This week, I sat with a circle of women as we talked about what it means to have liberty, according to the promise of God. I have come from a long line of addiction, so I very much understand what it feels like to not have liberty. I have been enslaved to all kinds of passions and cravings and substances in my 42 years, and the fight to get free from them has been a deep and difficult journey. Thankfully, God has always intended for me to be free, and so has led me into liberty. Now that I’ve tasted it, I am passionate about sharing the reality of it with others.
The truth is, we can become enslaved to anything, because the human heart, mind and body are wired to create habits and patterns out of anything we do in repetition. When we reach for something pleasant, in order to ease a discomfort we feel, a pathway is created in our brains that becomes the “go=to” spot for future means of comfort. Our bodies become dependent on certain actions or substances that we have comforted ourselves with previously, and our hearts become hooked on the relief they bring in times of stress or emotional/physical/mental anguish. The things we reach for become desires that produce cravings for more. Many of you probably know this cycle all too well.
But what I fear we don’t know well enough is the result of such enslavement to our cravings and addictions. We learn to live with them and they become our normal, but there is a steep price to pay for a normalcy which God never intended for us.
In Numbers chapter 11, the Bible tells a story that always chills me to the bone. God has led His people out of 400 years of slavery in a foreign land. While there, they literally worked as slaves to build someone else’s kingdom and were grossly mistreated in the process. However, their compensation was that they ate well and had a measure of security in their daily routines. So they learned to be content in their slavery.
Sound familiar? So often I see people entrenched in habits that have become comfortable, although it’s obvious that the reality they are living isn’t good for them. Because it is the nature of slavery, they have given up fighting and surrendered to the reality they know, and have settled with the benefits they glean from such a lifestyle.
A sad but classic example is that which I so often witness among the homeless community, who profess to be “free” in their lifestyle, though it is obvious they are dependent on begging in order to survive. Another common example is the woman addicted to unhealthy relationships, who has learned to accept mistreatment in exchange for the “benefit” of companionship and the feeling it lends to her insecure heart. I have been both homeless and addicted to unhealthy relationships, so I don’t speak from a place of judgment, but from compassionate and brokenhearted identification with such bondage.
Returning to the story of God’s people, who had been slaves for four decades and become somewhat content in their slavery, we see the destructive effects of such contentment after God delivered them and brought them into their new reality of liberty. Once free from Pharaoh’s rule and brought into the safety and provision of God, the people discovered that the real issue in their slavery was not Pharaoh, but the desires of their own hearts.
As God led them into freedom, they began to complain about the provisions He sent for them. Though God fed them miraculously each day with food He rained down from Heaven, what their hearts actually craved was the food they ate while they were enslaved. Rather than trusting God to lead them into greater freedom and a life of fullness, to change their desires so they could want what He wanted to give them, they defaulted to their old desires, and longed to return to their slavery, in order to once again taste the benefits they knew there.
It seems preposterous…unless you have ever been addicted to anything. Then it becomes an almost scary truth, doesn’t it? Because it is the story of the human heart: we crave what feels good, no matter the cost. We cry out for the comfort and satisfaction of those things that are literally destroying us, because they are familiar and easy, and we have learned to settle for them. We have learned to trust them.
The story in Numbers has a tragic twist to it. Because the people whom God set free complained about wanting to return to their former place of bondage so they could taste the familiar comfort of the food they ate there, God gave them what their hearts lusted after. He didn’t send them back to the land of slavery, but He let their hearts become enslaved in the land of freedom and promise. He sent the meat they cried for, and as the meat was between their teeth, a plague struck them. Psalm 106:15 says He gave them their request, and sent leanness into their souls. In fact, the name of the place where their request was granted became known as Kibroth Hattaavah, which is literally translated “Graves of Craving.”
In other words, their bellies were full and their temporary appetites satisfied, but their souls became sick with starvation.
How many times have we known this reality in our own lives, dear Women of Breakthrough? How many times have we craved what we know is not good for us, simply because of the familiar comfort it brings? How often have we returned to the things we have sworn we would never return to, because we give in to the cry of our hearts for immediate relief from some discomfort or pain? And how many times have we experienced the deadly consequence of sick and starving souls that remain deeply dissatisfied?
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, God has promised us so much more! He is holding out the promise of liberty to His daughters, and desiring to lead us out of slavery, forever. Whether it is alcohol, drugs, prescription pain meds, sexual relationships, codependency, diet and exercise and the pursuit of a physical image that gains us attention and affection, shopping, food, gambling, cigarettes…or any other thing which satisfies our temporary need for fulfillment, God is knocking at the door of our hearts and seeking to become a greater fulfillment.
While we partake of those things mentioned above – which only satisfy our bodies momentarily – we are starving our souls to death. We are living in slavery and, if I can speak the hard truth, destined for dying that way. Without God, and without ever seeing the promises He has in store for us. This is nothing to take lightly. The Bible warns us that, whatever we are enslaved to is our master. We cannot claim to belong to God and yet live enslaved to something else. In the end, only one will claim the rights to our soul.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, now is the time for freedom! Now is the time to cry out to God for deliverance from any and everything your heart has become dependent upon for comfort, relief and satisfaction. The good news is that God is about to move powerfully on your behalf, and will lead you into the fullness of deep satisfaction in Him alone. The difficult news is that you will have to make the choice to follow Him into that life of fullness, or you will choose to give in to the cravings of your heart and give up all that He has designed for you. Because you can’t choose both.
I have tasted and seen that, truly, God is so good! Better than anything I ever reached for to soothe my aching heart. But there was a journey into this place which required deep trust and momentary, choice by choice dependence. That journey is one which God is inviting you into today, and one He promises to walk you through.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, liberty is yours in Christ. Will you reach for it, instead of the old, familiar comforts that have kept you in your grave? It’s time to come out! And I am dancing over that grave with the declaration, the proclamation of your freedom from any and all addictions and enslaving passions. Because I know this is a reality which God is able to bring you into. And because I was not destined to know this alone. I long for you, dear Woman of Breakthrough, dear Sister of mine, to join me in this wonderful freedom, in this dance of celebration for the freedom of all God’s beloved Women of Breakthrough.
May we arise and come forth, and may our souls delight in God as they were created to! May we become a company of women dancing over the graves of our former cravings, and declaring the goodness of the God Who has called us out!