Every Relapse Gets Worse
Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. Matthew 12:45
Starvation causes weight loss, but few can effectively lose weight this way because we’re made to eat something. When we stop eating junk, but don’t replace it with healthy food, we eventually go mad with hunger, binging and gaining weight.
It’s not completely dissimilar with drugs or alcohol. We consume chemicals in our desire for satisfaction and pleasure. When we sober up and abandon those things, we need something to replace them. If we don’t find something, we eventually return to the comfort we know.
I’ve had two major relapses after my first attempt at sobriety. I got significantly worse each time. It took me years of use, on and off, to get to my first treatment. The second time was a little faster, taking a year or two. The third time, I went from zero to major life disaster in about three months. Though I got sober for a while each time, I never found authentic faith or recovery, and so, I relapsed, getting worse each time.
In today’s passage, Jesus explains this phenomenon in spiritual language that may seem foreign to us, but the principle still applies. In the narrative, Jesus says that when a person is freed from an evil spirit, but remains empty, the evil spirit returns with its friends and the afflicted will be worse off than before.
The solution for the addict isn’t to not quit. The answer is that he must be filled with something. We all have a desire for happiness, and we’re going to seek it somewhere. God is the only answer to this problem. He made us to know joy, life, and purpose in him and any attempt we make at finding those things anywhere else, leads to misery.
The normal Christian life – whether we’re addicts or not – is to make a daily effort to abandon our old ways, while making some effort to grow closer to God. Whether its food, drugs, lust, pride, or greed, we must daily do what it takes to leave behind our destructive pursuits, and we must seek God. He is the only one capable of meeting all our needs and when we draw near to him, he fills us with the joy and life we so desperately seek.