I think a lot about addictions. If you’ve watched the news over the past year, you’d understand why. While being the best state in the Union, New Hampshire has hit some hard times. We’re facing a massive drug and addiction crisis in our state. The BBC even did a piece on the problem.
But it’s more personal than that. We find needles in our driveway. Just about every person we know is either an addict in recovery, has family or friends that are addicts, or know somebody who’s died from addiction. Addiction is a deep fog that rests on every street in our city.
While it may seem like circumstances drive me to think about addictions a lot, that’d be a mistake. While I’ve seen how hardcore addictions ravage my neighbors and city, I find myself looking in a mirror. I’m not that different than my heroin addict neighbors, it’s just that our addictions present differently.
Scripture drives us down into this point by pointing at everybody’s chest and saying “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). We were made by God to love and know him, but sin twists us in perverse ways. Instead of finding our happiness in God the way we were made to, we find it in other things. The Bible calls the other things “idols” – things we think will make us happy, but which fail to deliver. We think accomplishments will sustain us, words of affirmation will make us glad, a new perspective will brighten the day, that the victory will liberate us (Psalm 135:14-18). But they don’t.
The world is made to reflect God, and so it is designed to make us happy. But it isn’t designed to be our source of happiness.
All idolatries of the world promise happiness but mimic God’s fountain of everlasting joy. It’s great to have their momentary high, their momentary deliverance, but they fail to satisfy. We are trying to squeeze happiness out of creation while hating the Creator.
You might say that if this is at the heart of our fallen nature, that we’re all addicts. We keep going back to our idols for happiness, knowing they failed us, but hoping for a better high this time around.
Maybe it’s not heroin for you, but it might be porn. Just another click. Just another video and then you’ll be satisfied.
Maybe it’s work accomplishments. Just another promotion, just another raise and then you’ll be successful.
Maybe it’s parenting. Just another response of obedience, just another family vacation and then we’ll be “good parents”.
Maybe it’s control. Just another situation covered, all the bases taken care of and everything buttered up, and then you’ll be able to rest secure.
There are endless ways we could articulate the ways we are addicted to our idols. While needles are certainly more obvious, we’re all addicts.
As one band recently said, “I’m addicted to badness, but what can I do?”
If you’ve ever worked with addicts, you see this in bold, all caps font. Change for addicts is massively difficult. We tend to judge them because “they should just stop it already”.
But take a moment and reflect, if you were honest, how easily has it been for you to not snap at your kids for the 100’th time for the same old things? How easy has it been for you to not be jealous of that family’s perfect vacation pictures on Facebook for the 4th time this year? How do they even have the money to do so many great vacations?! How easy has it been for you to stop being depressed about how life hasn’t turned out the way you’d hoped?
Change is hard, and it’s primarily because we’re addicted to badness in a world that’s brokenly feeding our badness.
It’s this badness, the fact that we are bad, that makes us addicts. We just can’t stop it. We try, we know we should, but we’re trying to change with broken tools, broken judgment, broken hopes and dreams. Everything’s bad, which our addictions only confirm.
Which is why Jesus offers a unique hope. We can’t change our addiction to badness. But Jesus can. Jesus does.
When God tells us that he “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13), he is telling us that Jesus changes everything about us.
While we can’t change anything about ourselves on our own, God’s breaking news about Jesus is that he’s changed everything about our identity and world for those who trust in Him. We were in a kingdom of badness, fueled by an addiction to badness. Because God loved us, and pitied us, in the death of Christ, he turned our world upside down. We were in a kingdom of badness, squeezing our idols out for just a little drop of happiness. Now we’re in the kingdom of Jesus, a fountain of delights and grace for every weakness, sin and addiction. Now, in Christ, we can put our addiction to badness to death in true obedience to God.
If that’s the case, we have the best hope of change in the Gospel. “I’m addicted to badness, but what can I do?” Well, nothing. Nothing, that is, apart from Jesus. Jesus has done everything. He’s broken the power of addictions that he didn’t have, by bearing the grinding wrath of God on those addictions so that we could receive the peaceful hand of help to freedom. By seeing Jesus, and loving his goodness for us, our addictions lose their power (2 Corinthians 3:18). In Christ, we now have the Spirit’s power to change – freedom from badness, to liberation to goodness. In Christ, we now have the power, by the Spirit (Romans 8:13), to actively put to death our addiction to badness.
I think about addictions a lot because I see myself in our city. Yes, lots of addiction issues. But we’re not all that different. We can’t change ourselves on our own. We’re all addicted to badness. Jesus has graciously turned our hearts towards him, to repent of squeezing happiness out of creation to receiving our happiness from him free and complete. He does the same for our addicted neighbors, whatever their addiction looks like.