It's Just a Choice Right?

Have you ever heard people try and defend addiction or eating disorders or prostitution or self-harm or suicidality (sadly this list can go on) – by saying it is a choice or that people choose to do drugs or it’s a phase that they can just get over or that the current struggle has nothing to do with the struggler’s past? I hear it all the time but my experiences show me otherwise. In nearly ten years of living with many, many people who have very, very serious struggles in their lives today, I would argue that I have not met one person who was not abused, neglected or mistreated, usually as a child but let that not dismiss the fact that adults experience and suffer from this too.

And it gets really overwhelming sometimes, to hear story after story about how broken our world can be. I write this blog today with a heavy heart after hearing, yet again, another tale of childhood sexual abuse. In times like this I need to pray and remember that our God is good. I remember this best through prayer.

Oh and it is so easy to get caught up in despair and discouragement when you walk out your front door and see people, a lot of whom you know and care about, trying to rid the pain that haunts them through really destructive methods. Or get a phone call informing you that your friend is in hospital again. Or when people you know and love and care about have reached a point of freedom and aren’t engaging in self destructing behaviours anymore only to reach a point of not knowing what to do with this new found freedom or with this love they have for once finally been able to receive, that the only thing that makes sense is to return to ways they know so well. And this cycle continues over and over and over. And you see people walk in death over and over and over. And it seems to never break; but then sometimes it does – and that sometimes is really motivating.

In all this pain, and brokenness, and despair you know what? God is still here. As I write that, I can actually hear my neighbour’s chuckle a little bit. To a lot of people, it doesn’t seem like God is here at all. To a lot of people it appears as if God is so far away that He has forgotten the DTES [downtown east side]and his people within. And I think that is why it is so important for Christians to move into these seemingly forgotten places. I have learned over the years that cycles get broken only when there is consistency in place to replace the only known consistency of the suffering. Self-destructive habits or behaviours are almost always, perhaps even just simply always, cyclical. The cycle offers assurance and security – you know what is happening next. You know that after this emotion or this event you can do this behaviour and you will feel this relief. But because a promiscuous lifestyle or a hit of dope or self-induced vomiting or an overdose of pills or a slash to the wrist or self-starvation or you-fill-in-the-blank, will always leave you empty, broken and lonely it really does only make sense to do it again to feel even that ounce of euphoria which keeps you locked in this cycle; this cycle that is damaging and that leads only to death. In a very scary world – that security is enough to keep going. The cycle also offers acceptance – you know it will always welcome you back and make you feel wanted, which I see all the time. I see people relapse, after months or even years, back into what is familiar because of fear. Fear that the people or situations in their life will change, because they always have, so they go back to what they know, this cycle that is always there and never changes. But you know what else, or who else never changes, God. We know this to be truth. We need to somehow show people that God never leaves, that He never changes. We need to offer a way out. We need to be there. We need to pray. We need to take someone by the hand, tear them out of the grips of destruction and bring them into the arms of Christ. Someone caught in a cycle will only feel safe leaving the cycle if there is a known place to go. They might test the waters a bit, putting one foot in this new place while keeping one foot securely fastened to the cycle. Building trust through relationship is sometimes something that takes years and years to build. So be there. Never give up. Wait with your hand stretched out so your friend can grab a hold of it and so you can usher them to the cross. It is what Jesus did for you.

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