Addiction, whether to substances or to behaviors, threatens or affects just about every family in modern society. Even if it hasn’t impacted your household directly, addiction is likely hurting a friend, relative, neighbor, or coworker.
Christians and church communities are not immune to the threat and power of addiction. But we serve a God whose love and power are limitless, and who is prepared to help us in our times of greatest need.
So how can God help with addiction? Can we simply pray our addiction away, or are there other steps that God leads us to take to help ourselves and each other?
God helps with addiction in multiple ways. When we submit to Him, He transforms our hearts and minds by His Spirit. He also works through other people in our lives to encourage and assist us in recovery.
No Quick Fixes
Usually, we find that our answers and solutions come more slowly than we would like. God often uses our trials and our experiences to grow, strengthen, and mold us in His image. Even as He protects, provides for, and guides us, He invites us to do our part by deepening our reliance on Him:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.John 15:4
In the partnership between the branch and the tree, we have the easy job. Our job is to hold fast to the tree! Still, it requires constant vigilance on our part to cling to Jesus and constant awareness that we need to cling to him.
This is especially true when we face the challenge of addiction. Whether we are wrestling with substances such as drugs, alcohol, and nicotine, or behavior-based habits like gambling and pornography, God invites us to realize that we need outside help to overcome our addictions.
Look—Don’t Wait—for Help
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.Psalm 121:1-2
If you or your loved ones have wrestled with addiction, then you know how important it is that we each see our own need for help.
For the addict, this realization does not always come easily, as our minds are clouded by the felt needs and compulsions of addiction. Often it takes an unexpected event to awaken us to our own need for help. This awakening can come in countless ways, depending on each person’s need and situation.
Whenever and however our realization comes, God tells us to look to Him for help. Chances are we will have no idea what to do, but if we seek God with all of our heart, He will hear and answer.
A Renewed Mind
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Addiction is a battle. It is a fight against dark forces that lie to us and rob us of our worth, our purpose, and our productivity.
In prayer, God invites us to replace worldly thinking about ourselves and our agenda with knowledge of Him that grows us in obedience to Christ.
When we grow in the knowledge of God, we experience His forgiveness, grace, and love. We understand that there is no condemnation for us who know Him (Romans 8:1) and that no power on earth can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
Let His Spirit reveal the doubts, the bitterness, the poor self-image, or whatever other lies the enemy uses to try to turn your mind away from God and back to the world.
Let God tear down these enemy strongholds and ask Him to fill your mind with heavenly things:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9
This is easy to say, but much harder to put into practice. After all, the world is filled with sin, temptation, and darkness. How can we possibly see the light of heaven?
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.Matthew 6:22-24a
As God works in our minds, He changes our view of ourselves and of the world. When we ask Him to show us the joy and peace of heavenly things, the things of the world become less appealing. We become wise to the darkness of addiction as the temptations that once looked attractive to us begin to look unappealing.
Still, we must ask God to continuously shine His light so that we can see with clarity. We must see not only the sin and ugliness behind the object of our addiction but also the mastery that it held over us. We must see the bondage and darkness from which we have been rescued. By showing us this truth, God shows us what we need to see:
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.1 Corinthians 10:12-13
The blood of Christ covers and forgives our sins. He releases us from bondage to sin, but the stain of sin remains with us as long as we live because we remain in a fallen world.
This truth is experienced more acutely in matters of addiction and recovery. The chemicals and habits that fueled our addictions reached deep places in our minds and have left their mark. Their shadows will remain with us always, so we must ask God to expose these shadows when new temptations arise.
Ask God to give you the wisdom to recognize the triggers that might turn you back toward bad habits. Do boredom and isolation prompt you to look at pornography? If so, find something to do outside of the house. Does lunch at a microbrewery tempt you to grab a drink? Head to the cafe instead.
As you ask God to show you the triggers and temptations that endanger your recovery, ask Him also to show you the emergency exit when temptation shows up at your door. His word promises that He will provide a way out every time.
Both Jesus (Mark 14:38) and Paul (Colossians 4:2) reminded us to “watch and pray.” It is praying with watchfulness that opens our eyes to both the danger of temptation and the means to overcome it.
Still, there is one other indispensable means of help that God offers to all of us.
Leaning on Others
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-2
As Christians, we are part of the body of Christ. We are a community of believers who have been called together not only to continue the ongoing work of Christ in the world, but to provide constant support, encouragement, and edification to one another.
Jesus told His disciples—and us—that people would recognize us as His disciples because of the love that we show to one another (John 13:35).
One aspect of Christian love that is vital to addiction recovery is accountability. This is often a scary idea for addicts, especially if accountability means facing the justice system for any criminal infractions. In civil society, accountability is often punitive and it is something that we naturally are inclined to avoid.
Even if you have to make amends to society through the justice system, you may still experience the grace of Christian accountability, which operates quite differently.
As Christians, we are called to walk alongside those who are struggling to overcome sin—including addiction. We don’t drag them down the road and tear them up. Nor do we push them from behind until we knock them over and trample them.
We walk next to them, giving them support and stability as we ease their burdens and help them take steps at their pace. Our goal is not punishment and it is not condemnation. Our goal is restoration.
If you are in need of recovery, seek out this kind of partnership. Perhaps someone in your local church can be a support. Or maybe your pastor or in-house care ministry can refer you to a qualified faith-based recovery program specific to your need.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. God has given you the people around you so that through one another, we may abound more in His love and grace.
Putting it All Together
We’ve taken quite a journey together in this space, and it is a lot of information to take in. Addiction is complex and persistent, so our response ought to be equally complex and persistent.
So as a final encouragement, I offer a passage that sums up the entire journey that we’ve taken together:
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.1 Peter 5:5-9
For those who need help, submit to the assistance of those who are strong and mature in the faith.
For those who are called to help, do so with humility and grace.
For all, remember that we do not overcome addiction on our own. We have each other, and over all of us, we have a God who is willing and able to carry our cares.
Let us be vigilant and watchful for ourselves and for those in our care as we pray for one another, encourage each other, and take each step together.
When temptation arises, let us call out to God, let us invite our faith family to intercede, and let us stand together in the power of the Spirit, knowing that God has not left us alone.
May God’s peace reign in our hearts, and may His truth light our path with each step we take toward recovery and victory.