This week, we’ve looked at some of the ways addictions can spiral and snare us in the unforgiving cycle of itching that bite. When it comes to these psychological and spiritual addictions, it actually helps to understand how physical addictions work.
When a person takes a ‘hit’ of whatever substance it is, the receptors for that substance in our brain becomes a little bit desensitised. They’ve had it before and, frankly, the hit doesn’t bring the same excitement and satisfaction it once did. So the next time, we have a bit more. And it feels just like it did the first time when we had only a little. Eventually, you’re putting 10x the amount into your body, just to get a fraction of the satisfaction you felt at the start. At some point along the way, the money runs out. Or the supply gets cut. Or your body can’t handle the amount needed to feel it anymore. No matter what we’re addicted to, there is never enough in the end.
Often we draw a dividing line between people who have obvious addictions, and people who don’t. But we all have desires we can’t shake. We’re all addicted to something.
The dividing line runs down each of our hearts: there’s a bit that wants to change and let it go, and a bit that can’t seem to cope without it.
The story of the rebellious son in Luke 15:11-32 describes two very different addicts. Take a minute to read the story now if you haven’t before.
The younger son is the obvious addict. He’s addicted to pleasure. To rebellion and partying. What once was a Friday night binge, becomes a daily occurrence as he leaves home and commits to the wild life. If you know the story, you’ll remember that eventually he ends up sat in a pig sty eating scraps because the money ran out and his mates weren’t true friends. So his addiction is harmful to himself, but he also hurt his father when he walked out. We find out later that his father felt his youngest son had died. He grieved every moment he was gone.
The lesser-known addict in this story is the older brother. This guy is just as hooked on his ‘must haves’ and patterns of living. From the outside he is obedient, productive and respectable, but his addiction is revealed when the little brother returns. After a lifetime of being bound by self-righteous tradition, he is furious when his rebellious brother receives a welcome home without earning it. He even tells his Dad that he has been “slaving for you” all these years, while his brother went off partying. The older brother was enslaved to works and earning the inheritance his father would give.
Both sons wanted their father’s stuff without having to have a relationship with him. They both wanted the gifts and not the giver, they just tried to get it differently.
So what will help the two brothers - one addicted to rebellion and the other to rules? Both found out that their addiction could not satisfy. Both ended up in their father’s face, confused as to how they had ended up so wretched after seeking something so promising. So what does Dad do? He extends to them the only substance that never runs out. Grace.
When it comes to grace, the more you get, the more you want. And the more you want, the more you get. The more we are accepted and welcomed in by the Father, the more we move towards Him and the more we experience that acceptance and welcome. Grace enables us to admit that we’ve been serving a misguided addiction and frees us to become utterly dependent on the only thing that can deliver.
Can you remember the moment you began to understand Jesus’ love for the first time? In that moment, you just want more. You hope you’ll never feel less amazed than you do right now, and you pray you’ll only become more and more enthralled by his love. When you taste what Jesus has to offer, you need and want more, and there is always more to give.
Take a moment now to pray and admit the addict in you. Ask God to draw you in closer, and ask the Spirit to reveal to you the substance which you serve. Experience his forgiveness, which will enable you to see others as God sees them, and help you to become part of a community addicted to grace.
This article is based on a talk given by Steve Midgley which can be watched in full here: https://www.biblicalcounselling.org.uk/video/addicted-to-grace/