The False Gods Your Students May Be Worshiping
Addictions ruin lives. I don’t think anyone would argue with that statement, yet we sit and watch helplessly as our young men and women put on the shackles of addiction. During my time in Colorado, I spent numerous hours with young men whose lives were wrecked by addiction. The reasons behind their addictions were all different, but their paths from addiction to disaster were shockingly similar. Before we discover how to help our students facing the struggle with addictions, lets learn about addictions themselves.
Psychology Today defines addiction as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health” (emphasis mine).
As harsh as this may sound, addiction is idolatry. God commanded that we have “no other gods before” him (Ex. 20:3). When we’re addicted to something, we seek to satisfy that desire before anything else—including God.
After God freed the Israelite slaves from the Egyptians, they turned from him and created a golden calf to worship. Why would they do that? Had they not just experienced the power and grace of God when they walked out of Egypt?
God’s chosen people were afraid. They knew God’s promises to them, but they still felt insecure camped before Mount Sinai with a God they could not see. So, like many of our students, they grasped for anything they could control.
Regardless of the event that originally triggers an addiction, the ultimate goal is control. The alcoholic who drinks to numb the pain of the past does so to “control” the pain. The chronic gambler who invests money into games of chance does so to “control” her economic fortunes. The porn addict who journeys to a fantasy world does so to “control” his sexual life. Addictions never start as addictions; they begin with the lie that we are in control.
“Addiction is idolatry.”
We are all at least vaguely aware of the major addictions tempting our students. The way you confront these addictions in your students’ lives or your own life will depend on how obvious, dangerous, and socially acceptable the addictions are.
These are addictions that can be ingested, such as meth, acid, heroin, nicotine, alcohol, and sugar. Drug and alcohol addictions are arguably the most recognizable form of addiction. There are many healthcare and social organizations dedicated to helping those struggling with drug addictions. Nicotine in the form of tobacco use is seen as bad for your health (though still widely used), but e-cigarettes and vaping have kept nicotine addiction as socially acceptable as ever.
Other substance addictions do not receive the same publicity: eating disorders, particularly chronic overeating with or without purging (vomiting), and addiction to caffeine. Students struggling with overeating or a sugar addiction are in a particularly difficult situation because their obsession is readily available, (since, you know, eating is actually crucial for survival). That presents unique temptations and challenges.
These include sexual addictions like pornography and other addictions such as gambling, work, and even exercise. Some behavioral addictions (like pornography, work, and exercise addictions) are tragically normalized or even glorified in our society, making it increasingly difficult to challenge these behaviors. Like eating, exercise and work are important aspects of a well-rounded lifestyle. Therefore moderation, rather than complete cessation, is the goal when dealing with such addictions.
“Addictions never start as addictions; they begin with the lie that we are in control.”
Attachment to Ideologies
These last addictions are often referred to as “attachments.” They include fame, power, wealth, attention, and success. Attachments to ideologies are particularly difficult to broach with a student due to the student’s lack of awareness. Usually an individual cannot see these types of obsessions taking root in their own life without a trusted person pointing them out.
In some ways, we were created for longing: “Ultimately, our yearning for God is the most important aspect of our humanity, our most precious treasure; it gives our existence meaning and direction” (Gerald May, Addiction and Grace). We were created to long for our Creator. We are unfulfilled in and of ourselves.
This emptiness can lead us to seek out other, sometimes destructive forms of fulfillment. We see this in our own lives and those of our students in the form of attachments and addictions. This is why the fight for freedom is so important. Our students cannot truly know the fullness and freedom they can have—for which Christ died—if they are bogged down by the shame of addiction.
In my next post, I’ll cover some crucial steps to helping any student out of an addiction.
About the Author
The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry… Read More