by Wayne Jackson
All of us have “habits,” some of which are good, some of which are bad, and some of which are indifferent. A “habit” is generally defined as a pattern of behavior occasioned by frequent use. One may have the habit of turning to the sports page first when he opens his morning paper. So what; that is a very immaterial matter. A person may have the bad habit of biting his finger nails; that is not good, certainly it is not the most healthy practice in which one may engage, but it is not going to keep you out of heaven. Jesus had the habit of attending synagogue services every sabbath (Luke 4:16). Faithful Christians have the habit of meeting regularly with the church for Bible study whenever they are able; others, not so spiritually motivated, have the “custom” (habit) of forsaking the divine assembly (Hebrews 10:25). At any rate, the person who seeks mental fitness will give attention to his “habits.”
It is possible for a habit to degenerate to such a state where one’s activity becomes compulsive. Compulsive behavior is a mode of living wherein one’s pattern of conduct has become so strong that he virtually feels swept away by his inclination to do certain things; his appetites control him. Again and again he is plunged into undesirable activities, each time feeling acute guilt. He promises himself that he will not repeat this tormenting conduct, but he fails again. His life becomes so miserable. He calls out to God: Is there any help for me? Can I break this addiction?
Various Forms Of Addiction
First, we should perhaps distinguish between psychological addiction and chemical addiction. Psychological addiction has to do with a pattern of activity that is related to learning, practice, memory, experience, etc., (e.g., for example, an addiction to stealing). Whereas chemical addiction relates to actual physiochemical changes in the nervous system, (such as those precipitated by the ingestion of drugs). This latter type of compulsive behavior is much more difficult to break.
Compulsive actions express themselves in many different ways, and may exist at different levels of intensity. Let us give consideration to several of these areas:
- Drug addiction likely is what first comes to mind when one thinks of compulsive conduct. A person may be habituated to certain mild drugs whose addictive properties are rather negligible ordinarily, e.g., aspirin or caffeine. Other drugs are much more prone to addiction, e.g., amphetamines, tranquilizers, marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco.
- In our discussion of these matters we must not overlook the dangers of the addictive use of prescription medication.
- Two authors, exports in the psychology of finance, recently stated: “Obsessive spending, excessive debt, and financial mismanagement are creating sickly people—people who are depressed, anxious, unhappy.” For some in our modern age of economic prosperity, the use of “plastic” has virtually become an addiction. Spending may become a form of addiction that can ruin one’s spiritual life.
- Gambling can very easily become an addiction. There is something about the “emotional rush” that one gets when contemplating the possibility that he may “hit it big” that grabs the psyche in some people and drags them into the jaws of “wager” addiction.
- Sexual lust for many becomes a form of compulsive behavior. Jesus once spoke of the man who “looks upon a woman to lust after her” (Matthew 5:28). The word “looks” represents a present tense form in the Greek Testament. It suggests lingering sexual interest. It is but human to be attracted to the opposite sex. But marriage is the means of satisfying this God given desire (1 Corinthians 7:1). Other forms of gratification are contrary to the divine design for the human family.The Christian must strive, in an especially diligent way, to keep his mind pure. He must avoid the salacious at all costs; he must fill his heart with sacred truths that build character—not the smut that degrades and destroys.
What does one do when he feels that he has become enslaved to some sinful practice? Can the grip of addiction be broken? Thousands of Christians can assure you that it is possible to break the bonds of compulsion and live exciting and contented lives to the glory of God. There are several things that we can recommend in assisting the sincere person in overcoming obsessive behavior. Let us give consideration to the following biblical principles which will be helpful in dealing with sin’s dominance.
- The Christian must confess his wrongs and ask for God’s help in conquering his problems. If his problem is known only to God, talk to him about it. If others are privy to the circumstances of the difficulty, acknowledge the wrong and solicit the the support of friends (James 5:16). You may think that others will only look upon you with contempt—and perhaps some will be self-righteous—but there are many who will shower you with genuine love and encouragement. Don’t underestimate your kinsmen in Christ.
- Prayer can be a big part of your rehabilitation. Jesus said, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:40). When the Lord Jesus faced a time of temptation, He, “prayed the more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). There is a more intense level of prayer than we normally utilize! Exert your soul to the uttermost to overcome your moral faults.
- Avoid those circumstances and persons that may lead you back into sinful practices. “Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). It has been said that many who flee from temptation leave a forwarding address. Don’t do it!
- Associate as much as possible with spiritual people who can lend you strength. Be ever present at worship assemblies and Bible study meetings. Form friendships with strong people. Invite them into your home. Strive to help others as you yourself grow. When one’s life is filled with spiritual activities, he simply will not have the time and opportunity for drifting into avenues of evil.
- Spend much time in the Holy Scriptures. David said: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Jesus was able to ward off Satan because, having the words of God in His mind, He could say: “Get thee hence. . . it is written” (Matthew 4:1-11). Do some investigation and learn of good books which address your particular area of weakness. Build a good library of resource materials. As you conquer your addiction, you will be much better qualified to assist other folks of like-weakness, because you’ve “been in their shoes.”
Addiction can be overcome. We can resist Satan to the point he will flee from us (James 4:7).