Now that we’ve addressed the need to lay down the things we hold against others, let’s spend the rest of this week addressing the other side of our baggage—namely, the logs in our own eyes. Let’s begin today with the things we know we struggle with, and then drill down deeper tomorrow.
For today, I’m going to use a word we’ve come to compartmentalize—addiction—and show how pervasive this mindset really is in our lives. Let’s define addiction here as anything you need to get through the day that isn’t God. All of our addictions—all of our sin, really—is a response to the gnawing sense we have, deep down, that God doesn’t really want what’s best for us. That God’s will comes at his whim, and at our expense. That we, the created ones, somehow don’t owe everything we have to the Creator in the first place. There’s a reason that the acknowledgment of a higher power is part of any good recovery program, after all.
There’s another old-fashioned and equally overcompartmentalized word for what we’re talking about: lust. It doesn’t have to be the sexual kind (although it might well be). What lust in any form means, is: We want what we want and we want it now. And we keep on wanting it—because it wants us, too. That’s the power of lust, or addiction. We believe it will satisfy a need God can’t, or won’t.
But here’s the thing we forget: If God won’t satisfy it, it’s not really a need. We’re the ones who have elevated our desires to that status.
“God’s been duping you; God’s been duping you.” Satan has been using this trick from the very beginning, and it’s still probably his most effective. When we cease to trust God, we welcome the lusts of our own hearts. Yet, once we’ve regained our senses afterward, there’s a sense of heaviness, sadness, not totally unlike the feeling of a Sunday-morning hangover after a particularly long Saturday night. (And for some of you, it might be exactly like that.) Our overindulgence—our giving way to our compulsions—always has consequences, both physical and spiritual.
Jesus didn’t fall for Satan’s trick. He not only endured temptation, but he overcame temptations we were too weak to have Satan even bother to throw at us. Jesus knows the way out, because he’s been there.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:14–15, 18)
Because Jesus went through temptation for us, came out the other side, and then paid the price for our own failure anyway, he is able to deliver us. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
It may not seem that way at first glance, but one of the most practical responses we can make to our addiction is to engage in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, solitude, and worship. Here’s why: Instead of letting ourselves be carried away by every impulse that strikes us, such practices help us say to God, “I’m staying right here. I’m focusing on you. Help me to follow what you want.” To be clear, the disciplines aren’t a catch-all solution. In fact, they can become an addiction in themselves if we make them only about how holy we are or become anxious over “doing our duty.” Nonetheless, they are a declaration of intent, with the actions to back it up. They’re opportunities to take our misguided passions and guide them somewhere more useful.
As our focus becomes more and more about God, our compulsions melt away. Not that we’re never tempted again—or for that matter, might not stumble again—but we have a practical way to get up and dust ourselves off. Don’t overlook the importance of that. With that, let’s get to today’s assignment.
Lay It Down Today
We’re going to practice one spiritual discipline right now: Silence. Pulling ourselves away from the world helps us to hear God more clearly. It’s a way to remove ourselves from the constant compulsive flow of the world that draws us so easily into temptation and addiction. And, it’s a way of telling God (silently, of course) that he takes priority.
Psalm 46:10a is a pretty popular phrase we throw around for this: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (I’ve always liked rephrasing it, “Shut up—I’m God.”) I want you to start your time of silence by reading all of Psalm 46—because it’s all about trust, and the fact that God is worthy of our trust. Afterward, take at least ten minutes to close your eyes and be totally silent before God. Your mind will probably keep buzzing for at least the first few minutes. That’s OK. Give the buzzing time to die down. Let God speak, and quiet yourself down enough so that you can hear him. When you’re done, write down your thoughts.