Proverbs 23:29-35 describes the cycle of addiction in vivid detail. It is a story familiar to addicts, their friends, and family members: Intense cravings lead to substance abuse, which in turn results in emotional turmoil, relational difficulties, and physical injury. The addict is left in a place of shame, yet is unconcerned with the consequences of his behavior. At the end of it all, he wants another drink.
This passage reminds us how the world of an addict becomes small, narrow, and singularly focused. For the next drink or the next high, he will do almost anything. Nothing—not family obligations, not financial concerns, not even physical danger—seem to be able to deter him from his goal. If you’ve known an alcohol or drug abuser, or if you’ve been one yourself, Proverbs 23 rings true.
What some of us fail to realize, however, is that the patterns of addiction described in Proverbs stretch beyond the realm of alcohol and drugs. Human beings can form unhealthy attachments to all kinds of good things. Whether it’s sugar, Netflix, work, exercise, video games, shopping, or something else, we have a propensity to make the object of our deepest affection something other than Jesus Christ. And when we give priority - when we give Lordship - to these created things, our relationships (Prov. 20:1), decision-making ability (Prov. 31:4-5), and our financial lives (Prov. 21:17) suffer. These good things, when we love them too much, actually enslave and drain us, rather than giving us the freedom we seek.
Which begs the question: What has enslaved you lately? To what are you attached or addicted? What do you love so much that it is hindering your intimacy with God and hurting those around you?
In the sermon on April 19, I challenged you to ask a spouse, parent or close friend to help you identify any addictive tendencies in your life. I’m praying for you as you have these conversations with each other, and trusting that God will meet you amidst any brokenness and failure that you might uncover. Remember, addiction - whether big or small - is an opportunity to experience the grace found in Jesus, who came not for the healthy, but for the sick and the broken. As you see your failure and weakness, run to Him, not from Him. He will not reject you, and in Him resides the power for change and the freedom for which you long.