Our addictions are not escapes from crisis; they are the traps that keep us there.
The week that most states began shelter-in-place as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, alcohol sales increased by 55%. It’s not surprising. The prospects of being a victim of a rapidly spreading disease are frightening. The potential loss of income is depressing. We are in a drought of good news.
When it becomes too much to take, we look for a way of escape.
The Prophet Joel is speaking into a situation similar to our own. Their economy was wrecked by an insect (Joel 1:4). Something you can only see with a microscope disrupted ours. But in both situations, people turn to alcohol as a way of escape. Joel addresses it.
Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth.Joel 1:5
Alcohol is not our only way of escape. Our addictions come in all shapes and sizes. Science shows that our brain activity and chemical reactions to cell phones are similar to those of substance abuse. We can get as hooked on a video game as we can a pain killer. Some people go online to spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need, and others smoke weed.
One we laugh about. The other we look down upon. But both provide a false way of escape from a crisis that becomes a trap to keep us there.
In Joel’s situation, what the drunkard wanted was in short supply. We have plenty. Either way, the message is the same. Awake!
A crisis is not a time to dull the pain, but to get in touch with it. Joel was sending a strong message that burying yourself in a bottle may curb the emotion, but it doesn’t help the situation. You can get drunk but the crops are still gone, the drought persists, and an enemy is gathering at the border. The only difference is that now you’re drunk.
So how are you coping with the coronavirus? Shopping? Gaming? Smoking? Drinking? Eating?
Is the coronavirus going away?
The problem with false ways of escape is that they become traps that keep us in crisis. One day this virus will all be a distant memory. Where will you be? In debt? Unproductive? Buzzed? Drunk? Still eating yourself to death?
Jesus warned us that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a). This moment is not about the coronavirus. This crisis is about the rest of your life.
The thief stole your paycheck – TEMPORARY.
The thief wants to destroy your life – PERMANENT.
Awake! Discern the difference! Seek God. Seek help!
The thief wants to trap you here. When coronavirus is long gone, we don’t want to find you at the bottom of a bottle.
God does not call us to cope but to come to Him. As Joel explains in chapter 2, God wants to use crisis not to ruin our lives but to redeem us into something better than we’ve ever been before (see John 10:10b). Awaken!