I have addiction issues… Really I do. Maybe you do too? I grew up with an alcoholic father. He didn’t have custody of me and my brother, but I remember times when we would go spend a couple days at his house. He kept a fifth of jack under his truck seat and another one by his seat on the couch at all times. Often the remnants of his half smoked joint would be left in the ash tray as well.
When I was young I would often think that I wanted to be nothing like him when I grow up… but here we are all of these years later and I am probably more like him than I even realize. I may not be an alcoholic or smoke weed, and unlike him I have a good relationship with my kids and I love my wife and have always remained faithful. I am not like him in what I do, but I think the traits that he had that caused him to run down those roads are also traits I see in myself, and maybe you can see the traits in yourself as well. And because I can see some of those same traits in me, I decided many years ago that I would not repeat the same cycles I saw in my dad.
The book of Judges is one of the most depressing books when it comes to cycles and also has the ability to serve as a cautionary tale for us today. Check out these two verses from chapter two that give us an accurate synopsis of the entire book.
“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering. But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”
Judges 2:18-19 NLT
If you read the book of Judges in its entirety you will see this cycle repeated numourous times…
- Israel would rebel against God.
- God would give them over to their desires.
- Israel would experience great burden and oppression.
- Israel would cry to God to save them.
- God would look on them with mercy and raise up a judge to save them.
- They would live in peace for a season until that judge died.
- Israel would rebel against God again, and often in worse ways than they had in the past.
Cycles are tough because once we find ourselves in one, it is very hard to break out of it. I have some thoughts that may be helpful for you from the book of Judges.
YOU ARE NOT THE SAVIOR
I realize that may sound harsh, but if we don’t come to terms with this reality we will never be able to break out of the cycles we find ourselves in. I imagine it was easy for the Israelites to view the Judges as their saviors instead of God… the issue with that thinking is that the judges were all deeply flawed, and the moment they died the nation of Israel rebelled again. If Israel looked to the Judge as the savior, is it possible today that we look at ourselves as the savior? Maybe we aren’t the hero in our own story.
The cycle of rebellion can only truly be stopped when we truly realize we are not the savior, and accept the savior that God sent. I know it may sound elementary but it is the Gospel. Jesus came to break us out of the cycle of slavery to sin. He came to redeem our lives and make us new. He came that we may have life.
UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN TENDENCIES
I mentioned earlier that I am probably more like my dad than I even realize. He had addiction tendencies and so do I. In my opinion, the big difference in our lives boils down to the way we handled those addictions. Alcohol had a grip on my dad’s life, and even though the Bible never says we shouldn’t drink alcohol(it says we shouldn’t get drunk or drink much wine), I made the decision years ago that alcohol would never be a part of my life. Simply put, I don’t trust myself.
If I approached alcohol like I do coffee, I would be able to tell you the address to all of the good bars in town. I would spend a lot of money trying out new and different drinks and brews. If I didn’t have a chance to drink soon enough in the day I would get a headache, so I would make sure to start drinking early. I would tell myself, I am only going to have 1-2 cups today, but undoubtedly I would make the decision to have more. Then, after making that decision I would pray my wife didn’t ask me how many cups I had. I would never want to relax at the end of a day without a cup, and if anyone ever told me they didn’t drink I would pride myself on getting them to try it out and work to help them love it the way I do. If you can’t tell I have a coffee addiction…
Knowing your tendencies helps you to know what you can say yes to and reminds you of what to say no to. And can I say, just because it is right or okay for someone else, doesn’t mean it is right for you.
MAKE A DAILY DECISION
If I am trying to eat healthy, I know the first decision I make in the morning is the most important. If I have a donut in the morning, you better believe I will have some ice cream before I go to bed. One bad decision just spawns more bad decisions. This is why we must make a decision daily.
Jesus said to pick up our cross daily. The Bible also says that His mercies are new every morning. If our best decisions today are always based off of our worst decisions yesterday then we are in trouble. If you messed up yesterday, start new today. Relook at understanding your own tendencies, remind yourself that Jesus has saved you and pick your cross up and walk. Also don’t forget, making a daily decision is a lot more than just deciding what you will do. It is also about deciding what you won’t do. Don’t just look at what you should avoid, but also look at what you should commit yourself to on that day.
LASTLY, DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU HIT ROCK BOTTOM
We mess up… it’s sort’ve what we do as humans, but why have we convinced ourselves that we have to wait until we hit rock bottom to turn around. The Israelites would go through years of oppression and difficulty before they would cry out to God. How much different could the turn around look if we decided early to make changes?
If you find yourself in a cycle that you know you shouldn’t be in, then why don’t you make the decision today to change? Don’t allow shame to stop you from getting the help you need, whether that means reaching out to a pastor in your life, or making an appointment with a (christian) therapist. God has given you this life and he desires you to live life full. No matter your age or stage of life, it is never too late or too early to break the cycles that have grabbed ahold of your life.
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