Chapter 1-- Faith, Hope and Fearless



          We all have addictions in some degree.  In addition to the "harmful" ones of drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling and pornography, it might be sugar, caffeine, overeating, overspending, social media, video games, co-dependency or adrenaline rushes.   

Can you think of any others?

         
          Addiction may seem too strong a term to some of us. The woman who is serving so faithfully at church--surely, there's nothing wrong with that. And who can blame the man who stays long at the office to provide for his family? We may look forward to the next meal more than most people do. Our hobbies can be a nuisance sometimes, but to call any of this an addiction seems to stretch the word a bit too far.  What happens if we give it up? Let go of the things that provide us with a sense of security? Or comfort? Or excitement, or relief? We soon discover the tentacles of attachment deep in our souls. There will be an anxiousness; We begin to think about work or food or golf even more. Withdrawal sets in. If we can make it a week or two out of sheer willpower, we find a sadness growing in our soul, a deep sense of loss. Lethargy and a lack of motivation follow. 
           
How DO addictions begin?

Sometimes, it is just an experiment.  Many times there are emotional triggers. Feelings get hurt. We feel mental or physical pain.   We turn to something that we think will numb the  pain.  We are under attack.  The closer we get to the Lord and following his plan, the more we are bombarded. 

Have you ever tried to let go of an addiction?  How hard is it?


         Addictions to harmful substances and harmful behaviors not only hurt our loved ones but us as well. All addictions appear to cause physical damage in the control and pleasure areas of the brain. There is visible shrinkage in the frontal control areas, not unlike traumatic brain injury. This has been well documented in both drug and "natural" addictions such as over-eating and sexual addictions. Evidence of actual DNA change caused by addiction helps us understand that recovery is a cellular battle across the entire body, and not just a matter of will power and morality. Addiction is a collision with the adversary, producing not only a spiritual wound, but causing physical damage to the brain, to the DNA, as well as to personal and social relationships. However, recent studies show that recovery with healing allows the brain to return to a more normal state.  
   
          Our addictions are our own worst enemies. They enslave us with chains that are of our own making and yet that, paradoxically, are virtually beyond our control. Addiction also makes idolaters of us all, because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another. 

Below are some of the feelings that many spouses and family members or friends of addicts experience:
—Fear that our loved ones will never get better.
—Fear of the possibility that they may die physically as well as spiritually.
—Fear of the harm they might do to others around them, especially children.
—Physical weariness caused by sleeplessness, stress, and anxiety.
—Confusion about why our loved ones behave so irrationally and why nothing we say or do seems to make any difference.
—Loss of trust and confidence as a result of their lying, deception, and manipulation.
—Shame and hopelessness as we improperly assume responsibility for their choices.
—Anger that we have been betrayed and hurt by our loved ones.
—Loneliness and isolation as we try to keep their addictions a secret to protect others.
—Pain and hurt associated with a spouse’s physical or virtual infidelity.
—Bitterness over financial challenges as we deal with excessive spending, treatment programs, legal expenses, fines, or destruction of property.
—Fear that continued addictions somehow reflect our own lack of faith or inability to access God’s help on their behalf. Many times, a spouse develops co-dependent behaviors as she tries to change her husband's behavior.  She believes that her happiness and peace of mind are dependent on his recovery. Many people have co-dependent behavior as a primary addiction.  They view their happiness as dependent on other people.
—Fear of consequences resulting from potential incarceration or other legal issues.
Each of these concerns is valid, and with faith and support from others can be worked through with care and time. God can help us through any difficult situation, if we will let Him.

What other feelings have YOU experienced as a result of your loved one’s addiction?


          We may wonder if God knows  what we are going through as our loved ones struggle with their addictions.  We may erroneously feel we have to be perfect to qualify for God’s help. In spite of our efforts, there may be times when we feel alone and that God is not hearing our pleas. However, He is there blessing us even when things may appear hopeless.  He will never abandon us.  

What will you do if you come to feel that God is ignoring you or doesn’t care about your situation anymore?


          The Lord always provides comfort, guidance, and strength, even when we may not realize it. These subtle and tender evidences of God’s love and support come in a variety of ways; for example--through the helping hands of others or during lessons, talks, or music that speak directly to us. At other times, an idea or impression helps us gain greater understanding and direction and feel increased love. 
   
What would you say to help someone who feels that God is not supporting them?

           Our loved ones’ addictions can threaten our hopes.  Many of us feel that we are just hanging on, clinging to God out of habit, reflex, or desperation. It can be hard to move forward through the pain of broken promises and threatened dreams. The choice we face is whether or not to have faith in God, even when we can’t see how God’s promises will be kept.

How have your expectation, hopes and dreams been impacted by the choices of your loved one?


          As we exercise our faith in Him, the Lord will give us strength beyond our own. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). When we remember that our Savior is there to help us, our simple faith will grow and increase. “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions” (Jacob 3:1).

        

           For some reason we keep forgetting that Jesus, in the Gospels, is operating in enemy territory. We project into the Gospel stories a pastoral backdrop, the quaint charm of a Middle Eastern travel brochure. In our mind we see picturesque villages, bustling markets, smiling children—and Jesus wandering through it all like a son come home from college.  We forget the context of his life and mission. His story begins with genocide—the massacre of the innocents, Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus by ordering the systematic execution of all young boys around Bethlehem.   Who could bear seeing this included in a Nativity scene?   
          
          God  sends an angel to warn Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for
the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. The little family flees the country under cover of darkness, like fugitives. The Father’s strategy is intriguing—surely God could have simply taken Herod out. Or sent angels to surround the holy family. Why must they run for their lives? It ought to make us think twice about how God goes about his plans in this world. Surely we see that Jesus was a hunted man?
          Our enemy the adversary is a thief. Of all the precious things he has stolen from our hearts, his worst act of treachery has been to steal our future from us-- all the magic and promise and wonder of the happily ever after. Few of us live with hope. To those without faith, he has whispered, "Your story ends with an accident, and then . . . there is nothing. That is as good as it gets."

          Small wonder people drink too much, eat too much, watch too much TV, basically check out. If they allow themselves to feel the depth of their actual longing for life and love and happiness, but have no hope that life will ever come . . . it's just too much to bear.

          To those who search in faith for the ending of the Story, our enemy has whispered an even more diabolical lie. It is harder to dispel because it is veiled in religious imagery: "Heaven will be a never-ending church service in the sky." All those images of clouds and harps, singing one glorious hymn after another, forever and ever, amen. We were given this whole wondrous world of beauty, intimacy, and adventure, in the life to come. But, Seriously now--we will be sent to church forever because that's better somehow? There is no hope in that. That's not what's written on our hearts.  Our  we will be sent to church forever because that's better somehow?  There is no hope in that. That's not what's written on our hearts.

  Our pictures of Heaven simply do not move us; they are not moving pictures.   Our pictures of Heaven are dull; therefore, so is our faith, our hope, and our love of Heaven.

          If our pictures of heaven are to move us, they must be moving. So go ahead-dream a little. Use your imagination. Picture the best possible ending. If that isn't heaven, something better is. When Paul says, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9), he simply means we cannot out-dream God. What is at the end of our personal journeys? Something beyond our wildest imagination. But if we explore the secrets of our heart in the light of the promises of Scripture, we can discover clues.   There is in the heart of all of us a longing for intimacy, for beauty, and for adventure.  THAT sounds like heaven ….being close to our loved ones, enjoying breathtaking beauty of all kinds and being involved in one fun adventure after another.

          Is it better to stay in the safety of the camp than venture forth on a wing and a prayer? Who knows what dangers lie ahead? This was the counsel of the ten faithless spies sent in to have a look at the Promised Land when the Children of Israel came out of Egypt. Only two of the twelve, Joshua and Caleb, saw things differently. Their hearts were captured by a vision of what might be and they urged the people to press on. But their voices were drowned by the fears of the other ten spies and Israel wandered for another forty years. Without the anticipation of better things ahead, we will have no heart for the journey.


What do YOU hope heaven is like?
         

Personal Learning and Application

Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, insights, and plans to implement what you learn. As the needs and circumstances in your life change, repeating these answers will provide you with new insights.  Go back to the questions in the chapter.  Write your answers.  Each time you go through a chapter, your answers might change.

1.  How can we increase the measure of the Spirit in our lives?   (Study Isaiah 40:31).



2.  What are your greatest fears?


3.  What does Faith mean to you?


4.  Many witnesses in heaven and in earth testify of God’s existence. What evidences of God and His love have you experienced?


5.  A curious warning is given to us in Peter's first epistle. Study 1 Peter 3:15.  There he tells us to be ready to give the reason for the hope that lies within us to everyone who asks. What if someone asked? Write about the REASON for your hope.







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