Addiction and the Power in Acknowledging God's Sovereignty

Addiction is an unhealthy and typically self-destructive way to respond to the pain in our lives. It is unhealthy because it has no role in healing us from our pain, and increasingly traps us in failure. It can mute pain, distract us from it, attempt to override it with something that feels good. The pain still remains, and therefore feeds the addiction. The self-destructive aspects of addiction are often hiding behind the relief it brings. When you are really hurting, anything that makes you feel better seems to be a good thing.

I was thinking today about Samson, one of the Judges of Israel. He is a familiar figure; his story is told to children as an example of God providing tangible power to strike down the enemies of Israel. It is really a much better story for adults, though. More than anything, it is a story of lust and failure, a man caught in a self-destructive pattern that eventually cost him his life. A man who was uniquely empowered by God for his service.

God would provide him immense, super-human strength in order to do battle with the enemies of Israel (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14). At the core of his power was a Nazirite vow. The Nazirite was an Israelite who pledged himself or herself to purity, who set themselves apart for the Lord (Numbers 6:1-8). A Nazirite would abstain from wine or any similar drink, and as an outward symbol of the vow, would not cut his hair.

What we find in Samson's behavior is in stark contrast to purity. He sleeps with a prostitute (Judges 16:1), made all the worse in light of the fact that he is breaking his marriage vows (see Judges 14:16). He is involved in a relationship with a woman named Delilah (Judges 16:4-17), and the fact that he is sleeping with her indicates the sexual nature of the relationship. Delilah's failed attempts to learn the source of his strength provide him with ample warning that she intends to betray him to the Philistines, but despite this, he reveals his secret anyway. He is captured and his eyes are gouged out by the Philistines, leading to a final act of revenge which costs him his life.

If you are scratching your head and wondering how this guy could be so dumb, you are underestimating the power of addiction. Addiction is reality-bending. It can lead you to construct rationales which make no sense and result in complete ruin. When you arrive, if you're still caught in denial, you may accept your fate, feeling like you never really had a choice, or blaming it on someone else.

Samson is caught in lust, and a sexual addiction can exert a significant control over a life. It's important not to focus too narrowly here, because the lesson of Samson is valid for anyone who has a pattern of responding to their pain that is outside God's plan. Which means, nearly all of us. I have spent years trying to find ways to make myself feel better, justifying my disobedience and creating a reality where I wasn't doing anything wrong. It hasn't been any one thing, either, which made it easier for me to avoid the sense that I was caught in a cycle. I am very much like Samson in that I have wasted years avoiding God and plotting my own course toward happiness.

The story of Samson itself does not provide us with a positive model for healing from lust or any other addiction, but Samson's failure does imply one. The source of all power is the Sovereign Lord (see Judges 16:28), who does not share space with sin, and whose Spirit is undermined by deception and self-will. We become empowered for life and healed as we acknowledge him and depart from the things which feed our addiction. We replace the habits in our lives which provide temporary relief with obedience and holiness. God then meets us, empowers us, and changes us.

It cannot be an easy thing to do, or we'd all be there. It is a journey which has confounded the great and the small. But we can get there with the Lord's help. It is not help at the end of a process, but empowerment during the process, if we do it his way. The temptation is to wrest back control, to put on a veneer of holiness, but to compromise and continue to give in to the pain. Don't give in to it! The transformation is real, and it only occurs when you do it his way.

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