Cynthia Heimel lived in New York in the 1970s and she knew actors and artists before their fame—while they were still bussing tables and driving cabs—but she also knew them after their fame. She wrote this:

I pity celebrities. No I really do. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbara Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful. I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you, he grants you your deepest wish and giggles merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself.

You see, Sly, Bruce and Barbara wanted fame. They worked, they pushed, and the morning after each of them became famous, they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that something that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness, had happened. And they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable. (Cynthia Heimel, The Village Voice, January 2, 1990)

The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.” With these words, Heimel drives a dagger into the center of the human heart. We all desperately desire things, and yet their fulfillment fails to fully satisfy.

The western world—and especially the USA—is experiencing an explosion of devastating addictions. We witness the destruction of families, lives, and careers—all on account of these compulsive and seemingly unconquerable obsessions.

But hidden addictions—of equal ruining intensity—conceal deep dangers that these chemical dependencies point to.

The Nature of Addictions

The cycle of addiction helps explain some of our deepest problems. This pattern follows five steps:

  1. First, there is a deep longing or distress. (It could come from a childhood wound; it could come from a need for validation; or it could come from some sense of emptiness or stress.)
  2. Second, we go to a behavior or substance to bring temporary satisfaction or simply to numb the pain.
  3. Third, the behavior or substance no longer satisfies. This is called the tolerance effect.
  4. Fourth, we increase our dosage of the behavior or substance to regain that desired good feeling or numbness.
  5. Lastly, the behavior or substance itself creates the very problems we try to avoid; so we go deeper into our “solutions.”

The following graphic illustrates this cyclical pattern:

This downward spiral presents itself most clearly in the classic addictions of substance (alcohol or drugs), sex, and gambling:

  • The alcoholic loses his job after coming to work drunk, again.
  • The sex-addict sees the police drive up his driveway, and he knows exactly why.
  • The gambler loses his family, his home, and retirement, and then bets the loan from his son (to pay for his monthly rent) on the Super Bowl.

However, these extreme outward manifestations—which we’ve all seen—merely mask the subtle, damaging, and secret addictions that control each of our lives.

The classic addiction examples I used above are real stories of destroyed lives of men that I know personally. But so are these:

  • A man crying over lunch on this thirtieth birthday because he wasn’t a ten millionaire (only eight!), so he drove himself harder, estranging his wife and children (all away at boarding school) and employees.
  • A woman crying to me how her eldest son wasn’t following the Lord they way she thought he should—despite her “doing everything the bible commanded her to do”—so she drove her other children harder, until they too wanted to leave her.
  • A successful Christian writer whose latest book failed to sell as well as his previous books, and he alienated his best friends in his determination to make his sequel a roaring success.
  • A senior pastor—and leader of a worldwide movement—restructures the organization to put him supremely at the top. When a key partner questions the power play, the partner is ostracized and publicly derided, and twenty years later the senior pastor refuses reconciliation despite hundreds of requests from hundreds of the movement’s adherents.

Tim Keller describes our addictions like this: We take more and greater risks to get an ever diminishing satisfaction from the thing we crave, until a breakdown occurs.

So what can we do?

So how do we satisfy this deep longing of the soul and stop the downward addictive spiral? C. S. Lewis says: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The solution is to feed our soul with what it needs.

We need to recognize that no earthly created thing can satisfy: be it love or money or prestige or power. We need to see our pursuits are vain; we’ve seen it in others, now we have to see it in ourselves.

And then we need to recognize that the deepest desire beneath all our desires—the deepest desire of our spirits is to have the love of the Lord. We need to hear from God how much he loves us.

And this is precisely what he wants to tell us.

© Copyright 2012, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.

I’ve been asking God these days to help me to distinguish between great and small events – for my morning as well as for my life. With all that is going around me and all that is going on within me, this feels like an important question.  It was Winston Churchill who said, “When a man cannot distinguish a great from a small event, he is of no use.”

Is catching up on my e-mail backlog a great or a small event? It’s great as far as the size of the task, but is it what is needed in this moment? Or how about that person I’ve been thinking I need to call for the past two weeks – great or small? What about that book that just came to mind that I never finished reading? Or the errands I could run this day?

Distinguishing between a great and small event is not simply about good time-management skills. Rather, it is about being orientated, tuned in, living transcendently – with the belief that there is more going on than I am currently aware of and the story I am living in is bigger than myself.

I was reading Eph. 5:15-17; “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

There is a lot at stake these days, everything from the global economy, to the elections, to our families, to the person who is just about to give up out of despair and can be rescued with a word. A friend of mine just sent me a quote by Francis Frangipane, “Rescue is the constant pattern of God’s Activity.” God is up to rescuing, healing the brokenhearted and setting captives free, and we are to be a display of his splendor (Isa. 61). So, there is more going on than we have ever imagined and the way we live is more consequential than we may have been told.

I want to live wisely, I want to understand the purpose of my life in this moment and offer what I have been given to offer.

When Paul says that we are to make the most of our time he is not saying that efficiency, thoroughness or precision is needed. He is implying something more difficult, more adventurous, something that will require much more of our heart and our walk with God – understanding the meaning of the present moment, — distinguishing our own great from small events.

I am coming to a deeper understanding that I can’t simply live at the level of getting stuff done each day. And, that what may appear to me to be a minor, inconsequential task may actually be a rescue in the true scheme of things.

So, I must ask God throughout the day, what is the meaning of this moment, what are the great events, is there someone You want me to offer to, or are You offering something to me that I need right now?

The Amplified Bible translates this verse as, “Live purposefully & worthily & accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise — sensible, intelligent people; making the very most of the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague & thoughtless & foolish, but understanding & firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.”

Walking wisely with you,

Gary

“Radical dreams make us radically dependent. When we are engaged in what God has called us to do, every part of our spiritual life comes alive. There’s a reason to grow, we have a compelling reason to pray, to stay in close contact with our Leader and Guide when we walk unfamiliar, threatening paths. There’s a strong drive for fellowship, allies, and friends, close at hand because what God calls us to do we can’t do alone. There’s an undeniable need for worship, a clear vision of who God is and His commitment to meet our every need as we walk with Him into the future. Dreams make us aware of resources. We discover resources we may not have known we had.” Discover Your Destiny, Bill and Cathy Peel

This quote is from one of my favorite books on calling. It is so true. When we find our “true north”, the “stirring of God”, our “why”, our “truest desire and created intention”, (all the things I’ve written about in past eLetters) our spiritual life comes alive. We become very needy in an exciting way.

I have heard some say that only going to God when you need Him is self-centered and immature. But, the core issue is not the frequency of going to God, rather frequency of needing God. Too many of us live God-less lives – lives that do not require God in any way; that make Him optional.

There are two types of lives: a mundane life and a transcendent life. These two types of lives have nothing to do with the family we were brought into, nor the education we received, nor the situation we find our self in. It has to do with the story we believe is going on around us.

When we refer to life as being mundane we see it as being ordinary and meaningless. The word mundane means worldly, common, unimaginative. And in a way, all of life can seem like that. After all, what have we done or are we doing that has not been done before?

Transcendent means “going beyond ordinary limits; beyond the ordinary range of perception” In other words, there is more going on than our senses pick up and our actions are more consequential, more meaningful, weightier than we understand at the moment.

Having the perception that our life is mundane will kill us; it will dull our heart. We will be counted among those that Jesus described, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull.” (Matt. 13:14, 15)

We will not lose heart if:

We do not look for things that can be seen but for things that cannot be seen. For things that can be seen are temporary, but things that cannot be seen are eternal.”   2 Cor. 4:18 (ISV)

There is nothing like perceiving the transcendent realities of your life and understanding that the glory of your life goes beyond ordinary limits. Every action in your life has an effect on things unseen.

We have been set-apart, not set-aside.  We must understand and believe this.  It will change the we way we live.

It is better to be on the edge of scared where growth, prayer, intimacy, fellowship, worship and vision are absolutely needed, than boredom where neither God or our heart are needed.

Grateful for you, my allies and friends,

Gary