Why Do We Fail at Changing?
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:29
To know addiction is to know despair. Whether it’s food, drugs, pornography, or affirmation, the thing we once enjoyed eventually enslaves us, making us miserable. In our misery, we’re desperate for change. We vow to change. Why don’t we change? We pray and we beg God to transform us, but he doesn’t take away the destructive appetite. Why?
The church, like most of us, struggles with this. I can’t speak for all Christians but in my own addiction, I encountered those who believed that, All you need is Jesus. Which meant that I didn’t need treatment or AA. All I needed to do was to go to church and pray, and I would be miraculously healed. Well, I went to church and I prayed – a lot. And I wasn’t fixed. Why?
Jesus, in today’s passage, addressed this question. In the passage, he specifically addressed lust, when he insisted that we’re responsible to do whatever it takes to stop engaging in any behavior that’s destructive to our faith. If seeing members of the opposite sex causes us to lust, then it would be better to be blind, than to go the rest of our lives, enslaved to lustful thoughts.
Jesus wasn’t teaching physical mutilation. He was just insisting that if we’re struggling with some addictive, destructive behavior, it is our responsibility to do whatever it takes to abandon it to follow him. For some of us, this will mean going to treatment. For others, it will mean getting rid of internet access. Whatever it takes, is a radical concept that will likely be quite difficult. This is why most of us fail to change: We remain unwilling to do what it takes to change.
Am I saying that God helps those who help themselves? No, I am saying that God works miracles in those who are obedient. I’m saying that we must pray, asking God what we must do, and then we must do it. When we use prayer as an excuse to do nothing, we’re simply justifying our disobedience and blaming God for it. When it comes to transformation, we’ll often see God’s miraculous power only when we commit to radical obedience.