As Long as I’m Going to Hell . . .
Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30
In our struggles, we all fail repeatedly at something. For the addict though, those failures are usually more obvious, leading to much more spectacular destruction. He doesn’t just fail. He fails big and he does so repeatedly. In his apparent inability to change, he may be tempted to adopt a fatalistic attitude, believing that God doesn’t care. He’s asked God for help, but still, he’s lost his job, his family, and he’s relapsed yet again. In light of the calamity that is his life, it’s natural for him – and those around him – to feel that he’s a reprobate, damned by an uncaring God. God will never change him.
I’ve known those who use passages such as today’s to support this kind of thinking. In the passage, Paul introduced the concept of Predestination – the doctrine that, from the beginning of time, God elected his children. God not only knew who would follow him one day. He also picked them to follow him. If that’s true, then some would say that he also picked those who wouldn’t follow him.
Taken to its logical extreme, predestination could mean that we have no choice in our destiny. God picks us or he doesn’t. If he didn’t pick us, then we’re hopeless, lost, and can expect absolutely no help from him. In this fatalistic condition, it’s easy to throw our hands up, surrendering to our addictions. As long as I’m going to hell, I might as well have fun on the way there. Never mind that following our way has brought us immense misery, we’ll simply give up and go with it.
This is of course ridiculous. I’m not saying that predestination isn’t taught in the Bible. It absolutely is. I’m saying that we twist it and misuse it to justify our self-destructive nature. God doesn’t turn away anyone who truly seeks him. Looking at his people, Jesus lamented how he longed for them to come to him, but they remained unwilling to follow (Matthew 23:37). Jesus didn’t blame God, but rather laid his people’s rebellion at their own feet. Somehow God predestines and somehow, we all make our own choice.
When the addict fails repeatedly, it’s not because God has damned him to a life of addiction. That’s just a convenient excuse. When he fails, It’s because the addict refuses to do what it takes to abandon himself, follow God, and get sober.