ADDICTION - what comes to your mind? Is it the drunk on a park bench? The heroin addict with a needle in his arm? Or the porn addict staring at a computer screen?
And who has the authority in understanding and resolving this age-old problem? Is it the science books? The psychologists? Or the ex-addicts like Alcoholics Anonymous?
Does the Bible have any authority to teach us about addiction and its solution? Well, from my own struggle with addiction, I can personally tell you it does. That’s why it excites me to see what the Bible has to say about addiction and the transformation process.
You see, at root, addiction is a spiritual problem and so the solution is a spiritual one. Read any book about addiction and you won’t have to go too far before you see God mentioned.
A story of thirst, addiction and freedom
In Chapter 4 of John’s Gospel, Jesus is at Samaria. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as racial and spiritual half-breeds, their hated enemy. It’s like Scousers ending up in Manchester! (Note to the reader: I'm from Liverpool!)
Jesus sits down by the well when it is the hottest part of the day (v.6). This is the time when nobody does any work, when sane people are in the shade to avoid the scorching heat.
The story begins by a Samaritan woman coming to draw water. This is shocking. Women would not have come to get water alone in the heat of the day.
The shock factor rises even further (v.7) as Jesus asks the woman for a drink. Jews would not have done this as they regard the Samaritans as unclean. Jesus smashes through the barriers of his time.
Consider a heroin addict on Breck Road whom everyone labels as a “smack head.” Everyone says he cannot be trusted as they would cut your throat for the next fix. They are scruffy, smelly and viewed as less than human, worthless.
Well, imagine Jesus coming up to a person like that on Breck Road on a hot summer’s day asking them for some of their coke.
Jesus tries to establish an initial relationship by asking for help. Sometimes people feel more comfortable giving help rather than receiving it.
V.9 shows us that the Samaritan woman was shocked by Jesus asking her for a drink, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
She can’t get over the fact that he has asked her for drink, she is gobsmacked!
Jesus responds (v.10) by saying, “If you knew who I really was then you would be the one asking me for a drink.”
Why? Because the water that Jesus offers is living water. But she doesn’t get what he's on about (v11).
Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus knows we are thirsty people.
Addiction is all about thirst
Addiction is all about thirst, it's about trying to deal with our spiritual thirst through worldly things. And we will always be thirsty.
The alcoholic can never drink enough alcohol, he drinks and drinks and passes out. He wakes up and is still thirsty for more, so he goes to the off license.
The drug addict who starts out taking opiate-based painkillers for a medical problem loves how great it makes him feel. Then he starts taking higher doses more often, spending more money buying the drugs illegally.
As time goes on, his habit becomes more expensive so he replaces it will cheaper street heroin and starts injecting.
But no matter how much they get they are still thirsty for more.
The thirst to mask who we truly are
Part of being thirsty is being afraid to be known as we truly are. Addicts have an identity that is founded on guilt and shame. They use drug, alcohol, relationships or whatever else as masks to keep themselves protected.
It’s like wearing makeup to cover up the blemishes, as they feel people can see right through them. They feel ugly and stop people getting close to them as they fear rejection. “If only people knew the real me they would run a mile.”
Many addicts have been hurt badly, they have been wounded by life. Part of that might be their own fault due to their addictive lifestyle, but also it’s because they have been scared by others.
Some might have been through the constant criticism of parents, physical abuse or sexual abuse. They have been neglected by the people who should have loved them so they turn to their drug of choice to anesthetize the pain.
They may also have turned to drugs because of guilt and shame over sins they have committed. So they use drugs to forget about what they have done.
We should have compassion for those struggling with addiction just like Jesus is, because we are just like the heroin addict, the alcoholic, and the porn addict.
What are you thirsty for?
We may not be taking a substance that will kill us but we are all cut from the same cloth, there is a lot of want in the human heart. We are all thirsty people. Perhaps you are chasing success, thinking 'if only I get the job I want they I will be happy, content, secure, I will no longer be thirsty.'
Perhaps you're working in a job you love, you knuckle down hard to impress your boss. Things go your way. You love the way success makes you feel, you love the praise of your manager.
You think this will finally quench your thirst but the more success you get, the more you want. You can never get enough. You want a bigger hit, a bigger high.
Perhaps you constantly think to yourself, 'if only I meet that special someone then I will thirst no more.'
That’s what all the movies and songs tell us: we need someone to complete us. If we find a partner who loves us and is committed to us we would never thirst.
Some of us can be love addicts. We make reckless decisions not based on wisdom but on fear of being alone. We are sacred to be lonely. So we get into a relationship with anyone who pays some attention.
The compliments and displays of affection feels like ecstasy in our veins. We overlook all their character flaws because we are so high. They may have been a mass murderer but we wouldn’t notice if we are so drunk on love.
A lot of us are junkies for the “drug of comfort.” We will do anything to get our hands on this drug. Comfort is about having a certain pleasurable experience, a particular quality of life. We will go to anything lengths to maintain our comfort, even if that means keeping difficult people at a distance.
Quenching an never-ending thirst
Rather than giving sacrificially, we only give enough so that we can maintain our lifestyle of comfort. Our life revolves around seeking it, it’s all about ease, feeling good and removing anything painful.
But we can never get enough comfort, even when we get all the comfort we want, it still leaves us thirsty.
Jesus tells us that the only way to stop being thirsty is by the water that he provides. Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit through which we can have a relationship with God. Satisfaction is not found by drinking spirits but by the spirit of God.
Only Jesus will quench our thirst. Only a relationship with him can truly satisfy (v.13). It’s the relationship we were created for. Every other relationship is counterfeit when it comes to Jesus. Success, romantic relationships or comfort never give us what our souls need, only Jesus satisfies our thirsty souls.
Can you diagnose your thirst? Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What are you obsessed about?
What consumes your imagination?
What thing do you say to yourself, 'I must have it to live?'
If it’s anything other than God, then you will always be wanting more, never be satisfied and will always be thirsty.
Only a relationship with Jesus truly satisfies. We are thirsty people.