withdrawal and temptation from me.
God did, of course, provide a way out. He told me to confess, get help and go to treatment. That was not an option though. Facing my pathology was far too painful. I can’t do that God! I will lose my marriage. I will lose my job. I just need you to provide me a way out that does not require anything of me, OK?
Most of us do this with God. We know the misery of pursuing self and we know the defeat of temptation. Thus, we go to God, asking that our hunger be removed from us. You are supposed to help me, right God? You don’t want me to continue in my destruction, do you? Why will you not take away my appetite for this thing?
To this, God says, yes. I will help you. I will help you by telling you that you as you have walked a thousand steps in one direction, you are now going to have to deny yourself, turn and follow me ten thousand steps in the opposite direction. This will not be easy. This will be a daily denial of self and a daily pursuit of me. Though it may be difficult, it will not be as painful as continuing down the road you are on now. You do not have to live in misery any longer. When you draw near to me, I will draw near to you. Accept my embrace. Accept the joy and peace of following me instead of self. Yes, you will still go through withdrawal, but it will not last forever. It will get better, if you want it to.