Tag Archives: Drugs

David’s “Seven Steps”

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When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent.

Psalm 4:4 (NRSVCE)

Not long ago I happened to be talking to a friend who experienced the tragic death of a child. As we talked, I asked how he was doing in the process of grief. He honestly shared with me some of the havoc that grief had wreaked in everyday life. He then shared about conversations he’d had with others who were walking the same, difficult stretch of life’s road. One, he shared, had been drinking heavily. He then confessed that he had been over-indulging his appetite for sweets every night.

“We all have the same grief. We cope in different ways,” he said. “My friend medicates with one appetite. I medicate with another.”

Along this life journey, I’ve observed and experienced that it is a natural human reaction to want to self-medicate by indulging our appetites whenever we encounter a difficult stretch of the journey. It could be one of the “ugly” social taboos like alcohol, drugs, gambling, smoking, or sex. It could equally be an unhealthy indulgence in what’s considered a normal appetite, like that to which my friend confessed: over-eating, over-sleeping, over-spending, over-exercising, binging on screens, or isolation. I’ve even observed those who have become zealously over-religious in an attempt to feel some kind of control over out-of-control emotions, circumstances, and relationships. Twelve Step groups often teach members to be aware of negative feelings that often trigger appetite indulgences. They use the acronym S.A.L.T. (sad, angry, lonely, tired).

In today’s psalm, King David expresses his frustration with finding himself the object of public ridicule and scorn, especially among the socially elite power brokers in his world. He begins his song imploring God to listen to his prayer, he then lays out his troubles and frustration.

What happens next is a Hebrew word: Selah. Scholars believe that this was a musical notation calling on there to be a “rest” in the song.

David then reminds himself that God has called him to be faithful, and reminds himself that God has repeatedly answered his prayers.

Then comes the verse I pulled out and quoted at the top of the post:

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent.

It is followed with another Selah.

I couldn’t help but notice that the pattern of David’s lyric is a really great reminder of how to approach troubles, anxieties, fear, grief, sadness, anger, loneliness, or weariness. Not the Twelve Steps, but the Seven Steps:

  1. Take it to God.
  2. Get it out, express it, be honest about your feelings.
  3. Rest. Take a deep breath.
  4. Remind myself of God’s faithfulness and promises.
  5. Avoid my natural inclination to exit and indulge my favorite appetite as an escape hatch of the negative emotions.
  6. Be silent. Ponder. Feel.
  7. Rest. Breathe.

The final lyrics of the song are a testament to David discovering a “gladness” in his heart that is better than feasting and drinking. Certainly healthier than over-eating and over-drinking.

Just as with yesterday’s psalm, David ends up with a peaceful night’s sleep.

In the quiet this morning I find myself accepting the fact that, despite 54 years on the journey and almost 40 years of following Jesus, I still have very human struggles with responding to negative emotions and circumstances in healthy ways. What I have learned, however, is that I have to allow myself the grace to be human. I also have learned to surround myself with companions who love me unconditionally, are honest with me in my weakness, and never cease to encourage and support me in the process of growing.

It’s a journey, my friend. It’s about progress, not perfection.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Chapter-a-Day 2 Peter 2

Poster by Mat Kelly

They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 2 Peter 2:19 (NLT)

This past Saturday night, Wendy and I went to see a new play performed at Central College. Dead Man’s Curve was adapted from the book Yellow Cab by Robert Leonard. Leonard, a former professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, shares his experiences of driving a Yellow Cab during the graveyard shift in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Through the play we are introduced to a wide variety of very real people with whom Mr. Leonard rubbed shoulders. He calls them “invisible people.” It was a fascinating ride. Days later, Wendy and I find ourselves continuing to talk about the people and stories to which we were exposed.

I thought about some of those people this morning as I read the chapter and particularly the verse above. Indeed, despite the promise of freedom, we are all slaves to those things which control us. It’s too easy to draw a dotted line from this truth to the common addictions of sex, drugs and alcohol. The more insidious truth I’ve come to believe is that there are far more people enslaved each day by socially acceptable appetites out of control like pride, hunger, control, greed, materialism, and even religiosity. Legalistic religiosity is simply the gluttonous indulgence of the human appetite for power and control. It is just the point Peter was trying to make in today’s chapter. That which promises freedom only creates a different version of slavery.

As we watched the play I was struck by the number of times drivers, who each had their own set of troubles and issues, acted out of love and compassion both for the needy and the foolish humans who happened into the backseat of their cab. Modern day Samaritans providing random acts of grace and kindness, often to those who didn’t really deserve it. Those acts of love are examples of the very essence of Jesus’ entire message. Freedom does not flow out of a license to do whatever we want, nor out of religious adherence to lists of rules meant to keep us away from doing what we shouldn’t. Freedom, Jesus said, flows out of the truth embodied when we obey the law of love He taught: To love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; To love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Day 10: Your Views on Drugs and Alcohol

A photo of a cup of coffee.
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30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 10: Your views on Drugs and Alcohol.

I find that people’s views on drugs and alcohol are largely shaped by their early experiences in their family of origin. In my family, adult beverages were consumed regularly but never to excess. My Grandpa Spec always enjoyed a “beer and a belt” at the end of the day referring to a glass of cold beer and a shot of Old Crow or whatever cheap whiskey he had in his shelf above the refrigerator. My Grandpa V enjoyed a tall little cordial of his favorite Cream Sherry before bed, and was known to make a Christmas fruit cake each year that was so doused in different liquors that it weighed about fifteen pounds and was inedible to everyone but the most adventurous souls. My folks would drink beer with certain meals and wine on special occasions. Moderation, responsibility and self-control with alcohol were modeled for me as a child and I have tried to model the same for my children.

I’ve never really been tempted by illegal substances. Drugs were never my deal. But I think that “drugs” has a much broader interpretation than we typically apply to it. I wonder at the hypocrisy I occasionally encounter with those who would zealously prohibit certain substances while refusing to acknowledge our addiction to others.

Sugar is a drug. It is a chemical to which our society is addicted. It creates a chemical reaction within our body leaving us with a false sense of pleasure and well being and it easily leaves us craving more and more until we are overweight, unhealthy diabetics. We scoff and criticize those who drink alcohol or those who would legalize pot while we snarf down another chocolate frosted sugar bomb at the church potluck. I don’t hear a lot of outcry about that.

Caffeine is also a drug. It is a stimulant that has a chemical effect on our body. It easily lures us into an unhealthy, even addictive cycle of being so stimulated we don’t rest well. We’re tired and strung out from not sleeping well so we return to our sugary caffeinated coffee or “energy” drinks . Not only do we refuse to acknowledge this, but we culturally promote it and celebrate it.

I’m reminded of the words of St. Paul when he said all things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial. All things are permissable, but we should not be mastered by any of them. Responsibility, moderation, self-control.

Would you like cream and sugar with that?

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