As I follow the news reports of Whitney Houston’s death I feel a sense of sadness and grief. Although the toxicologist reports will not be available for weeks, recent interviews with Houston and descriptions from those closest to her leave little doubt that her untimely death came as a result of drugs and addictions that were beyond her control.
Addictions are the demons of our day. Over the last three years we have watched Josh Hamilton battle his own addiction to drugs and alcohol. His most recent relapse reminds us how powerful and ever present these demons can be. In spite of the encouragement and help from his Ranger teammates who shunned alcohol in their victory celebrations out of deference to him, and in spite of Ian Kinsler’s efforts to get him home sober and safe, he still succumbed to the temptations that never leave him alone.
The sex addictions that took Tiger Woods down from the pinnacle of the sports world and destroyed his marriage have left him a shadow of his former self. He hasn’t won on the PGA in over two years. His meltdown on the final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday illustrated the long and difficult battle he is still fighting to return to his former form.
Mexico illustrates the widespread problem of drug abuse and addiction. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 47,000 lives since 2006. Last weekend mourners gathered in Lewisville, Texas to grieve the deaths of a missionary couple killed in their home, victims of the rising crime in that country.
The answers to addiction are not easy. In every case the personalities and issues creating and supporting the addictions are complex. But, perhaps the starting place for help is confession of our own human weakness and our need for deliverance. The Apostle Paul did this when he examined himself and cried out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Peter did the same when he fell in the bottom of his fishing boat and declared, “Depart from me O Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
One of the most dramatic stories in the Bible deals with a man addicted to destructive impulses. He was so mentally, psychologically and spiritually ill that he refused to wear clothes and lived among the tombs, attacking those who came near and inflicting himself with wounds. When Jesus encountered him He ordered the destructive legion of demons to depart from the man. They did so, entering a herd of swine that immediately rushed over a cliff and drowned themselves in the sea. When nearby residents arrived, they found the man sitting at Jesus’ feet, sober, clothed and in his right mind. (Mark 5:1-20).
I have always found this a mysterious and puzzling story. I don’t know how to explain demons and spiritual forces that defy scientific examination. But, like everyone else, I have observed the demonic forces that destroy individuals, families and nations. I am also convinced of the difference Jesus Christ has made in my own life and I have seen Him change the lives of others.