The Road to Relapse is Paved with Good Intentions
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38
When I first attempted recovery years ago, I just knew I was done with addiction and that I’d never go back. I relapsed several times. What happened? It wasn’t that I lacked good intentions. Part of me truly wanted God and recovery. The problem was that part of me still wanted to use drugs. As long as I kept working at recovery, daily pointing myself at God, I didn’t succumb to my self-destructive appetite. Once I believed I was fixed though, I grew lackadaisical. Apathy set in, and I fell asleep. In this condition, the gravity of my addictive nature eventually worked its inexorable effect and I relapsed. Good intentions alone got me nowhere.
In today’s passage, Jesus warned his disciples of this reality. In the garden, on the night of his arrest, Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray with him as he struggled with his own will. Unable to remain alert, they succumbed to their sleepiness. Jesus warned them, Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Jesus knew what he was talking about. He was living in the conflict. Part of him wanted out of the approaching crucifixion and part of him wanted to obey the father. Unlike the disciples though, Jesus didn’t fail. He took his struggle to God, wrestled his self-will to the ground, and obeyed.
This is a life pattern that we must learn. Our struggles aren’t over. Our appetite for the self-destructive isn’t gone. Part of us may want to follow God, but part of us is still lustful, gluttonous, prideful, hateful, selfish, greedy, angry, and resentful. So, we must learn what to do as Jesus did. Daily, we must remain alert. We must watch and pray, daily doing whatever it takes to turn from our destructive appetites, thoughts, and behaviors to follow the father.
In our apathy, we fall asleep. When we fail to actively pursue what’s right, we naturally turn towards that which would destroy us. If we want to avoid the misery and pain of self-inflicted sorrow, good intentions alone are useless. If we want to know life, joy, and peace, then we must daily do what it takes to pursue faith and recovery.