Recovery takes too long. Most everyone who has experienced any type of addiction has felt this way. We’ve felt what it’s like to either confess or be caught;
and even though the experience is traumatic, along with it comes a real feeling of hope. We’ve finally gotten a taste of freedom.
Then, all of a sudden (or sometimes gradually), the old feelings creep back in. The things that stressed us out before still stress us out. The people who said and did hurtful things still say and do those things. The root experiences we’ve carried through our lives…they still happened.
Eventually the lightness and euphoria of early recovery can wane, and the old feelings are there. And addiction is lying in wait for an opportunity to regain a foothold in our lives.
“When will this be over? When can I say I’ve recovered? I just want to be done.”
There’s a truth that we need to accept. Recovery takes a long time. A really long time. It is a process. A really long process. A frustrating process. Often, a slow, trudging, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process.
“But wait, I’m a Christian! Don’t I have everything I need for a godly life? Shouldn’t it be easier for me?”
Well, yes. And…no.
As Christians, we absolutely have the power of God available to work in our lives. It is more powerful than the most powerful addiction. It is stronger than the strongest temptation. It is more consistent than the most lingering bad habit. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that each of us in Christ is “a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
The problem is, many of us don’t really believe that. Or at least know how to put that power into practice in our lives. We’ve been so used to living out of our own strength for so long, that the concept of God’s power working in our lives is hypothetical at best. We don’t actually know what it’s like to experience it. This is, in part, because while we’ve been struggling in our addiction, we’ve felt severe shame that drives us into isolation. Isolation means alone. Meaning, the only power we see available to us is our own. And time and time again, that power has proven to be frail and limited. We try, we fail, and we believe that things will never change. And we feel shame, because many of us have existed in a religious culture that describes God’s work on our sin using terms of instantaneous deliverance.
Paul didn’t only write about the victorious truths of being a Christian. He also wrote about his struggles. Any Christian who’s struggled with addiction can relate to what he expressed in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” This seems to tell us that even as a Christian with God’s power available to him, Paul didn’t always experience that power coming through in his choices.
Could it be that as a Christian God has delivered us one time from our addictions, but he also keeps delivering us over time from those same addictions? Could it be that by understanding and believing the gospel we can see that God sees all of His children as completely clean from our addictive sins (all our sins, for that matter) because of what Jesus has done? Could it be that we are meant to realize and experience this positional cleanness more and more over time and through the process of recovery (i.e. sanctification)?
Recovery does take a long time. But it doesn’t take too long. It takes exactly as long as our lives. One more thing Paul said was that the work God is doing in our lives will continue all our lives, until the day of Christ Jesus.
Give it time.