Failure to Thrive

Failure to Thrive

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2

In addiction medicine, I care for those who know they have a problem with chemicals and who are coming to me for a solution. We do have some medications that can decrease cravings and which help reduce consumption of alcohol or opioids. No pill can guarantee sobriety though. If I had such a pill, I’d be a billionaire. Still, patients want that pill. I once did too. I had a pill addiction, and back then, if you’d have promised me yet another pill that could put my life back together, I’d have taken it.

There’s no such thing though, so, when I prescribe, I almost always recommend taking the medication – along with doing something. Sometimes I recommend treatment. Other times it’s counseling. Often, I simply recommend weekly recovery meetings. The point is, if the one struggling with addiction plans on taking my pill and doing nothing else, he (or she) will fail. My prescription can help, but the one addicted must invest significant time and effort or nothing will change. Growth requires learning and doing. If the patient learns nothing new and does nothing different, he will never grow or change.

Failure to thrive is the term we apply to infants who fail to gain weight and grow normally. The problem may be some illness of the infant or some deficiency of the caregiver. Either way, the result is the same – the infant doesn’t ingest enough calories to grow normally. Though he didn’t use the term – failure to thrive – this is the metaphor used by Peter in today’s passage. In it, he said that we are as infants, requiring pure spiritual milk to grow. Where the metaphor breaks down is that literal infants cannot be responsible for their own nutrition. Peter though, said that we are responsible to take in that which we require to grow.

If we want to grow and change, we must daily ingest that which will cause us to do so. What must we daily eat? Looking to Christ, we find the answer. My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work (John 4:34). This is echoed in Alcoholics Anonymous teaching, that recovery is an action program. Daily, we must do whatever it takes to surrender our will so that we may follow God’s will. Our will has led to misery. Now, if we want to grow, we must daily invest in doing things very differently – following God’s will. Refusing to do so means failure to thrive and failure to find recovery.

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