I often meet with people enslaved to their addictions in varying degrees. Sometimes the degree of enslavement is extreme – so much so, that the following proverb comes to mind:
Proverbs 17:12 states: “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”
Hiking in the mountains of Montana recently, I learned a lot about bears. I even carried bear spray in case we were approached in a hostile manner by a black bear or a grizzly bear. Bear spray stuns a bear and doesn’t permanently harm the bear which gives you time to run away – and I mean run! Facing a bear is a frightful idea when all you have is a backpack with hiking snacks and bottled water so I was grateful for the bear spray though it was still no guarantee of safety.
As our group hiked through the mountains, we noticed many animals with their young. We saw a mama mountain goat with two babies. People who got too close made that mama goat nervous and she moved away with her young ones but it was apparent that she might charge us with her horns facing out if we got too close. She was aware of everything going on around her and mindful of her two kids (baby goats are called kids which is why I don’t like calling my children kids, by the way). Which got me thinking about a mama bear and this proverb cited above and again here: “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”
Bears eat most of the day and seek after campers’ and hikers’ food but imagine if you met on your hiking path, an angry she-bear recently robbed of her cubs whose maternal instincts of anger at the loss were fresh on her mind! You wouldn’t have time to use bear spray and that might not scare her away! Again, it’s a frightful thought especially when we read how the Lord used two bears to deal with 42 boys mocking God’s chosen servant Elisha:
Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. (2 Kings 2:23-24, NASB)
And yet the Bible says there is something worse than meeting a she-bear robbed of her cubs according to Proverbs 17:12: “a fool in his folly.” What does this mean? Well, one application that I think of immediately in addiction counseling is a person enslaved to their foolish pursuit of an idolatrous desire for an illegal substance. I have been privy to firsthand information where witnesses saw theft, rape, brutality, and murder – all due to a bad drug deal and what comes from that lifestyle. It’s a treacherous situation for sure to be caught up in the world of drug addiction and Ephesians 5:18 reminds us that it is debauchery and dissipation (or “utter ruin”) to live that lifestyle: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…” In other words, living that life of drug addiction leads to dissipation, or harsh, ruining consequences like jail, prison, and even death. It is a path to avoid and one that is in stark contrast to being filled with the Spirit and under the control of the Holy Spirit.
While I believe that the local church is the steward of the only message that sets the drug-addicted captive free, I also believe that the local church has to recognize when it is dealing with a foolish, rebel who is acting in that moment more dangerously than a bear robbed of her cubs. No one is beyond repentance and we must always share the Gospel in the most loving way possible understanding that some will reject the message because they love their unrighteousness more than Christ (Rom. 1:18ff).
At Faith Church, we are offering a new Faith Community Institute (FCI) class this fall entitled “The Heart of Addiction” based upon the book by the same name. The class is targeted to help those struggling with addiction who want help and are willing to change though it may seem nearly impossible to do so. God offers freeing truth and eternal hope in His Word and this FCI class will accentuate those principles.
So the next time you run into someone caught up in an addiction of any type and unwilling to turn away from that idolatrous lust, you might think of the fool caught in his folly and that it would be better for you to be dealing with an angry, grizzly she-bear robbed of her cubs than trying to deal with the drug-seeking person pursuing an idolatrous desire more than Christ. Use discernment and pray for wisdom as you seek to help those that cross your path!
FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION
- How can you pray for someone struggling with an addiction?
- How can you exercise wisdom when dealing with someone who is unrepentant and immersed in their sin?
- What are the ways the local church can help someone addicted? How can you offer hope in your local church?
-Pastor Mark Shaw (benefiting from the wisdom of God’s truth)