“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but the endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality that we drink in every night…The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth…
For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable and almost incurable…If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God; it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. God did not create you for this.” John Piper, Hunger for God
I was so taken aback by the profoundness of this quote during church service that I actually got out my phone and took a picture of the words on the big screen. I could relate so wholly, even 7 years in recovery. It wasn’t that long ago that my spirit was so full on the emptiness of the world’s offerings that I was physically shaking with humble familiarity. Oh, how I know this emptiness.
After decades of wandering in the emptiness and dead-ends and addictions and disappointments, I was filled with the love of Jesus and he took away my addictions. I was leveled for months by his power and grace. I could be found weeping in bed, no longer from the depression, but by his awesomeness. I was made renewed; a new creature with new appetites and desires. After a life of searching for answers and healing, I’d encountered the Healer and he burned in me a passion to help those in bondage.
But the enemy, who stalks me (and you) relentlessly, witnessing my recovery, quickly changed the table dressing and instead of offering food and pills and nightmares and distractions apart from the Lord, he, in his ancient observations, started offering the traps of recovery. He’s cunning like that. No, he won’t push the old stuff; he’s got new stuff. Like an ancient drug dealer accustomed to dealing with addicts in recovery, he won’t try the front door. He tries the back door, the windows, and lurks in the crevices and nooks that haven’t yet been fortified yet.
If what we’re doing, however helpful and good and ministry-centered, if it isn’t directly from the Lord and in HIS timing, it will be our unraveling. If we focus on the healing instead of the Healer. If our mind is on the message of hope instead of the Messenger. And if our hearts, in all their collective efforts, aren’t praying more for salvation than for relief, we are nibbling at the world’s table again. Before we know it, we’re far off the path of being connected to Him and the emptiness sets in before we can say, “what the heck happened.”
Now more than ever, I’m aware that the battle isn’t over. Not for me. For you. And especially those in committed recovery. Stand firm, my friends.
“ Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8