My Empty Stomach Problem

My Empty Stomach Problem

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Revelation 3:18

While working on recovery from my opioid addiction, I met several counselors who wanted to explore the root cause of my drug use. Was I depressed? Was there some unaddressed childhood trauma? I had nothing – except my empty stomach. I simply have an appetite that always wants more. I don’t necessarily feel depressed or bad, I just enjoy the feeling of a full stomach. It’s that simple. Yes, in my addiction, I eventually came to hate what I was doing and yes, I wanted sobriety, but recovery meant embracing discipline, discomfort, and abstinence. It meant sacrifice now for delayed gratification later and that was my entire life problem. My appetite doesn’t tolerate deprivation for very long. My stomach runs the show.

My problem isn’t that I want to be happy. We all want that. My problem is in how I go about it. My problem is that I settle for pleasure right now, sacrificing my long-term joy. And that’s the problem with any instant gratification – there’s always a price to pay later. I can enjoy the pleasure of a donut (or six) today, but then, when I step on the scale tomorrow, I’ll inevitably realize the consequences. Recovery then, has meant learning to say no to my self-destructive appetite, making some sacrifice right now, so that I may learn to find authentic life, joy, and peace later. I love being sober, but honestly, it was hard work to get here. I find joy in being in much better shape than I was a decade ago but I couldn’t have got here without making some sacrifices.

This was Christ’s message in today’s passage. In it, he said that we must seek satisfaction in him. We were created to find all our life’s greatest needs met only in him. Our hunger for joy, purpose, and meaning are only truly satisfied when we seek those things in a new life in Christ, but frankly it’s often more alluring to settle for the immediate pleasure of the old life. We all have those things we turn to when we’re angry, hungry, lonely, or tired. The problem is that our pornography, drugs, toys, food, money, and social media affirmation cannot satisfy. Those things are just temporary pacifiers that leave us feeling empty later. If we truly want to know authentic joy, then we must daily abandon the old life for the new one, found only in Christ.

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