I am reading a young adult novel entitled Incarceron. It is about a prison and some young people trying to escape. The prison was created by scientists who thought that if the prisoners were given just the right conditions they would live at peace and their prison would be a utopia.
It didn’t take long before conditions started to deteriorate and people started fighting amongst themselves and eventually broke off into factions that were at war with each other. Greed and selfishness created the hoarding of resources and stealing from each other.
Does this sound like real life to anyone?
As a Christian, I know that any plan by man to create peace is doomed to fail. Selfishness and greed, not to mention wanting to rule over others, is part of our sinful nature.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. – Romans 1:29-31
But I want to talk about a quote from the book.
“You live in a prison but you think it’s the whole world.”
The people trying to escape are descendants of the original inhabitants of the prison. It has been so long that they don’t know if the legend of the outside is true. For all they know the prison is all there is.
I think this can apply to anyone of us. Your prison could be an addiction, low self-esteem, obsession, an unhealthy or abusive relationship, or any number of unhealthy behaviors and thinking. It is all some of us have ever known, it’s normal to us. We don’t know there is a better way to live.
When I first read that in the book I immediately thought of all the lost time and lost opportunities to get to know and appreciate others. When I think back it makes me remember that it was no life at all. I had made a prison of my own making at the expense of a whole world of joyful experiences and the love of others. More importantly feeling the love of God.
I would spend at least half of my day feeding my addiction. Too many times it was my whole day. My addiction became my soul focus, it became my world. A very small world.
This is a common experience for a lot of addicts. I didn’t happen over night but my world became smaller and smaller. How many people have gone down the path of sexual addiction thinking they will find freedom. What is usually found is a world of emotional and sometimes physical pain. Broken relationships and hearts.
This is true for any addiction or other unhealthy behavior. Before you know it you can’t see your way out of the prison. Sometimes you don’t want to even try to stop. The known pain is easier than the unknown path out.
There is hope though. That hope is Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. “
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 14:18-21
Jesus quotes Isaiah in reference to himself. He came to set us free, to open our eyes. He came to give us the power to overcome our sins, our addictions.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. – Romans 6:6-7
We are no longer controlled by our sinful nature. This doesn’t mean that our addiction will simply disappear, even though in some rare cases it is that simple. But, God gives us the power to overcome our addictions.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13
It is still a process though. There are times it will seem you are taking one step forward and two steps back. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or you don’t have enough faith. We have been in our addictions so long that it takes time to change our thinking. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin and he had amazing faith.
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. – Romans 7:18-20
We are no longer slaves to sin but our sinful nature is still alive in us. Not only that but addiction changes our brains. As an addict, I have to reprogram my brain. I have to change the way I think so I can choose the freedom of sobriety over the prison of my addiction. I do this through the support of others, bible reading, prayer, meditation and recovery literature.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2
Overcoming addiction or any other harmful behavior won’t be easy but it is definitely worth it. If you take the steps necessary to overcome then you will experience a freedom that you never imagined. I never thought my life would be as full of joy as it is now.
I used to stay to myself and hardly say two words, now I blog my thoughts and I reach out to people on a regular basis. I used to feel unworthy of love, now I freely accept the love of God and others. I used to not care about others or be able to be happy for their successes and happiness, now I truly feel for others. I used to feel lonely and trapped, now I feel free and connected with the rest of the world around me.
I am no longer a prisoner!
I wish the same for anyone who is struggling with addiction.