Grace has many faces. Basically it is experienced as an unearned or undeserved act of loving kindness. If I neglect my wife and yet she returns my thoughtlessness with an act of loving kindness, I just received grace. I did not deserve nor earn it. Likewise, God is not obligated to extend grace to us when we neglect Him, but He does anyway.
When we give our time, energy, and even affections, that is, our attachment to destructive addictions before our attachment to God, He does not withhold His grace. He is the embodiment of love and has created us to experience no greater fulfillment than to be in an ever growing connection with Him. But we cannot serve two masters at the same time. We cannot serve destructive addictions and grow in connection with God at the same time. Something has to give. Even if we give attachment to an addiction more than to God, He will not give up on us. If we are enslaved by an addiction, He reminds us through the apostle Paul that His grace is sufficient to meet all our needs.
We cannot serve destructive addictions and grow in connection with God at the same time.
Are you attached to an addiction? Is it stealing your time, energy, and even affection away from God? Consider what God’s grace can look like in your life.
Author Gerald May, in his book “Addiction & grace: Love and spirituality in the healing of addictions,” has identified some of God’s grace as being found in “Scripture…personal prayer and meditation” (1988, p. 126). Through the power of God’s Word and prayer, the graces of love, guidance, protection, provision, benevolence, and healing may be realized. May also asserts that within the “community of our faith” we may experience the grace of God through the giving and receiving of empathy, encouragement, laughter, gifts, mentoring, teaching, friendship, practical help, and corporate worship (May, 1988, p. 126). We also may receive grace through a well-intended rebuke or correction.
We can even experience grace during “times of turmoil and failure, encounters with people we dislike, daily drudgery, boredom, and…[even through] our addictions” (1988, p. 126). Through rough times God’s grace may have the best opportunity to reach us. Graces like insight, wisdom, and humility can break through. Graces like repentance, confession, selflessness, forgiveness, self-control, patience, and kindness can find their way into our character development. God is constantly at work in our lives, helping us to pave the ways of relationship reparation, trust, faith, and the peace that passes understanding. Without suffering and heartache in the wake of our addictions, would we ever become open to receive God’s graces? Would we want to overcome our destructive strongholds, with God’s help? Only God knows.
Trying to manage life in our own strength after years of dysfunction and sorrow leaves us feeling helpless. Helplessness can lead to hopelessness which can lead to defeat. Enter God. He has always been there but He uses the messiness of addiction to bring us to the end of our striving in our own strength. At this dead end we are able to turn to Him. With God there is hope and help beyond measure. With God there is victory to overcome any addiction, because with God, all things are possible!
He uses the messiness of addiction to bring us to the end of our striving in our own strength.
Through the many faces of God’s good grace, we gradually learn to accept our helplessness, which is the bridge to accepting more of His love and power. Remember, through His Word, through prayer, through people He sends, and through hardship, He works to break our bondages and set us free. Free from destructive attachment to addictions, we are freer to attach to the Creator of life whose loves for us is stronger than eternity is long.
Once we are on the road to recovery and freedom, May asserts that we must continually and intentionally seek God’s graces to stay free, or we’ll fall back into our old ways of addiction (1988). Likewise, the apostle Paul says he must die daily to self, lest he sin again (1 Cor.15: 31, NASB). We are in constant dependence on God’s graces to stay on track. We must exercise personal responsibility and effort to apply all we learn from God. We must consistently cooperate with His plan, and yield to Him as the Senior Partner of our lives. If we lapse, we get back up and move forward by God’s good graces.
May concludes by reminding us that people often do not change unless they have a need to. The pain of addiction needs to be great enough for the process of change to begin and to be sustained. We can sustain the momentum of change through involvement in supportive twelve-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, or a Life Recovery group, the latter two being expressly Christian.
To the extent that a person receives the many faces of God’s grace will be the extent of achieving control over the attachments of addictions. May advises us to make honesty, dignity, responsibility, and simplicity the qualities that guide a person in recovery. Why simplicity? Because God does not want our recovery to be more complicated than the mess we have created through addiction. In His own words, Jesus counsels us to rest in Him (Matthew 11: 28-30), because it is only by His truth that we are truly set free (John 8:32). Resting in the way, the truth, and the life that Jesus embodies and provides, is profoundly and simply the best treatment available – by God’s good grace.
Blog post by Robert Davison, MA, NCC, LGPC.
May, G. G, (1988). Addiction & grace: Love and spirituality in the healing of addictions. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.