I fell in love too young, got in too deep, and stayed down too long. When the relationship finally ended, I went in search of another, then another, then another. Each new relationship served to medicate the pain of the last.
I have never been addicted to substances, but from relationship cycles I understand addiction. We call these “process addictions,” and they mean being addicted to our own, naturally-occurring opiates. Falling in love gives a high; breaking up means withdrawal. Round and round and round and round . . .
Typical addiction cycles begin with an emotional wound. Something or someone breaks our hearts, terrifies our souls, and/or robs our dignity. We engage in a numbing, distracting substance or practice, feeling temporary relief. But consequences and hangovers come as raw nerves reawaken, screaming distress. We see the empty bottle of our numbing agent and that old, familiar black cloud of mingled guilt and shame rolls in and settles, deepening the distress until we turn again to our numbing ways, starting the cycle all over again. One thing leads to another such that it takes on a life of its own. We watch ourselves spiral, helpless to stop.
But it doesn’t have to end like this. While cycles tend to self-perpetuate, God can break them if we allow it. He does so at the point of guilt and shame, channeling them into true repentance. Rather than simply lament the consequences of our sin, we lament the sin itself. God’s Spirit redirects our myopic self-focus to the harm our habits inflict upon Him and his children. The sorrow of the world leads to death, but godly sorrow leads to repentance, a new heart, and a fresh start.
How have your addictive cycles affected you? How have they affected other people? Take a moment to consider this.
Now decide to allow God to transform your guilt and shame into lasting, ever-deepening repentance. Repentance is the most healing experience we can have. It doesn’t deepen guilt and shame, it resolves them. It teaches us we have no righteousness of our own. It leads us to place ourselves in God’s hands, where he can heal and transform us.
Dear God, give us lasting, ever-deepening repentance. Justifying ourselves is too much work. We fall down at your feet, broken by sin. Renew our spirits and fill us with Your Holy Spirit. Give us the joy that can only come from You. Thank you for these gifts., in Jesus’ name, amen.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12