Over my years in active addiction, I had ongoing doubts about my security as a believer. Mostly, I pushed them away, ignored them, or explained them away in the name of grace. In recovery now, I feel more security than ever, but these questions plague many believing addicts: Does my behaviour make my faith invalid or ‘dead’? Am I trying to fool God by continuing in my behaviour? Am I willfully sinning?
I’m not interested in solving or even entering the ‘once saved always saved’ debate here. My goal is simply to give reflections helpful for Christians struggling with and in addiction.
There are two extremes we can go to, I think.
On one extreme, we can be overly fearful that our behaviour invalidates us from the love of God. We really can, and should, take comfort in the fact that, whatever just holy and true anger God does have for sin, including our sins, the ‘big picture of Grace’ is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and yes addicts. I am guided hugely here by the parable of the Prodigal Son (or the Prodigal God). What we see is not ‘cheap grace’ where the Father winks at the sons selfish and excessive behaviour and choices. We would rightly read in between the lines of this parable and see pain and sadness in the Father, when his son takes the money and runs to waste it. But the point is that the Father’s love persists constantly through the whole story, waiting for the young son to return, rejoicing lavishly when he does, and also extending to the bitter older son to reconcile with his brother. Our worst behaviour cannot extinguish the fire of God’s love.
On the other extreme, it is possible, in my understanding, to have a faith that is entirely built on a lie. It is possible to sin, and keep on sinning, without the slightest hint of repentance and desire to change. To sin ‘with a high hand’, in deliberate defiance of God’s incredible love. This is dangerous, and I think it’s right to say that God will not be mocked. God ‘gives us over’ to our course of life, for God will not force his path upon us.
The point here is not to give license to sin, but to enable struggling addicted believes to know that, so long as they at least have a hint of evidence of the conviction and grieving of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they can rightly see themselves as daughters and sons of God. No doubt, daughters and sons who need to ‘come to their senses’ and come home, but daughters and sons, no less.