Because I Like It
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:19
Treatment for chemical dependency involves a lot of group therapy, but also involves regular one on one time with a counselor. My memory of those individual counseling sessions is that I answered a lot of questions about what led to my addiction. Was I depressed? Did I have traumatic life events in my past? I had some justifications, but in the end, I had to admit something terrifying about myself. I engaged in evil, self-destructive behavior for this simple reason: I liked it.
Today’s passage speaks to this flaw in our nature. In it, Jesus said that he came to save the world. Those who believe in him are saved and those who do not believe choose condemnation. Why would anyone choose this? Jesus called himself the light that has come into the world, but many of us just prefer the darkness.
That was the story of my addiction. I knew God. I knew the light. I simply preferred the darkness.
We all seek satisfaction in some way. When we engage in a gratifying behavior, it releases pleasure neurotransmitters in our brain, which reinforce that behavior, making us want to do it again. Some activities are short cuts to pleasure though, that come with a price to pay later. We all have desires that feed our now-appetite, but which are, in the end, self-destructive. Since the apple in the garden, this has been the nature of evil. We want to sin because it looks and feels good now.
Does this mean that faith and recovery mean a continual denial of everything that feels good? No, faith and recovery are about learning to pursue satisfaction the right way. This is the difference between finding fleeting pleasure in a box of donuts, and putting in the work to find lasting joy in eating right and exercising.
Where I used to find immediate gratification in a pill, causing destruction after, I now find joy in getting up early, drinking a cup of coffee, and spending time with God. I now experience lasting joy, where I once knew only fleeting pleasure followed by misery.
We will always find certain self-destructive behaviors pleasurable. We don’t need to live enslaved to those appetites though. In faith and recovery, we may daily follow the new life, learning to find joy the right way.