Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Porn. Gambling. Food. Video games. Social media. We could extend that list almost indefinitely. If you’re a Christian who feels caught in a cycle of “bad behavior” you’ve likely cried out for help. “God, deliver me from this!” And I hear from many who are frustrated and disillusioned when that doesn’t seem to happen. But God does have the answer. From a Biblical worldview further informed by science, we can understand a lot about the usual process God uses to deliver from addiction.
There’s not one person struggling with addiction who woke up one morning and said, “Today I’m going to become addicted to . . . . I’m going to mess up my health, life, future relationships, and connection with God. Yup, that’s what I’m going to do today.” Your struggle came from somewhere. And as any addicted person knows who has tried to white-knuckle it, trying harder to stop just doesn’t work.
I don’t like the word addiction because of all the baggage it carries. The medical and mental health communities have settled on a disease model; the addicted person has an illness that needs to be treated. Many in the Christian world see addiction as a matter of sin or of demonic oppression, so repentance and prayer for deliverance would seem to be the answer.
And most of the time addiction is “all of the above.” Treatment as an “illness” rarely does the full job. Repentance is appropriate, but not enough. Satan loves to trigger and use addiction, but deliverance by itself doesn’t usually accomplish the desired results either.
Here’s more about the usual process God uses to deliver from addiction.
God created you and me as integrated, whole, human beings. Body, soul, and spirit cannot be separated from one another. And almost always addiction is a problem involving all of those dimensions. Physical vulnerabilities set you up for addiction and addiction biologically changes your body and brain. Your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are distorted. Your soul has accumulated any number of wounds. And addiction connects you with the kingdom of darkness over God’s kingdom of light.
Therefore, because addiction is a whole-person problem it almost always requires a whole-person solution.
On infrequent occasions God “heals” someone from an addiction in an instant. But even then it takes time to grow into who God needs you to be. Most of the time He takes you through a process of healing each area of your being. If addiction were “only” an illness medical treatment might be all you needed. If it were “only” sin, repentance should “cure” you. And if it were “only” demonic oppression a prayer for deliverance should do the job. But it’s “all of the above.”
You may have met a “dry drunk,” someone who is no longer using alcohol but who has not done the soul work necessary to become a whole human being. That person can be even more miserable to be around than an actively-drinking alcoholic. Simply stopping a behavior is not enough. The cure must involve the whole person.
Cooperating with God’s Solution
The power to make a sailboat move does not come from the boat; it comes from the wind. But you will not go anywhere unless you raise your sails to catch the wind. Just the same, the power for you to experience healing and deliverance from your addiction does not come from you; it comes from God. But you will need to raise your sails to catch the wind of His Holy Spirit in the process. That’s how you cooperate with what He wants to do in you.
And that will need to involve every area of your being.
Physical: many addictions deplete and destroy your body. You may need some medical care. You will need to learn how to be a friend to your body, take in high-quality nutrition, get regular exercise, and develop healthy rhythms of rest.
Emotional: many addictions start as a way of trying to deal with some deep heart wound or emptiness. Freedom will require learning to tolerate the full range of human emotions, feel deep pain, get under the surface, and pursue healing for wounds from the past.
Mental: addiction, and whatever led you to addiction, does a number on your mind. You’ll need to relearn many things about life, people, yourself, the world, God. It’s like going to life-school all over again.
New skills: compassion, forgiveness, self-respect, decision making, emotional regulation, learning to feed yourself, and more are a few of the skills you will need to develop. Like a baby learning to walk most of these skills take time.
Relationships: a good friend of mine said that the opposite of addiction is not abstinence; it’s connection. Learning to connect with people as God intended is messy, vulnerable, and hard. For most people this will be the biggest factor in your long-term recovery.
Relationship with God: if you’re addicted you have issues with shame and guilt (don’t we all?!). Coming to know and experience God as with you and for you changes everything. He becomes your Answer, rather than the substance or behavior you were addicted to. You come to live in the freedom Jesus accomplished over the kingdom of darkness.
Freedom from Addiction
If freedom from addiction were only about stopping a behavior or substance, one moment would be enough. But God cares most about you becoming a new person, one who is whole, who is living Fully Alive, and who is becoming ever more a reflection of His Son. That requires Him to work on you from the inside out.
And it requires you to develop a new lifestyle of living in freedom. Your body, mind, and soul will daily be used in entirely different ways, and daily be consecrated to Jesus. The kingdom of darkness will no longer have its “hooks” in you. The power to live this way will come only through daily raising your sails to allow the wind of the Spirit to continue His good work in you.
And you will become a testimony of what God can do in, for, and through someone when He is allowed to do what He does best.
May you keep daily walking the journey to wholeness.
Your Turn: In what area have you struggled with addiction? Where are you in the process of growing into freedom? What area of your life do you need to work on right now? Leave a comment below.
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- Addiction is not “only” a disease, or sin, or demonic oppression. It’s all of the above. And God’s usual way of delivering from addiction is to address all of the above. Tweet that.
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