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.

People-Pleaser

Suggested Reading: Judges 8:22-27

What Sunday School hasn’t recounted the story of Gideon? He was called by God; he doubted; he looked for signs and he eventually defeated the Midianites without laying a hand on them. Gideon: what a hero! Even heroes fall when they take their eyes off the One who gave them their title.

All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping [the ephod] there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” (Judges 8:27)

This is the end of Gideon’s story. Just like Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 17-20), it ends on a sour note. Israel did have peace for forty years because of Gideon, but they also worhsipped idols. Gideon listened to the wrong voices. The people were so enamoured with what Gideon had accomplished they wanted him to rule. Rightly Gideon declared it was the Lord who would rule over them, not himself, (vs.23) but then the story takes a weird turn. After proclaiming the Lord’s rule over the people, Gideon asks them to hand over their jewelry which he proceeds to make an “ephod” out of. In an attempt to please both God and man, Gideon had a lapse in judgment by creating an idol the people would “prostitute” after.

Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt. 6:24)

We’re constantly going to hear voices from the world, family, friends, and other Christians, but the only voice that really matters is God’s. If we’re constantly trying to please people and God, something will falter; usually our spiritual walk. Let’s purpose to be God-pleasers; devoted to His truth and despising what opposes it.

Idols and Adultery

“Those who wander from your commands are cursed.” Psalm 119:21 NLT

 Idols and Adultery

“Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me. They do not cry out to me from their hearts, but wail upon their beds.” Hosea 6:13-14

Oh Israel, you’ve done it again. You’ve left your God in the dust to follow after your own lusts and desires. You have committed idolatry and adultery against your Redeemer.  Does this sound at all familiar with the modern day church? How long does God put up with this nonsense? If you have ever sat down and read through the book of Hosea you have likely noticed the theme: Adultery. God even commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer, to signify this relationship between Israel and Himself.

Harsh

Not only do we see the adultery of the nation of Israel, we see the consequences of their choices. They knew the truth, yet they chose to ignore it. God declares

Woe to them

Destruction to them

My anger burns against them

I will come upon them like a lion

I’m getting the idea that God takes things like adultery/idolatry very seriously. No, I am not talking about a physical adultery, though that is a very serious sin for sure. Rather, I am referring to the adultery of wandering away from our first love, our True Love and making relationships with other lovers. (Idols)

Some of the more common idols today:

Work

Kids

Church Ministry

Finances

Health

Food

It’s easy to get out of balance; serving the service rather than the One we seek to serve.

Are we wailing to God with our mouths, but not with our hearts? (Hosea 6:14) We must stay in the word to keep our hearts pure, keep Jesus on the throne where He belongs, and keep our priorities straight.

God makes it clear; those who wander from his commands will suffer the consequences.

“After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:15

When our eyes wander from the truth of God’s word, we lose our focus and if it is not regained we can quickly fall into sin.(Idolatry, pride, unbelief…) God disciplines those he loves, and he loves His children! Sometimes he will allow us to suffer the consequences of our choices during our times of wandering.

We would do well to learn a lesson from Israel instead of rebuking them; mean while acting like we would never do the same things. The truth is we probably commit idolatry more times than we realize. We need to heed the warning given to us by the Psalmist:

God does not tolerate willful disobedience, and he will deal with it.

If you have a known act of rebellion in your heart, won’t you allow God to deal with it today? Be thankful if you have not come under major consequences yet, consider that God’s mercy.

 If you’re contemplating sin, run from it! The desire itself could bring forth the act, and sin will always lead to death of some kind. Confess, repent, and be renewed.

Are you counted among the cursed or the committed?

Prayer

Jesus, I confess my idolatrous heart to you. I realize that many times throughout the day I lose sight of you and focus on myself, my needs, what I need to get done, and who or what is bothering me at any given moment. I confess my attitude and ask you to make me whole again through your word. Don’t let me wander from your commands and fall into the deadly consequences of sin! Keep me from judging the actions of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and help me focus on my own heart and relationship with you. Keep me committed to your word.