Out of the Living Death of Addiction
I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. Jonah 2:1
Whenever I meet someone struggling with addiction, I tell my brief story: I followed me and my destructive appetites to disaster, surrendering my faith, family, and career. I always believed in God, but it was only at rock bottom, when I had nothing else to live for, that I became willing to truly follow God, who saved me from the living death of my addiction.
In this, I can identify with Jonah’s story. Though he knew God, Jonah was deeply flawed, running from God to pursue his own will. In the consequences of his toxic choices, he ended up in the belly of a great fish. Only in this living death – this Sheol or grave – did Jonah turn to God, the only one who could return him to life.
There are a few lessons to learn from both Jonah’s story and mine. First, when we pursue our ourselves above all, we suffer the inevitable consequences. This isn’t just about drugs. This is about pride, selfishness, greed, gluttony, and all-things-me. Not all of our desires are destructive, but enough of them are, that we follow ourselves to our own demise.
Second, we must always turn to God in our misery. Whether or not our trials are self-inflicted, we must allow God to use them to change us. We’ll never be perfect in this life and we always have room to grow.
Finally, because God desires that we love and follow him, and because we usually only do so when we get to the end of ourselves, that is often where God allows our will to take us. It is often when we find ourselves in the belly of the fish, Sheol, or the living death of our addictions, that we finally turn to God, the only one who can save us.
We don’t have to live in the grave, enslaved to our own appetites. If we will daily do what it takes to repent, abandon ourselves, and follow God, we can be saved from our living death to find true life in him.