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By Mark Shaw

During the past year of 2020, I observed an unusual irony: people ran from a physical illness while running to mental illnesses of all types. The Coronavirus, which caused a very real physical illness called COVID-19, gave most of us great concern in March of 2020, and now in January of 2021 most of us have come to respect it as it has reportedly taken over 300,000 lives in the USA at the time of this writing. This very sad plague in our country has especially impacted the elderly population of persons older than 70 years of age. Love for others, along with fear of death (or just fear of illness) motivated many of us, myself included, to run from this physical illness by wearing masks, shutting down restaurants and other establishments, social distancing, remaining in isolation, etc. The good-will phrase of “Have a nice day,” was quickly replaced ad nauseum by, “Stay safe,” as if I were responsible for controlling whether or not I could safely avoid contracting the virus. 

LACKING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

But the irony is that many people have been running toward, and continue to run toward, a variety of so-called mental illnesses rather than running from them. Let us consider one area of mental illness to illustrate my point: the so-called brain disorders of alcoholism and addiction. In self-help and “addiction medicine” circles, these are considered to be diseases and viewed as real illnesses even though there is not scientific evidence supporting these theories. 

Well-intentioned professionals believe by faith (not scientific evidence) that their clients have a mental illness, or disorder, labeled addiction or alcoholism. And by faith, these souls suffer with the consequences of their so-called disorder but is their belief founded upon truth? Should they believe, by faith, that this theory of disordered brain circuitry or chemistry is the cause of their behavior just because professionals say it is? The answer in Scripture is “no.” The Bible disagrees with the definition of alcoholism and addiction as a disorder or disease and calls this issue a sinful desire problem that resides in one’s heart motivations for which the person is held responsible. We are all held responsible for the actions that proceed out of (or start within) the heart (Mark 7:20-23). 

WHY THE BELIEF?

So why do people run toward and claim a mental illness that supposedly lasts a lifetime? The answer is simple. Rather than believe that we are sinners responsible to God for our seemingly inexplicable wrong choices, all of us would like to believe that another problem (other than our heart desires) is responsible. We choose to believe that our mental illness causes us to have wrong desires that produce wrong behavioral choices. At first, this might sound like a loving explanation that claims to be more compassionate than the biblical definitions of the sinful heart, but it is misguided. It is misguided because the Bible teaches that hell is an everlasting reality for those whose lives are characterized by drunkenness (among many other sins). 

THE GOOD NEWS

But here’s the very good news (aka the Gospel): When sinners take responsibility for their sinful heart desires, words, and choices, only then, through repentance and faith exclusively in Christ Jesus alone, they are forgiven 100% of the time. That’s why I emphasize the importance of calling addiction and alcoholism by their biblical names of idolatry and drunkenness – because biblical words by the power of the Holy Spirit bring conviction at the heart level leading to repentance, faith in Christ, and eternal freedom. Hell can be avoided and heaven gained through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  

In John 14:6,

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The truth here is that by re-labeling the sins of idolatry and drunkenness as a mental illness, a disease, or even a disorder of the brain, there is no repentance offered (or required). But God is not mocked and His Word states that the sinful heart desires that motivated the choices to use drugs and/or alcohol are the problem and He has provided the solution in His Son. 

“BUT JESUS HEALS OUR DISEASES, RIGHT?” 

Jesus sometimes heals our diseases and sometimes chooses not to do so. God did not intend for us to live in these sin-stained bodies on earth as our forever home but plans to give His children a glorified, renewed body for everlasting life. 

As I wrote already – but it is worth repeating, Jesus doesn’t always heal our diseases in this life but Jesus always forgives our sins – 100% of the time! Therefore, you and I need to embrace the truth that addiction (or idolatry) is a spiritual heart issue. To misunderstand this truth and mislabel idolatry as a disease by the world’s standards is to lead a person to believe wrongly that they don’t need 100% of Jesus when they absolutely do need Him for the forgiveness of sin! 

At The Addiction Connection, we believe the truth of the Gospel in God’s Word. We proclaim that Jesus is the answer for all addiction issues because they are sinful heart issues requiring His forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power to overcome.

MENTAL ILLNESS IS REAL 

Please understand that there are mental illnesses that are organic in nature so that’s NOT what we are talking about in this short blog. What I am addressing is the theory that volitional, behavioral choices to use all types of illicit and legal substances that cause drunkenness are labeled as a disease/disorder. This theory is man-made instead of derived from God’s Word. In addition, this theory points a person away from his/her responsibility for personal choices when no organic cause is proven. Oh, and remember that scientists are looking everywhere for an organic cause, or for DNA, or for anything to prove the issue is rooted in genetics and has a physical origin but they have yet to find the evidence for it. 

DON’T MISS THE IRONY!

The irony is evident. Some people will use drastic, life-altering measures to run away from a physical illness that is truly life-threatening for some in our society (like those ages 65 and above). The majority of people experience a temporary illness and it is reported that 95% of people survive an infection of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, so many are running toward a so-called mental illness that is commonly believed to be lifelong. This is what caused me to write this commentary. 

Maybe, just maybe, the reasons for running from the physical illness of the Coronavirus and running toward the mental illness label the world has for addictive choices are the same: fear, and more specifically, fear of death. In regards to Covid-19, physical death is feared; yes, any viral infection can lead to death as the flu has been killing people for years. In regards to addictive choices, the thought of facing a holy God is a fearful thought so it may be more appealing to embrace a mental illness for addiction that excuses the sinful heart desires that produce the behaviors associated with an addiction. But God is the deciding Judge and nowhere in Scripture does He allow for the sins of drunkenness and idolatry to be excused by man-made labels. 

CONCLUSION

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we live in a dangerous world where it is impossible to “stay safe.” However, we can as Scripture implores us, “stay sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6, Titus 2:2).

So the next time someone struggling with addiction asks you: “Why am I an addict? Why did God make me this way?” Kindly tell them the truth in love, that God actually cares for the addicted, and He alone has provided the only way of escape for sinners – through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. 

If you feel daunted by the task of reaching the addicted on your own, we are here to help you. Check out the Quick Links below!


Thanks for Reading!

The Addiction Connection is a network of ministries who offer hope and healing for those struggling with addiction of any kind. Our network of encouraging resources, ministries, and biblical programs that stretch across America and the world will always point people to Jesus Christ for answers.  Members of our team are available for direction and wisdom for any of your addiction-related questions and needs. 

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