They offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. Matthew 27:34
It’s not uncommon to hear someone who struggles with addiction or alcoholism to report that they use or drink to self-medicate. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, or the stress of life’s trials, they find relief in a chemical that, for a short time at least, numbs them, making them forget. Only it doesn’t solve anything, and the anesthesia eventually wears off, leaving even more problems in its wake. Then, to deal with the return of the pain, the addict or alcoholic must return to the chemical, creating a vicious downward spiral.
Today’s passage seems to address intoxication as a means of escape. In the passage, at Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus was offered wine mixed with gall, which some believe was a narcotic. Basically, he was offered a chemical as a means of escape from his pain, which he refused. Though he was going to be nailed to a cross, Jesus declined intoxication as a means of relief, facing his own death with a clear mind.
This differs radically from most of us who have some self-destructive way of coping with the trials of life. The question isn’t, Should I try to drink my problems away? The answer to that is obvious. The question is, What self-destructive behavior do I engage in to treat my pain? When I’m upset about something, do I try to eat my way out of the situation? When I’m anxious or stressed, do I lash out in anger at those around me? When my self-esteem is low, do I look for affirmation in places I shouldn’t?
We all seek relief from our discomfort. That’s not necessarily wrong. Rather, it’s how we seek relief that usually compounds our problems. In taking the easy route, seeking immediate gratification, we usually make things worse. Overeating to deal with my life stressors just adds more life stressors – and does nothing to solve the original problem.
In our trials, it’s not wrong to ask God to fix our circumstances. More often though, we must ask him to use our trials to fix us. In keeping our eyes on God, abandoning our self-destructive behaviors, and seeking his will, we deal with life’s problems the right way. In doing so, we may find joy and peace, despite the trials of life.