I have been addicted to some form of carbonated beverage since college (several decades now). If I had a dime for every time someone asked me, “How many of those do you drink a day?” or “Doesn’t that keep you awake?”, I would be a wealthy woman. Some have sent me articles describing the adverse effects on my health and its contribution to weight issues. Truth be told, I did not read them. Nothing had an impact on me until about 15 years ago. Circumstances were hard. I was dealing with financial issues, marital issues, and trying to navigate my son’s struggles with Autism. I went to the drive-through window at McDonald’s to get my morning Diet Coke. As the young lady handed it to me, I was shocked to “hear” my thoughts, “I have got my pop. It is a good day.” At that moment, I realized I depended on pop the way I should depend on God.
Dawson McAllister, with The Hope Line, states that between 60% and 70% of Americans have some form of addiction, costing 500 billion dollars a year. He cites four main reasons for addictions from his research. Number one on the list is to fill the void, satisfy, or comfort. Believer, what comforts you? For many, it is alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography. For some, it is a more socially acceptable addiction, such as caffeine, comfort food, retail therapy, or a relationship. Some Christians find comfort in more spiritual things like a thriving ministry, a successful church event, or a well-delivered sermon. The continuum is long, but they all have one thing in common: they are substitutes for God.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul refers to our Lord as “God of all comfort.” It is not some, not most, but all comfort. The God we serve promises us eternal comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:16), through His ever-presence (Hebrews 13:5), His complete provision (Philippians 4:19), and His unconditional love (Romans 5:8). We settle for poor, temporary substitutes when complete comfort can be found in intimate conversations with Christ and time spent clinging to His promises of the Bible.
The second reason for addiction, according to McAllister, is the need to escape the struggles of this life. Believer, how do you escape? Some turn to the self-destructive options of alcohol and drugs, while others choose a more culturally acceptable means. When I come home and hear, “Don’t Look Back” by Boston(ironic) or “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beach Boys pouring through the windows, I know my husband has escaped. I am known to escape via an episode of “Andy Griffith” before going to bed. It offers simpler times and simpler problems that are solved in a half-hour (less without commercials). Others take a more spiritual approach; they pray and beg God to change their circumstances. We request relief or escape instead of comfort and strength as we persevere.
Years ago, I had a mentor who was walking the agonizing road of end-stage breast cancer. I will never forget one of her posts on her blog, “I realized the very thing I was asking the Lord to remove was the very thing he was using to transform me into his likeness.” In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul continues to describe our God of all comfort as the One who “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.”
We all need to escape now and then. However, perpetual escape from God-ordained struggles robs us of experiencing complete comfort. We are meant to experience divine comfort so that we can then comfort others. My mentor grew spiritually from the battle of her life. Remembering her words and the truth God revealed to her has comforted me in my own struggles. I am reminded that there is purpose in our pain. Do not avoid it. Embrace it. Grow from it. Share it.
Full disclosure: Those who know me will tell you I continue to battle my addiction to (now) Diet Dr. Pepper. I can honestly say that I first reach for God when things get tough, but the bubbles are a close second. One day I will have complete victory!