I’ll Get Sober When I Feel Like It
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart . . . 1 Peter 1:22
While I was using, enslaved to pills, I got to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore and I wanted to stop. I was miserable and I knew I’d eventually destroy my life, yet I couldn’t quit. That’s addiction – compulsively and repeatedly engaging in some self-destructive behavior that I know to be harmful. I believed in God though, and I believed that he wanted me to be sober, so I went to him, asking him to change me.
Here was my idea of God intervening in my addiction – God, if you take away the appetite, cravings, withdrawal, and compulsive behavior, I’ll stop using drugs. Basically, I need you to miraculously make me not want drugs anymore. Once my appetite changes, then my behavior will change. As I’ve said before, I know those who’ve received this instant miracle. I wasn’t one of those and, because miracles are rare events, you probably aren’t either.
According to today’s passage – and according to my experience – I had it all backwards. In the passage, Peter said that I am transformed through my obedience. I mistakenly thought that God would reach down and flip a switch in my brain, making drugs repulsive to me, and then I’d obey him. God’s plan though, was that I first obey him, doing whatever it took to abandon the drugs, and then, and only then, I got the miracle of a changed appetite. My obedience had to come first.
We know from other passages that we don’t save ourselves. Salvation is a gift from God that we must receive through faith. Peter pointed out though, that we must respond appropriately to that gift in order that this ongoing process of transformation – the purification of our souls – may take place. We’re not made perfect when we come to faith. Sanctification or spiritual growth is a continual and life-long process which requires our active participation.
If I’d waited until I felt like getting sober to stop using, I’d still be using. Now though, my appetite has been radically transformed. I no longer want drugs. Once though, I couldn’t stop using drugs. What changed? I did what it took to abandon my addiction, and then, once I was obedient, God changed me.
We’d prefer not to have to do anything to grow, but that’s not faith. It’s pure laziness. God often only moves in our lives once we do what it takes to radically obey him. If we desire to grow, daily we must ask, God, what do you want me to do today? Then, we must do it.