The Disease of Self
2 Corinthians 12:7 A thorn was given me in the flesh…
When I first went through out-patient treatment, years ago, I refused to accept that I had a persistent disease. I just could not accept that addiction was a part of who I was or that I was broken. I bought into the once-for-all deliverance model, which some versions of faith promote. I returned to my addiction twice, despite embracing deliverance.
It was an epiphany of sorts then, when I finally realized that I have a lifelong disease called my flesh nature. Whether I am comfortable with the word disease or not, is probably not all that important, as long as I understand that some thorns do not go away. Some defects are part of me and with me for life. I do not need to live enslaved to my defects, but God may well allow them to remain so that I remain dependent on him.
We all suffer from this disease called self. Since the garden, just as we all have a body prone to decay, we all have a flesh nature, prone to destructive behavior. This is the disease of self, to live in a body destined for the grave, with a nature bent on self-gratification. We are naturally obsessed not with God, but ourselves.
Though they will eventually kill him, the diabetic may still long for donuts. To continue to eat donuts then, disregarding the consequences, is diseased or pathologic behavior. Some will say this is not a disease, that it is just poor self-control. It is of course, poor self-control. It is exactly that inability to control destructive behavior that defines the insanity and disease of addiction.
I knew I was eventually going to lose my family and career in my drug use. I still did not stop. That, by definition, is diseased behavior.
No one in his or her right mind would choose to throw everything away for a donut or a drug. No one chooses to have a defect that leads to death and destruction. We do of course, make good or bad choices, leading us towards self or towards God and sobriety. We are not responsible for which disease we have, but we alone are responsible for the management of that disease.
We all then, suffer from this disease of self, which has its origin in our fallen genetic code and is influenced by our toxic environment and choices. The disease of self is physical, emotional and spiritual and has different manifestations in all of us. Some will be predisposed to drug addiction while others are tempted by pornography, pride, anger, greed or the need for affirmation. We all have our own thorns of the flesh.
Though I do not need to live enslaved to my thorns, I must understand that they will always exert some influence on me as long as I live in this body. I am on a downward escalator with my flesh-life at the bottom and God at the top. If I want to live as I was meant to, I must continually step upwards, away from self, towards God. Complacency means I naturally fall towards my defects. If I want to live free from slavery to my diseased flesh, I must daily deny self and follow Christ.