It is right in our faces, isn’t it? We are consumers, and we buy into the lies, don’t we? This is a recurring message that we have bought into, “When you need relief, release, or escape, just ‘do it.'” In the case of this coffee shop’s latest ad campaign, it seems pretty benign (and no, I am not disparaging coffee or coffee shops). I am referring to the message, “Take comfort in rituals.” Isn’t that what we do, spiritually speaking?
I am talking about self-medication. It is different for most of us. After a rough day, some escape into alcohol. Some live vicariously through disproportionate video game play. Some of us indulge with food. Some with porn. Some with gambling. Some with spending money. Some with _______. And clearly, some of these practices are classically categorized as sin. Some have much more severe consequence than others. Some hurt others, while others hurt ourselves. Ultimately, however, in the context of this topic, they can all be “sinful”, as we are talking about how we use these behaviors to separate ourselves from God, and isn’t that how we define sin: anything that separates us from God? The message this ad campaign reinforces is that it is ok to self-medicate, particularly with coffee. It is a trivial analogy, I know.
It is important to note, that part of how we humans were created was to be able to protect ourselves with defense mechanisms, and sometimes, the ability to mentally disconnect from reality is necessary. But, the audience I am writing to is the Christian man. And to this man, I present the challenge, “When will you go to the Father with your needs, instead of trying to fill yourself with momentary pleasure that fades, and often times brings further pain and consequence? King David knew firsthand of the Father’s desire to minister to us in our weakness and need. Have we forgotten the words of the 23rd Psalm? David speaks of God giving him rest in “green pastures” and refreshment from “quiet waters” and a filling to the point of overflow. Was David speaking hypothetically, about how he hoped God would minister to him? No, my friend, he spoke authoritatively, because he spoke from experience.
No doubt, you read this and may think, “Well that was a long time ago!” Or, “He was a spiritual giant and a ‘man after God’s own heart.'” Guys, this is how he became that “man after God’s own heart!” David learned, forgot, and relearned, how to go to God in his weakness, in his terror, in his frustration, etc, instead of temporarily placating it through his own means. Remember what happened when he tried to fill his desires with Bathsheba? Talk about horrible consequences!!!
So, what is it going to be? More of the same? More self-medication? More escapism? More self-gratification? If so, to what end? You say you want to grow spiritually. Ok, then here is a critical step. Stop indulging yourself in fleeting moments of gratification by instead talking to the Heavenly Father in those moments, just like King David did. Tell Him what you are feeling, desiring, fighting, etc, and ask Him to pour into you instead. Remember what He said, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
This chapter in Scripture speaks of yielding before the Father and denying an opportunity for sin. It also speaks of allowing ourselves to be miserable, gloomy and mournful (emotionally honest) with Him, and Him uplifting us as a result. Brothers, this is exactly what King David practiced!!! This is the exact OPPOSITE of “taking comfort in rituals,” from a spiritual perspective. And, now that you “know” that this is a measure of maturity in Christ, now that you know this is the right thing to do, you have a choice to make. The closing verse from James 4 says, “Therefore, to the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
If there is any ritual we should be reaffirming in this context, it is the habit of constantly checking in with the Heavenly Father and telling Him what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what you need from Him. It is the ritual of being with Him throughout the mundane details of your day. Ever heard of the Christian classic, “Practice the Presence of God,” by Brother Lawrence? That is what we are talking about.
Take it from me-it is real. It is possible to be freed from self-medication. I can tell you from experience what this looks like: it is intimacy with God. No, I am not a spiritual giant. I am a regular follower of Jesus Christ, living in light of the destiny He created me for.
What about you?