Death in the Struggle
Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:3
Think of your greatest life struggle with self-control. Perhaps it’s with food. If it isn’t food, substitute your struggle – anger, lust, pride, or greed. If your struggle is with food though, you’ve probably promised yourself a thousand times that you’d change your behavior. And you may do well for a while, but then gradually, your behavior just drifts back to normal. When the right opportunity meets a moment of weakness, your appetite decides that you can have just one chip. Before you know it, you’re eating everything you promised that you’d never eat again. Then, you experience tremendous shame as you swear that you’ll stop forever. This time I really mean it. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself.
This is what the addict experiences as well, only the stakes are much higher with drugs than they usually are with donuts. The addict goes through similar cycles of stopping and starting his use. When he (or she) finds sustained abstinence, we call that sobriety or recovery. He of course knows how serious relapse may be. When the addict relapses, it’s not just about a few extra pounds on the scale. No, for the addict, relapse may be fatal. Not everyone who uses drugs overdoses and dies. For instance, opioid users are at a much higher risk for an overdose death than methamphetamine users. However, when any addict or alcoholic relapses – just using once – the drug assumes control and a downward spiral begins. Sadly, that spiral sometimes ends in death. The challenge for the addict, is that he can never fail again or he may die. Imagine if you had to go the rest of your life without eating junk food, or you might die. Could you do it?
When someone we know does die in their addiction, confusion ensues as we experience sadness, anger, and grief. Why? What does this mean for that individual? Was he an addict? Was he a Christian? Christians don’t overdose and die, right? In these moments, we must remind ourselves that, though the consequences are different, we all have our struggles. We all fail. Unfortunately, for the addict, the consequences are much more immediate and obvious. We all struggle with some self-destructive behavior though. Knowing Christ doesn’t erase all our struggles.
In Christ, we are given a new life. Still, if we choose, we may return to the old one. This is why Christ commanded us to daily repent. As followers of Christ, it is our job to daily do whatever it takes to abandon the struggles of the old life so that we may live in the new one. We all have our struggles. To this, Christ says, Repent and follow me – every day – because failure can be catastrophic.