I have many street friends who struggled or struggle with addiction. They all talk about the same thing: the unceasing desire for whatever it is that they use. Kicking the physical addiction is something that almost every one of them has done more than once, but making the desire go away just doesn’t seem to be man’s work. Here are snapshots of conversations I have had in the last week about the desire of addiction:
One friend, “Walter,” had a recent scrape with the law and got off very light with several months jail time. He is not a believer but is tolerant. He has experienced things in church that have pushed him away from Christ. In a discussion about his future, he told me, “I just don’t know what would make me happy. If I could find that, I could probably quit [his drug]. I’ve tried lots of things… living normally, a house, a job, a church. But nothing made me happy. And I always have this desire for [the drug.] It haunts me always.” I asked, “How can I pray for you today?” He answered, “Pray for me to want the desire to go away. Right now, I just don’t.”
Another friend, “Bailey,” suffers withdrawal every day because he can’t afford as much [drug] as he needs. He has done many bad things to get the money for drugs in the past, but he hates that and knows it will end badly if he continues. He is trying to leave it behind. But the desire is still strong in him. He calls me or sees me almost every day. You can see that he wants to be better in his face. But when he talks about any plan to bet better, you hear that he wants to do it by himself, without rehab and without submission to God’s authority. Bailey is a believer, but his own will is strong and rebellious for the moment.
We pray together, usually on the street and without bowing our heads, looking eye to eye. In prayer, I sometimes speak for him when he doesn’t know what to say and watch his eyes to see if I’m speaking the truth: “God. We’re gathered here, two believers. So we know that you are here. You stand with us. God, Bailey is hurting. He wants things that are not good for him. He wants them so bad. Lord, Bailey is angry with you. He doesn’t understand why this is happening to him. He doesn’t understand why his enemies, real and drug-based, surround him and taunt him and threaten to destroy him. He doesn’t feel your comfort and your love. Oh God… it hurts so much.”
I paused and said, “I’m putting words into your mouth. Do you want to say something different?” He chokes out, “No. You’ve hit it on the head. That’s exactly how I feel, and I don’t know what to do.” I continue, “God, you’ve heard it from Bailey. Your son Jesus knows exactly what it feels like to be tempted in this way. And Jesus knows exactly Bailey’s pain because He bore it in the Garden and on the cross. We beg for mercy and forgiveness.”
I said to Bailey, “Now here comes the important part. Pay attention.” “Lord, Bailey is hurt and angry, and he’s being honest with you now. BUT… you are God. You are Lord. You alone are sovereign. Take this addiction away. Take the desire away. We will wait for You. We will wait for Your healing. We will wait for Your time. We know You have plans for Bailey to prosper him and not harm him. We thank You, God, for his recovery in the future. We thank You for standing with us now.”
I told Bailey, “We more or less just prayed a Psalm that is very old, a Psalm of pain and anger. It’s OK to be honest with God about how you feel. You don’t have to clean-up, sober-up, or fancy-up to talk with God.” He said, “I feel better now. Thank you so much for helping me to pray.”
Yet another friend, “Sam,” is addicted to pills. He is ashamed and knows it hurts him and his family. And yet the desire is there, and he just can’t quit. I approached him on the street at a time when he was in a place very similar to Bailey. I recently checked up on him. Rather than have me pray for him, he said, “I feel like praying right now. Will you pray with me?” He bowed his head and took my hand on the Drag. “Father, I thank you for everything you give me every day. I thank you for food and clothes. I thank you for friends. I thank you for your protection. I want you to remove the desire for pills from me. I want to stop but I can’t do it alone. Help me.”
Joey” is one friend who is recovering for more than 15 years of addiction. He’s homeless even today, although he couch surfs and goes to school. He has no money for rent or food, but he’s a strong believer. He recently told me, “After 15 years of praying for God to take the craving for [my drug] away, he finally did it. It’s simply gone now. I just woke up one morning this summer and realized that it was gone. And it hasn’t come back.”
Another friend, “Thomas” says: “I’ve worked the [twelve] steps for many years. But this time, God took away the desire. I’ve been sober now for  days and the desire for [drugs] is just gone. That He took this away so quickly is amazing. I think, ‘Wow! He must have good plans for me if He did this for me so quickly.'” Thomas is couch surfing and has a job and can afford to eat. He’s looking for a low cost apartment now as the next step!
People can remove themselves from the drug. But only God can take away the desire. Please God, walk with people who are addicted today. Help them to know that they cannot get well on their own. Help them to submit to your authority and to ask you to take away the desire. Thank you for their recovery, Lord. Amen.