Hopefully It Will Stick This Time
And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Acts 26:29
Whenever an addict goes to treatment, those around him have this unbridled hope that this will be the big change. They’ve seen the self-destruction for so long and they’ve been hurt so many times, that they’ve become desperate. In their desperation, any positive step naturally makes them hope that this is truly the end of the addiction and the beginning of a new life.
If and when the addict fails then, those hopes are crushed by futility and hopelessness. In repeated failure, those around the addict believe that things will never change and that the spiral will just continue until it ends in death. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the case.
Sometimes though, it takes years for the addict to get it. When I first went to outpatient treatment, both my wife and I believed that my addiction was in the past. She was forgiving, and we moved on. Only I didn’t really change anything and soon, I relapsed. Trust and forgiveness were a little slower to come the second time around. By the third time, her hope had run dry as she felt that this was the way it was going to be forever. For her own protection, she needed to prepare to get out.
God though, plays a much longer game than we do. Where we are terminally short sighted – being hopeful when things are good and giving up when they’re bad – God just keeps working on us. I did eventually find recovery, but it took years.
Paul too, displayed patience in today’s passage, while defended himself before King Agrippa. He shared the gospel with the King who asked, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian (Acts 26:28)?” With absolutely no urgency, Paul said whether it took a short time or a long time, he desired that all would follow Christ. He had nothing else on his agenda. He was just going to keep spreading the gospel.
We may need to maintain painful boundaries when it’s someone close to us struggling with addiction. Like Paul though, we would also do well to realize that God plays a long game and that no one on Earth is beyond hope. So, we must daily pray and continually do what we can to point those in need towards faith and recovery.