Cory Monteith: Another Tragic Ending

A young, 31 year old male Hollywood actor was pronounced dead after being found alone in a hotel room. Knowing NOTHING of this man at the time, I commented to my nearby family members, “I bet it was drug-related.” Sadly, I found out later that I was right.

It’s not always easy to be right. Though I’ve seen this same scenario played out both personally and professionally, it is still sad and this recent newsworthy tragedy is no different. Once again another wealthy, superbly talented, handsome, “successful” Hollywood actor who achieved the “American dream” and the pinnacle of fame is dead from a drug and alcohol overdose. Specifically, heroin mixed with alcohol led to a tragic ending for this young man and his remaining loved ones.

Other than sports and occasional news, I am not a tv watcher so I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of “Glee.” But haven’t we heard this story before? Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, John Belushi, many actors from Saturday Night Live, and many other movie stars have died from some form of alcohol and/or drug-related incident. It only takes one overdose to end a life. Ironically, his show was named “Glee” yet when most people die from an overdose they are far from gleeful though they achieved the so-called American dream.

Are any of us surprised that the American dream is really more of a nightmare? Here’s the American dream checklist for Cory Monteith:

Wealthy? Check.

Outwardly, seemingly happy? Check.

Famous? Check.

Handsome/beautiful? Check.

Powerful? Check.

Admired? Check.

Hit TV show? Check.

Talented? Check, check. (double check mark for Cory Monteith)

And you could add more temporal pleasures to this list. He possessed all that the world had to offer. Yet it wasn’t enough. Why?

Well, I’m glad you asked because I can tell you why. God designed us to live for Him, not ourselves. God designed us to worship Him and Him alone. In those moments when we seek temporary, sinful pleasures, we are worshipping something other than God: ourselves and our own idols, or “tools” as they are called at Vision of Hope. It is a problem rooted in the violation of the very first Commandment of the Ten Commandments: “Have no other gods before ME,” says the Lord (Ex. 20:3).

It’s not an easy thing to say but it is the truth whether we want to believe it or not. God didn’t design us to be satisfied with the things of this world but only to be satisfied in Him and Him alone. When we look for ultimate satisfaction in other things, other people, or even ourselves, we will be miserable though we might be able to hide it for a little while.

The world calls this problem “addiction” and makes it a medical problem likened to a “disease” but that leaves God, the gospel, and worship out of the equation. The Bible describes this same problem as “drunkenness” and “idolatry” rooted in pride and foolishness. Which is true? Both cannot be true though many try to marry them and mix them together. The truth is that they are like oil and water: they don’t mix (Col. 2:8). The world and the Word agree that “addiction” is a spiritual problem but the two believe the spiritual solution to be very different at the foundation. Millions of people continue to check themselves into rehab and treatment centers for addiction and leave no better than when they were admitted. Cory was one of those people. There is no way to change the heart and its desires apart from the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word of truth. The secular world’s treatment for drugs and alcohol is not working; the entire industry needs an overhaul.

Or a better alternative may be the church should step up and begin calling it “sin” once again.  Then the Gospel which is good news can be presented once again as relevant to this problem since Jesus is the only solution. I appreciate Faith Church’s leadership and boldness to venture out of the box of its comfort zone to launch and oversee the residential ministry at Vision of Hope on its own campus.

For the Christian, let this tragedy of Cory Monteith drive you to the cross. Let it motivate you to cry out to a lost and dying world that there really is only one answer and it is found in a relationship with a loving and truthful God. Let it push you to more boldly share the gospel. The world is not as happy as you might think they are! Don’t be fooled by their so-called glee.

In His Word, we find the real American dream checklist that can only be found in a relationship with Christ:

Not Wealthy but Poor? Check. Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We need to recognize our weakness and our sinfulness apart from Christ.

Unhappy with the things of this world? Check. Matt. 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We need to be broken about our sinful state.

Unknown not famous? Check. Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Not particularly handsome/beautiful? Check. Matt. 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Beauty is fleeting but righteousness lasts forever. For women in particular, Proverbs 31:30 warns: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Not powerful but weak? Check. Matt. 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Be an agent of God’s mercy to others and find satisfaction in service.

Not admired or loved by people? Check. Matt. 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Seek to love God with your whole heart and not the approval of mankind. God is pleased with His children and loves it when they obey His Word.

No hit tv show? Check. Matt. 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Who needs a top-rated tv show when you can be used by God to bring everlasting peace into people’s lives?

Not talented in a way the world respects? Check. Matt. 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” and Matt. 5:11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

Jesus then commands those listening to His sermon in Matthew 5:12: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus’ message was radically different than what we hear people say will make us happy. True satisfaction and true joy are only found in Christ and in a thriving, vibrant relationship with Him. Anything else is simply an idol meant to please self but ultimately leads to despair and often death.

Am I saddened at this news? Yes. Am I more motivated to share the truth of God’s Word under the loving power of the Holy Spirit? Yes. Is it a David vs. Goliath type of battle to speak the truth in love? Yes. But we know who won that battle, don’t we fellow Christians!?!?!

Be bold. Share your faith. Speak the truth in love about “addiction” as an idolatrous heart problem requiring repentance and faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform. Show the Word of God in action in your life.

Someone’s eternal life depends upon it.

-Pastor Mark Shaw (thankful that God opened my eyes to find true satisfaction in Him)

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Mark ShawMark Shaw
Mark Shaw has 22 years of counseling experience working in a variety of settings including faith-based residential programs, dealing with issues surrounding “addictions” of all types, and supervising staff positions. His experience in the biblical counseling field began in 2001. He has written 14 published works including The Heart of Addiction; Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies; Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts; Addiction-Proof Parenting; and Hope and Help for Self-Injurers/Cutters. He also co-authored a chapter in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling (2013).
  • Cathee Kancel

    Although I appreciate the Biblical truths you have shared, but when you blend it in with judgment on an other person or their lives, it appears to be more like judgment. I don’t mean God’s judgment either. Like you said, you didn’t know anything at all about Cory or his life and probably didn’t even know his name until recently. He was nothing like the lifeless description of a person you descrived. He was actuallky quite the opposite, very humble, selfless, loving, kind, compassionate, fun loving, generous – honestly, he lived his life more along the lines of how Jesus comannded us more than any other Christian I’ve known. And he became a Christian earlier on in his life. At the time of death he was more than likely still a baby Christian, but I have no doubt he is in Heaven with God, anbd has been for the last 21/2 years. The love he had inside of him had to have come from God, becuse it was totall beyond what was humanly possible. You don’t know what he went through, or how he fought the fight and has fought for other kids to have hope and encouragement and not go down the same path he did. He didn’t use it for fun and recreation like so many others, he can’t be placed in the same category as Jim Belushi or Charlie Sheen. Addiction is a disease and sneaks up on you even if you’re trying to beat it. Before writing this article it would have been nice if you would have learned more about Cory and the kind of person he was before making assumptions

  • Mark E. Shaw

    Hi, Cathee,

    Let me start by saying that my intention was not to do any harm to Cory’s reputation because I did not know him. I am glad to know that he considered himself a Christian and that you knew of him in that way. If true that he was born-again, and it could be very true, that is worth rejoicing over and I rejoice with you in knowing he is heaven today! My intention was to draw the reader’s attention to the notion that someone like Cory can seemingly “have it all – all that the world offers” (I John 2:15-17) and still be unsatisfied because we only find complete satisfaction in Christ.

    When writing this blog post, I had a heavy heart because to me it was another Hollywood tragedy (I was not equating Cory to people like Belushi – only listing other famous actors who died to overdoses). There have been hundreds of famous people who have died to alcohol and/or drug overdoses. This one was particularly sad due to Cory’s young age and all that he had going for him on the outside. In addition, he appeared to be a nice young man.

    I do believe Christians can become enslaved to drugs and/or alcohol. It is particularly sad to me when that happens because it simply means they have turned away from God in that one moment of choice for an addictive pleasure that pleases self primarily. In other words, they put themselves ahead of God which is what the blog states in Exodus 20:3 and is termed idolatry. I much prefer that biblical term, idolatry, to the modern age’s term, disease, because the Bible teaches Christians that any addiction (idolatry/drunkenness) is enslaving and leads to death (Eph. 5:18; Prov. 31:4-7; Ezek. 14; Isa 44:9-20). Jesus never referred to it as a disease but did call it drunkenness 4x in the Gospels (Luke 21:34 is one instance). I don’t agree with re-labeling this sin into what the world has labeled it – a so-called disease theory that was popularized in the 1930’s. I prefer to stick with the Bible’s terminology and I am sure that will be criticized by millions yet I only have One to please (the Lord Jesus Christ). It’s not a popular stance that I take and I am not alone in desiring to reclaim addiction counseling to the body of Christ.

    Having researched Cory’s life some, it appears he went to a rehab center and afterward tried to help youth with his story of how drugs had ruined his life up to that point. So he sounds like a kind-hearted, self-less young man when sober. That’s the tragedy of all of this.

    I appreciate your concerns and believe you expressed them very graciously to me. I am sorry you are hurting. The loss of Cory loss impacted tons of people and I hope that his story can be redeemed for good by turning others away from the pursuit of the so-called American dream of riches, fame, power, good looks, etc. into a pursuit of Christ.

    We may disagree on some things but I pray that we can agree about the sufficiency of Christ because He alone is the answer to the problem of addiction and His body is designed to be the support group for the once-addicted.

    Thank you for posting your concerns and may God bring you comfort by His Spirit and Word!