Pt. 2: Choose Life in the Tough Times
In Jacob’s darkest time, God appears to him in a vision and promises that He will bless Jacob. However, the blessing does not arrive in an immediate cure-all form. On the run from his vengeful brother, Jacob seeks refuge in the territory of Laban, his uncle. Over the next two decades, Jacob toils for his uncle, steadily increasing the population of Laban’s flocks. In return for his labor, Laban cheats Jacob.
After increasing Laban’s herds, Laban promises to pay Jacob any wage he names. Jacob says he wants all of the spotted and striped sheep, and Laban agrees but then discreetly gives them to his sons. Jacob is left with the worst, weakest sheep that Laban owns.
Just because God promised Jacob greatness did not mean that he awoke from the vision to find riches, land, and a multitude of descendants. Jacob put in the work to receive the blessing, including enduring mistreatment from his own family members. Ironically, Jacob is cheated in ways similar to his own deceit of his father and brother.
Many of us in recovery are intimately familiar with Jacob’s plight. We find ourselves on the mountaintop with God, believing for salvation from our addictions and struggles, but within a day or two, we feel the cravings again. This is where our work begins.
Though God does sometimes provide immediate victory over our struggles, the fight against addiction is often not won in an instant. Instead, we overcome our sin through a war of choices, bolstered the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Each decision we make is a battle in our long conflict against temptation, and because the Spirit dwells with us, we have the opportunity to triumph over our own evil qualities.
Speaking through Moses, God promises the Israelites peace and prosperity if they choose to obey him: “I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live— by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by clinging to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a).
In the moments where we are confronted with the hardship of obedience, especially when the world plays dirty, like Laban did, we must remind ourselves that God is placing the choice between life and death before us. Consider a person who is recovering from a pornography addiction. He or she may not have any desire to view explicit material, but suddenly, a triggering commercial plays during the TV show he or she is watching. Suddenly, he or she feels an overwhelming urge to watch porn. In those moments, we must choose to lean into God’s promise of something greater and more satisfying than a momentary indulgence: life itself.
Prayer is our greatest weapon in these battles. First, we must immediately cry out to God and ask Him to deliver us from temptation. Paul gives us encouragement for these moments, saying, “No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). As we lean into His love and commitment to give us life, the Lord will certainly deliver us from our sinful desires.
Equally important to prayer is scripture memorization. In the Psalms, David says, “I keep your word close, in my heart, so that I won’t sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). As we internalize the Word of God, we equip ourselves with the same weaponry Jesus used to combat Satan during His temptation in the wilderness. Memorization keeps God’s promises and lessons readily accessible when we are tempted to settle for temporary satisfaction in our sinful desires.
One of the most encouraging takeaways from Jacob’s story is that God sometimes uses our struggles and hardships to fulfill His promises. After Laban cheats Jacob out of his herd, Jacob breeds the remaining sheep in such a way that the resulting offspring are the strongest in the pack. Because he responds to a struggle in a wise way, God blesses Jacob with an inheritance vastly superior to what he would have received in the initial agreement.
When we lean into God during the tough times, He often honors our obedience through the very situations in which we struggle. As you find yourself in the midst of a battle with your addiction, take a moment to pray and ask the Lord to fulfill His promises to you. Then, as you respond to the challenge, remember that God has placed life and death before you, so choose life.