Addiction. It’s a rough and “personal” topic. No one wants to bring it up; it’s our own personal baggage. Whether it’s an addiction to drugs, an eating disorder, attention, self-harm, or pornography – if you’ve got it, there’s probably a self-help book, an accountability group, and maybe even a patch to get you through it and patch it up.
Personally, my addiction is lust, which manifests itself in the forms of porn and masturbation. Yeah, it’s one of those addictions that make you cringe when you say it. That’s where I’m coming from.
I addressed it in my life a few months ago and was convicted of my sin, so I vowed to quit cold turkey. I began to keep a tally of how many nights I refrained from giving in to the temptation. Then I would slip and start over. The guilt the next day was no fun, none at all.
But this situation, which addicts often have tried and failed at, obviously doesn’t work… at least, not for long. We try to hold our ground against the temptation, with our best intentions in tow, and suddenly we’ve slipped again and we have to start over.
It reminds me of the allegory of a man who goes to the doctor complaining of chest pain. The doctor fulfills what is expected of him, giving the man a thorough physical and evaluating the results. Finally he says, “Ah! I know what’s wrong with you!” And he pulls out a disinfectant wipe and a Band-Aid to patch up a paper cut the man has on his finger. While the doctor is cleaning the wound, the man has a heart attack and dies.
What went wrong here? The doctor treated the symptoms… not the problem.
This situation happens often when addressing addictions. We treat our specific addictions as if they’re the true issue, when in reality they’re simply a manifestation of a bigger disease.
What is this consuming disease?
For the Christian, it’s simple: Idolatry.
So many symptoms pop up when we place a desire for something [acceptance, fulfillment, perfection, etc.] in a higher position in our lives than God. In other words, when we elevate and worship an idol (and idols aren’t just little statues – they’re priorities or goals).
Often, these desires are good things. It is not wrong to want to be loved, accepted, admired, fulfilled, happy, whole. These are desires given to us by God, and He designed us so that every last one of these Godly desires can be fulfilled by Him and in His timing, within His plan. If the bottom was to drop out of our lives and everything fell apart, He would still be enough. He would still give us everything that we need to live for His glory [not read: our selfish wants].
Addictions and pitfalls come when we try to fill these desires with something else – like when a preschooler tries to jam the circle-shaped block into the star-shaped hole and cries when it doesn’t fit. The only thing that fits is the star-shaped block.
When we notice a desire in our lives, we often address it in a selfish manner – a way that becomes twisted and perverted into something that God never intended it to be. Thanks a lot, sin nature.
For example, lust. The sexual attraction of a woman to a man is not a bad thing. In fact, that’s a very good thing. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s where babies come from. [Gasp.] Yet even deeper than this is the longing that a woman has to be loved, cared for, and desired.
And when we feel this longing in our lives, it can easily become not just a want but a need. We need to be loved and protected and desired because that’s how it’s supposed to happen for a twenty-something girl, according to the world’s standards. In fact, God has blessed many other twenty-something girls with a caring husband and a fulfilling love life. Why hasn’t he given me the same? He owes it to me. It’s not fair that I don’t have something in my life that I need.
So you know what? I’ll go and get myself satisfaction on my own. I cannot wait for God to give me [a satisfying marital relationship/a perfect body/beauty/happiness/someone to love me], so I’ll take it for myself. If God won’t provide, I’ll take the reins into my own hands.
And suddenly, I’m deep, deeper, deeper into an addiction.
This, right here, is the heart issue that needs to be addressed. What is our ultimate goal? In a list of our priorities, what would land in the top spot? If the answer is not God, we need to check ourselves… before we wreck ourselves. (Sorry, had to.) But seriously. Lust is a desire to be desired, loved, and fulfilled. Eating disorders are a desire to be viewed as perfect or beautiful or attractive. These desires fall into place above God, because we are not handing them over to Him first.
Jesus must be our First, our Only, our Everything. We are valuable because he ascribes value to us. We have purpose because He has chosen us and because He uses us for His glory. We are adored because we are His beloved and precious daughters. We are valuable because we were bought at a price, and that price was his life – the life of the One who loves us more perfectly and infinitely than anyone on earth could possibly love us.
When this is our mindset, then we can fight off the symptoms. Without addressing this heart issue, the symptoms will keep manifesting themselves in different ways because though the fever has reduced, the disease is still there.
But instead, we have been chosen. We are valued. We are held, protected, adored, and infinitely, infinitely loved by our Creator. And when this is our focus, all other priorities fall away.
And ultimately? We are forgiven. Romans 8 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So no matter how much you’ve messed up so far, no matter how far you’ve run, no matter how many idols you have set before your eyes that simply aren’t fulfilling you, God is bigger. His grace is wider. And He is faithful.
Of course, sometimes we need some practical, Biblical help with escaping from our individual sins. Because I have such experience with my individual sin (and freeing myself from it), I know there are practical ways that I have learned to break away from the bondage of lust. Let’s work through this together. Start by clicking on that link up there.
And for every walk of life, something I am committing to my life is a Psalm 101 creed, which you can find by clicking the link as well.
I love you, reader.
*Much of this is adapted from a Bible study lesson from the wonderful Emily Woody. Her lesson was a huge step in the right direction for me as I break out of lust and I hope it is the same for you.