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A few weeks ago, while in a very warm room just outside of Washington, DC , with several hundred other people in a conference dealing with the prevention of drug abuse, my phone suddenly vibrated indicating that a text had just been received. Normally, I wait for an appropriate time to read it, but I was strangely moved on this occasion to check it. I quietly pulled my phone out and read the message.

It was from a precious member of our church letting me know that a member of her extended family had just passed away from an overdose. I immediately began to pray for the family and texted back our love and prayers.

The loss made me very sad the way it does every time I learn of someone in our community who has lost his or her life to drugs. It always stabs my heart with grief and horror. On the other hand, every time I learn of someone who has had enough and sets out on the long path of recovery, I celebrate, knowing that while it may be a hard journey, the destination is definitely worth it.

When asked about the relationship between faith and recovery, many folks think of instantaneous transformations. I have very rarely encountered this, but have discovered that transformation is usually a process with its roots in perhaps one initial step, but is only realized through the hard work of applying the principles of God’s Word in progressive stages in all areas of life.

Faith and recoveryGod is the God of transformation. That transformation is bequeathed through 1) hope (that God can and will change us if we let Him; 2) peace (that we have peace with Him through His gift of forgiveness if we truly are willing to turn away from what holds us enslaved, as well as peace inside ourselves as we relinquish the need to try to control and manipulate others, ourselves, and maybe even God); 3) direction (though we cannot see very far ahead, we can find the one step we need to take right now); and 4) strength (He gives us the will to turn away from temptation if we are willing to turn away from it consistently and persistently – long before we encounter it).

Learning the Word of God (through Bible study at church and in small groups) helps to rewire our minds as we learn the thoughts of God, while prayer (conversation with God) puts us in touch with His almighty power! While we have wonderful resources in our community to help the recovering addict, never underestimate the healing and life-giving power of Jesus Christ!

“You have… been taught in Christ… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Perhaps the most pernicious calamity assaulting people anywhere and everywhere in our area today is the epidemic levels of addiction. The most obvious expression of this plague is, of course, the deluge of opiates flooding our homes and families as “regular people” find themselves reeling from its merciless grip.

Billions of dollars of research both in private and in public sectors underscore the complexity of the problem indicating physiological causes and effects, psychological ones, and even sociological factors that contribute to and result from addiction.

This naturally leads us to various treatment options that approach the problem of addiction from these different vantage points. It often creates confusion for us when we see it from only one of these perspectives while others approach it from still another.

The truth is that there is legitimacy in these different philosophical approaches and we are wiser when we treat the “whole person”, aiming to get at the roots of each individual’s struggle with addiction.

The most essential quality for a person’s recovery is a “heart” that is ready for it.

However, there is one aspect I cannot underscore enough as fundamental to one’s ongoing victory over addiction and I truly believe it to be essential. In the many people that I encounter who have struggled or are struggling with addiction, it has become clear to me that the most central quality for their recovery is a “heart” that is ready for it.  In other words, it is necessary for a person to hunger within the essence of himself for real and lasting change and to recognize the spirituality of life and the purpose for which he has been created.  When that hunger is acknowledged as a real need for something that drugs cannot satisfy or fulfill, then the eyes of the heart can turn to the one thing that can.  It is what turns one from the downward spiral of selfishness towards an attitude that can look outward and upward.

Addiction is often viewed as a kind of terrible bondage, a heavy and burdensome chain that shackles a person, enslaving her with a feeling (the “high”) that relentlessly eludes its pursuer. It’s a good comparison.  It IS a chain.  And it mocks and torments its victims even while it boasts of its empty promises of pleasure and happiness… or at the very least, pretends that it can provide us escape from pain whether emotional or physical.

I have been asked, “How do we fight addiction? How can we overcome it?”  The answer, while some may think it overly simplistic, is that we lead the victims of addiction to the one pleasure that makes all other so-called pleasures pale in comparison.  We must unveil the “pleasures” of drugs for the anemic counterfeits that they are by holding them up to the “real thing”.  And what is the pleasure that transcends all others?  It is the joy of the Lord.  It is what can deliver the life that wants change.

But a person’s heart must be ready for real change and not just a temporary release from the intensity of addiction. If that were all, it is only a matter of time before the person slips back into the folds of whatever drugs they depend upon or, just as bad from an eternal point of view, would settle into another phony sense of purpose for his life, content perhaps for a time, but still ensnared with something less than God’s purpose for him.

Time and time again, I have found that when a person has come to the end of herself and finds that drugs cannot now nor ever will fill, only then is she really ready to look towards the one thing that can complete her.

When a person receives the gift of God’s cleansing forgiveness, there comes upon him a newness that begins to reframe his outlook and expectation for himself. Indeed, there is now an awakening that arises within him, as he shrugs off the shame and condemnation for which Jesus died on the cross:  “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him (Jesus), having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV). Because Jesus gave His life for us by dying in our place on the cross, God counted the sins of all who turn to Him for salvation as being paid for through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Then, for each person who turns to Jesus and learns that he has been made a new creation, God tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).  This knowledge is so powerful in a recovering addict’s life that comprehending it and then accepting it as true is the equivalent of dynamite when he comes up against the walls of resistance that addiction’s proud owner, Satan, throws in his way.

And finally there is the priceless gem of hope that Jesus grants us through His resurrection life, bequeathing to us (through faith in Him) the same power that brought Him back to life in His glorified form! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV).  When a recovering addict sees himself as something new and no longer bound by an old nature that was enslaved to a temporary, fleshly passion, he can then give himself over to love, forsaking all the illusions that addiction threw up previously and pursuing the higher, heavenly reality of an eternal God Who created him for His own glory.

Nothing conquers the short-sightedness of addiction like an overwhelming sense of the pricelessness of an eternity with a holy God Who loves us in spite of ourselves and holds open for us an open door to a forever kind of victory.

My heart’s desire then is to share with anyone whose heart is open to it, the message that God loves and God saves.   Jesus is proof of that reality.  In fact, Jesus is the way to that reality.  For the addict.  And for everyone else, too.

Whether addiction has been part of your story or not, Jesus is the Way.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jesus in John 14:6 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The “Truth” has been given to us and if we are willing to embrace it, we have all of heaven to look forward to.

The “Truth” has been given to us and if we are willing to embrace it, we have all of heaven to look forward to.

People like the truth.  Well, that’s not quite right.  I think that it’s more accurate to say that people like the idea of truth… as long as it is something that conforms to their expectations and wishes – which isn’t the truth at all.  Bummer.  Just think!  Folks (generally speaking) want a person to speak the truth when it comes to his own shortcomings (such as a salesperson who tells a potential buyer of problems of consequence in a product) but not when it comes to anything that could be construed as criticism of the hearer – even if it is the truth… such as the fact of an obnoxious attitude that others find offensive (“You’re very rude sometimes.”) or an unhealthy habit that interferes with wholesome or healthy living like smoking or overeating (“I’m concerned about your eating all those deep-fried foods all day long”).

The truth, however, if handled lovingly can be like a light that promotes a cure to the ailments of the psyche and the afflictions of the soul.  Don’t believe it?  Who hasn’t heard that the first step for someone suffering from an addiction is to admit (tell the truth) that he has a problem?  And how can one know the sweet release of forgiving another if she hasn’t admitted (told the truth) a hurt suffered at the hands of another?

Take this to the bank:  Unless one is ready and willing to turn his eyes to the actual condition of his heart, mind, life, and situation, he cannot expect to be freed from the bonds of darkness.  The shackles of denial, obstinacy, pride, selfishness, unforgiveness, and hate remain.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9 ESV).

Living meaningfully and joyfully in the life to which Christ has called us requires that you and I be ready to not just “speak the truth” (quote Bible verses), but to live it.  And we live it by bringing the light of God’s Word into the dark places of our hearts.  We cannot know, for instance, cleansing power of His grace if we do not first concede that there is the filth of selfishness within us; we cannot see His holiness filling up the vessel of our hearts if we keep our eyes shut to the shadows of sin inside us; and we cannot be truly free unless we hold out the chains of our small-minded fears and resentments to Him for His truth to break them.

There are times when truth is wielded like a club to bring a sense of condemnation to another by someone who loves to puff himself up.  “Truth” expressed this way is only a clever lie.  But just because a truth is inconvenient or even painful, it must not be discarded as if it were unnecessary or unwanted.  Yes, the truth hurts sometimes, but without it, we resign ourselves to appalling horrors on earth and eternal damnation afterwards.

Happily, the “Truth” has been given to us and if we are willing to embrace it, we have all of heaven to look forward to.

“Thomas said to Jesus, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going.  How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.  From now on you do know Him and have seen Him… If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 14:5-7, 8:31-32 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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