By Will Dole
In Psalm 42:1-3 King David said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’”
David was a man who longed for God, comparing his thirst for God to that of a deer dying of thirst. He is broken to the point of despair. His longing for God is so great that he cries day and night. Now that is a fervent desire for God.
I am part of a men’s Bible study that meets weekly. This past week our leader made the comment, almost in passing, that we ought to be addicted to God. While the comment was not meant to spark a discussion, that’s exactly what it did. This group of men, ranging in age from 17 to 59, has a lot of experience with addiction. Bondage to alcohol, sex, drugs, pornography and various other addictions have left a mark on these men’s lives. So, the concept of becoming addicted to God was an intriguing thought in a group like this.
The more I have pondered this word picture, the more I like it. Yet, it isn’t perfect. As do most analogies, at some points it breaks down, but in general, it enlightens how we ought to relate to our God. I found three key correlations between addiction and following Christ.
1. People who aren’t addicted can’t make sense of it. Ever notice that addiction appears foolish to those not experiencing it? We have difficulty making sense of a loved one struggling with alcoholism. We can easily see the cause and its devastating effects, and we come to the reasonable conclusion that the addiction is a problem. We understand that it is simply illogical to continue on such a destructive path. So, if we are addicted to following Christ, it makes sense that unbelievers will see our actions as absurd in the same way we might consider the ways of an alcoholic absurd. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-19: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’”
Few would look at the life of a true believer and say, “That makes sense. I need to do that. Let me lay aside my goals, priorities, my wealth, and receive no earthly reward for it. What a great idea!” It doesn’t make sense, because unless we have been given—by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit—eyes to see the glory of Christ and the insignificance of all else (Philippians 3:8), a life transformed by the Gospel appears foolish.
2. It doesn’t happen overnight. Addictions are not instantaneous, generally, and most people do not set out to become addicted to something. It begins as a simple, conscious decision to try something to see if it satisfies. It may not even be something we enjoy in the beginning. We might be merely trying to fit in, but as time goes on, it becomes something we need and our desire for it builds. Take the way most people become addicted to caffeine, for example. We grow accustomed to the caffeine buzz and in time may not even notice it, but when we forget our coffee or Red Bull in the morning, we realize later—around noon—how severely we miss it. This was not true when we first began consuming the drug, but our reliance on it grew steadily from day one. After a while it becomes necessary to our daily function, as was David’s desire for God in the above Psalm. Whereas a new believer may not experience thirst at all if he misses a day or two of communion with God, as one deepens in his relationship, the longer we go without communion with God, the more intense the thirst for Him.
3. The more we get, the more we want. Anyone who has ever had an addiction will readily identify with this. We can quickly get to the point where a little bit no longer satisfies; we have an all-consuming desire for more. As it relates to God, we might echo the words of David, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1 ESV). Addiction to God will lead us to longing for Him.
The word “addiction” is most useful for bringing to mind a very real picture of dependence. To be addicted to something is to rely on it, or to greatly value it. It is essentially an act of worship. Our fullest worship, or our strongest addiction, should be to our glorious God. Only then can we sing with David as he continues in the above Psalm, “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you” (Psalm 63:2-5).
And that point, about being fully satisfied, is where the addition analogy breaks down. Only when we long for God, will we find our satisfaction in Him.