Return to me with all your heart

By Rev. Otto Schultz, Faith Partners Nebraska, Project Developer

What picture comes to mind when you think of the word “addict”?  Though I know better, the image in my head is a young, tough guy on the streets of a bombed-out neighborhood in a large city.  He uses needles and is always restlessly seeking his next fix.  I know better since I worked for many years in a hospital-based Rehab where many of our addicts were middle-class, middle-aged or older women.  What image do you see in your mind even though you too, may know better?  Consider it for a few moments. 

By now, most of us know that drug and alcohol addiction are equal opportunity destroyers.  They don’t care about age, gender, class, race, nationality, or religious belief.  They hurt many Christian families deeply.  In surveys of worshippers in 10 Nebraska congregations, (N=900) 42% of respondents endorsed the statement that they are currently concerned about or affected by the alcohol or drug use of someone close to them.  Currently, concerned about…  Currently…

“Addiction” isn’t solely about drugs.  Not every super fondness for something is an addiction, such as being a diet coke “addict” or a Big Red Football “addict”.  Yet, there are many harmful addictions besides drugs.  They are harmful because they divide our hearts from God.  Among middle class Americans, the pursuit of wealth can be addictive as it harms our relationships with God, other people and even our health.  The pursuit of work may become an addiction whether it pays well or not.  That pursuit also harms our relationships with God, other people, and health. 

Some of us so deeply love another person that we become enmeshed in their lives in ways that are spiritually harmful for them and us.  Not only do we sometimes feel responsible for their choices, but we may take responsibility for those choices.  We may fear their fears for them or rescue them from consequences they need to face.  This is codependency – an addiction to another person. 

Addiction can strike in many ways beyond, drugs, money, work, or another person.  Many good things  become false gods and divide our hearts from God.  The spiritual problem with any addiction is that God’s gift becomes a false god – leading us into a darkness where we are never satisfied.  Returning to God with all our hearts may sound fanatical, but it is the only way to have a balanced life.  Returning to God with all our heart means that we can enjoy these wonderful gifts of God and use them in His service.   

After retirement, I was called into God’s service in a new way, working with a group called Faith Partners.  Our mission is to help churches develop a team approach to prevention and recovery. In many churches there are people who hunger to do this ministry.  Finding these people, training them, and supporting them as they minister to their church and community is what Faith Partners is all about.   

*Otto Schultz is a semi-retired Pastor and Licensed Alcohol/Drug Counselor.  He is currently employed by the Nebraska Synod and Region 5 Prevention Systems in the Faith Partners project. 


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