The Grace in Addiction

**Originally Published in The Christian Online Magazine, March 2013**

     I spent many years of my life buried in addiction. Addiction to drugs, to an eating disorder, to acceptance, approval, and a host of other unhealthy substances and emotions. One of the worst things about addiction is not the object of the attachment (though that can be dangerous to one’s health), but the denial of the problem—and its seriousness– in the first place.

 

In his book Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, M.D. makes a startling statement: “Addiction also makes idolaters of us all, because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another.”

 

How many times have we said in jest, “Oh, I am totally addicted to caffeine”? Or maybe it was sugar, sodas, pastries, salt, or some other food/beverage we knew wasn’t really a healthy choice. We make excuses for ourselves because we choose not to control our eating habits. And then we laugh about it while munching away on another donut.

 

Addiction is akin to idolatry. And God has some strong opinions of idolatry. It’s easy to judge the habits of others, but we all need to consider God’s words to us as His children.

 

“Their idols…became a snare to them.” (Psalm 106:36, NIV)

“Watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol.” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16, NIV)

“All your idols are as empty as the wind.” (Isaiah 41:29, NLT)

“Flee from idolatry.” (1Corinthians 10:14, NIV)

 

Does it seem too extreme to claim that caffeine, sugar, or salt could be a destructive idol in one’s life? I don’t think it is. Our excuses lead us to consume foods we know are not God’s best. We joke about not having self-control over a holiday meal, or not being able to stop eating chocolate, ice cream, or whatever the vice happens to be. But, dear friends, God is not laughing. Self-control is an evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, and to ignore His work is to grieve Him (see Ephesians 4:30). You see, no matter what the substance or object of our addiction is, it is still an addiction—an idol.

 

Is it wrong to drink coffee every day or eat at a fast food restaurant? Of course not, we know from passages like 1 Corinthians 6 that sin does not specifically lay within a food or substance. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial, is what Paul told us. So the answer to this dilemma is not found in the substance but in our use and desire for that food or substance (in other words, are we obsessing over it and annoyed when we can’t have it?). A good way to determine if a food habit has become an addiction is to eliminate that food from your life for a time. If you experience distress, irritability, or anxiety, then guess what? You have an addiction!

 

God has given us the freedom to choose, and we need to be good stewards of that freedom by making wise choices. We’re getting close to Easter, and many people have chosen to observe Lent. Maybe this is a good time for you to pray and ask God if there is any food habit you need to eradicate from your life. God’s grace is abundant! There is no need to feel condemnation, but instead you can experience the hope and joy of being freed from unnecessary entanglements.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to drive by that restaurant without thinking about its meals, or attend that holiday dinner without obsessing over getting that last piece of pie, or wake up in the morning and not have the first thing on your mind be a Grande Mocha? Whatever your vice is (and I have mine too), God can give you the grace to overcome it, and in doing so you will not only honor Him, you’ll be doing your body a favor and giving yourself a better chance at living a longer, healthier life in service to Him.

 

  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV)

© Rebecca Aarup

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Other related posts:

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits Your Body and Spirit

What Does it Mean to be a Healthy Christian?

Letting Ourselves Go

Recognizing the Causes of Over-Indulgence

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup has written devotionals and Bible teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

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6 thoughts on “The Grace in Addiction

  1. This! While we can surmise that being a persuasive speaker is fine, but eventually you have to deliver.

  2. Pingback: Secrets of Success Found in Small Places | love unconditional

  3. Well said. God has been speaking to me about my addiction to exercise. Although its a healthy habit….it came to a point where it was obsessive. I now refuse to work out until I have given God the same amount of time prior to exercise as I would working out.

    • Stephanie,
      I too have been addicted to things like exercise (when I suffered for many years with an eating disorder). It doesn’t matter how “good” something appears, we can find a way to make that good thing bad! One of Satan’s biggest distractions is getting us focused on good things, therefore keeping us from God’s BEST things. Fortunately, HIS grace is always sufficient and HE never condemns us for our choices. Gently, He tells us, “Go, and sin no more.”
      You’re very wise to keep your workout in balance with your spiritual life. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Tim 4:8

  4. Love that book, Rebecca.

    Another excellent post. I think many of us aren’t aware of some of our addictions. We have a tendency to focus on the biggies that involve “stuff” : food, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex but often it’s the matters within our heart where we are addicted the most, eg, our need to be liked, or to be right all the time.

    That’s why we so need God’s grace to help us identify what holds us back from the gold that He has already stored in our hearts.

    Once again, really well done, Rebecca.

    • Thank you, Ian. Many times I have been equally addicted to the “good” things as I have to the “bad” things. Sometimes it is difficult to find the balance, but God’s grace is always there like a flashlight, shining the way on His perfect path–I just need to follow it!

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