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.

Letting Ourselves Go

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine July 2012 Issue**

 

There are many struggling with the discipline of exercise, and if you’re like me, you want to know what the Bible says about it. Is it really a big deal to work-out? Does God actually care if I take a walk or not? Let’s examine evidences supporting the idea that God does, indeed, care about our activity levels.

#1: God places value in physical activity.

“Physical training is of some value” (1 Tim. 4:8a). The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thought it was important enough to mention. While God cares a great deal about our spiritual health (1 Tim. 4:8b), He also cares about our physical health. After all, we are His temples (1 Cor. 6:19), and part of being faithful stewards (Luke 16:10) is keeping our temple well maintained.

#2: Physical activity was often mentioned by the apostle Paul.

In various letters to the churches, Paul repeatedly uses “running” imagery (1 Cor. 9:24-27, Phil. 2:16, Heb. 12:11, Gal. 2:2, 5:7, 2 Tim. 4:7), suggesting athleticism was a relatable subject to his audience. Though his words were penned long before the convenience of automobile travel, drive-thru restaurants, and television entertainment, we can still gain valuable insight by understanding what was important to the people of his generation. Good principles don’t change just because times have changed.

#3: Physical activities have positive effects on both the mind and body.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest.” (Heb. 12:11) Paul is talking about the discipline in the parent-child relationship, but the concept applies well in the area of exercise. It is not always pleasant and often painful, but it produces a great reward; fewer risks for serious disease, longevity, increased energy, improved mental focus, less depression and development of self-control to name a few.

#4: Scripture admonishes laziness.

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon challenges us, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” (Prov. 6:9) see also Prov. 13:4, 21:25 and 19:15 There is strong evidence in the Bible to support the need to stay active and avoid laziness.

So what’s stopping us from obeying?

#1: We have no motivation.

There are physical reasons why some cannot exercise, but the majority of us have the capability to, at bare minimum, walk every now and then. For some it’s difficult to get motivated. Several years ago I worked in a gym as a certified personal trainer, and even then I needed to hire my own trainer to motivate my diligence. I managed to work much harder when held accountable then I did on my own. (I wasn’t about to make myself suffer, but my trainer had no problem with it.) It may be useful to enroll the help of an accountability partner who will not entertain shallow excuses.

#2: We don’t know what to do.

We all have unique circumstances, but that shouldn’t hold us back from being active. I’m a mother to a toddler and training at the gym is not practical for me at this point in my life. But I can still garden, play soccer, catch or do any number of other physical activities with my daughter. Am I going to look like a body builder? No, I won’t. But God hasn’t called me, or the majority of us, to be body builders. He simply assures us we can do all things with his strength (Phil. 4:13). We need to get creative in our thinking, instead of boxing exercise into gym memberships, work-out videos, and expensive equipment. Get out of the box and ask God to show you ways you can increase your movement throughout the day.

There is always hope (Lam. 3:24)! Continue to run the race set before you and know God accepts you right where you’re at (Rom. 15:7). He will never ask of you more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13, Heb. 4:5-6), so trust His word (Prov. 3:5) and acknowledge his perfect plan for your spiritual and physical health, embracing the abundant life he created you for (John 10:10).

© Rebecca Aarup