The Covid-19 shutdowns caused people to turn increasingly inward, leading to depression, anxiety, and loneliness. As a result, there has been a greater reliance on substances, creating record levels of addiction and toxic habits.
Toxic habits not only take the form of heavy hitters such as narcotics and substance abuse but can also lurk in more socially acceptable practices such as binging on food or Netflix.
We know these things can be unhealthy, often leaving us unproductive, increasingly miserable, and even more dependent.
Why are we so drawn to toxic habits (even though we know better)?
Three distinct lies Lead to destructive patterns:
- God won’t give me enough.
If left to His own devices, we don’t think God will really give us what we want or need. He might mess up our fun.
We have a distorted view of God. Even many committed Christians, if honest, assume that Christians miss out on the good stuff as if we are perennially standing out in the cold watching the world’s party.
But the truth is precisely the reverse: God “prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23). God offers bread and wine and bids us to come and eat. He offers us abundant life. There are “Pleasures at God’s right hand forevermore” (Psalm 1).
As C. S. Lewis put it, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Which leads to the second lie.
- I can’t be happy without it.
The activities that ensnare us don’t begin as addictions. At first, they seem good… Why? because in themselves, they are good. There is nothing created that is bad in itself, only the abuse of them is wrong.
They promise freedom, pleasure, and escape. But as they grow into addictions, they become the opposite of freedom.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King candidly shares his battle with addiction. In it, he describes a particularly dark time when he was so constantly drunk, high, and stoned that he has no memory of writing an entire novel. King reflects on his state, saying, “At the worst of it, I no longer wanted to drink and no longer wanted to be sober either. I felt evicted from life.”
This sentiment recalls Jesus’ words, “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it (Luke 17).
Addictions and harmful habits offer us the illusion of life, but in reality, they only serve to diminish it. When we grasp after pleasure, we become increasingly numb, feeling less and less.
- I’ll never overcome it.
Maybe you’ve had these habits for years, even since childhood, and they seem to be a part of who you are; change feels impossible. Or maybe you’ve tried many times, and you failed as many.
When it comes to deeply ingrained habits or full-blown addictions, people tend to react in one of two ways:
- You know you have a problem, and you hate yourself for it.
Maybe you know you have a problem, but every time you try to kick it, you fail spectacularly, followed by a vicious cycle of shame, self-loathing, and a new determination to change.
But Satan is called the *accuser* for a reason. He knows very well that accusations NEVER create life, fruitfulness, freedom, or deliverance. If motivated by accusations, we will always fail.
*Accusations will never bring success*
What is the second most common reaction to addictions?
- You don’t think you have a (big) problem.
We all know what that sounds like: “I have it under control; I can quit any time, etc.” This second person may be “all about grace.”
This kind of easy belief is not actually grace, however.
It is a flat-out detail, a refusal to acknowledge the problem. Grace only works when we recognize the ugliness of sin.
So, what’s the answer? While that requires a much deeper, longer discussion, here are a few practical takeaways to get you started.
- God’s grace is sufficient for your sins and weaknesses.
Seem too easy? The problem is that our understanding of grace is often anemic. What often passes for grace in our minds is nothing more than mere tolerance – not at all the same thing. We can understand SIN, and we can understand GRACE, but it’s surprisingly difficult to understand them both at once, together.
God’s grace is a concept that even the godliest men and women – who have lived long, fruitful lives – are often only just beginning to comprehend.
Yet at the same time, even a child can grasp it.
Grace requires absolute dependence on God to redeem, heal, and restore our lives to all the pleasure, joy, and freedom we were intended for – In His ways, on His schedule.
- Avail yourself of the means of grace.
How do we access this live-changing, all-encompassing GRACE?
Start by availing yourself of the MEANS of grace. God told us where His grace is to be found:
- Reading his word
- Fellowship with other believers
- Regular church attendance
Yes, there is a mundane, daily aspect to fighting sin and feeding your soul; but it’s no different than how physical food fuels us.
As we said here, significant breakthroughs happen amid basic, daily patterns. By incorporating grace into your daily life, you will suddenly find one day, that you no longer struggle with the same toxic habits that once kept you down.
Note: in case of extreme addiction, you may need counseling or rehab. If that describes you, please don’t try to fight your battles alone but seek help! To learn more about God’s grace and how you can finally find freedom in Christ, visit Dream City Church!