You’ve heard dramatic stories of how they went from being a drag addict and a convict to where they are now clean and sober, those relationships that had been broken (parents, children, spouses) are mended, and how they are serving and making a difference all because of Jesus.
To be honest, these stories make me nervous.
First, they make me nervous because not everyone’s broken story has a happy ending like this. There are lots of people who live miserable lives and struggle with their addictions and brokenness throughout the rest of their lives even though they receive Jesus.
But the biggest reason why stories like this make me nervous is that they don’t describe the brutal journey of transformation.
Very rarely, will God zap someone so that they go from being an addict one moment to being completely clean the next moment with never another desire to be high.
Can God do that? Absolutely. Has God done that? People say so. But I’ve not seen it. People I work and live with struggle with addiction. Addiction ruins them. Even when they love Jesus, the addiction ruins them. And those who have beaten their addictions, they have scars all over their bodies and souls to prove how excruciating and difficult transformation is.
These stories of transformation make it seem like God did all the transforming, and people can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with them or wrong with God because God’s not transforming them in the same way.
Why isn’t God zapping me? Why do I still struggle?
Most of the time, transformation works as teamwork. God desires all to be transformed. And God gives us that possibility.
AND, there were and are mighty struggles where the recovering addict and criminal battles with all his might against his flesh that wants to get high. There were and will continue to be mighty battles against the flesh that wants to be destructive and violent. But because they battle to submit and obey the will of God instead of the will of the flesh, over time, over much battling, and over many scars they become the people God calls and created them to be. God eventually changes our character, our desires, our addictions. And, in time, we become who God created us to be.
But this was excruciatingly difficult.
And they are absolutely changed by the love of God. And they will be the first to tell you that without God they couldn’t have done it.
Yes, God did it. Yes, God changed them. But they worked their butts off so God could change them.
God didn’t zap them because God is rarely in the business of zapping.
Transformation is hard and brutal work.
But God absolutely changes people and changes our world.
And thank God for that!!!