Scripture is powerful. So is temptation. Use the Bible, but get other help too

TW: discussions of addiction, mental health

The word of God is indeed “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12) When we know the Bible well, we have a powerful toolkit for surviving and thriving in our fallen world. We have comfort in sorrow, strength in weakness, songs of joy in good times and story after story of God’s faithfully redeeming work. I’ve found myself even thinking sometimes that the Bible is the only thing I need to make it through this life, however difficult it may be. After all, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) 

While God’s word is powerful, it is not enough to overcome all forms of temptation.

But this idea can be dangerously misapplied, especially to issues of addiction and mental health. While God’s word is powerful, it is not enough to overcome all forms of temptation. More tools are needed, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them.

We all have vices. But when I say addiction, I mean toxic habits some of us have that we dearly wish we could kick. Consider porn: I know guys who struggle with this. They aren’t unique — three in four Christian men between ages 18 and 30 look at porn at least once a month. One in three of this same group think they might be addicted to it or are unsure if they’re addicted (2014 Proven Men porn survey), and while less common, porn addiction can affect women too. Other addictions, like substance dependence and eating disorders, while very different from porn, are similarly problematic. Their specific effects on the brain and body are different, but they are similar insofar as they isolate, they shame us, and they can seem impossible to get free of. As different people, we are tempted in different ways. Once in any form of addiction, it is extremely hard to fight. Is scripture enough to beat it? 

Consider also mental health issues, including imagining one’s own death or self-harm. These too are real things that have affected us in real and heartbreaking ways. You might be struggling with something like this yourself — you’re not the only one. First order of business: know unequivocally that you are loved, wanted and needed. Second: the Bible says your body is a temple (2 Corinthians 6:19-20), so you do have a mandate to not hurt it. Third: just saying those things doesn’t make suicidal thinking or self-harm disappear. Fourth: chances are, you can’t solve it for and by yourself just by quoting scripture. 

God’s word speaks truth in the midst of these situations. Absolutely. By memorizing it, we strengthen ourselves. And some of us might learn ways to cope by ourselves. But I propose that this is actually uncommon. Please never think that if you continue to struggle, it’s because you just haven’t learned the Bible well enough. With many habits and thought patterns, we cannot — and should not try to — deal with them on our own. Can you really “do all things through Christ who strengthens [you]” all by yourself? Maybe Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13) by merely quoting scripture — but also, he’s Jesus. When was the last time you fasted for 40 days and nights? I never have! 

Put another way, maybe I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but I’ll never be able to jump from the ground to the top of a 20-foot flagpole. With a ladder and a person at the bottom making sure it doesn’t slip, I could get up there, though. So perhaps a better read would be “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us,” through each other.

That’s scriptural. We are the hands and feet of Christ to one another; Christ has no body now but ours. God is in the words of the Bible, but that’s not the only place where God is. Crucially, God is also there in well-equipped counselors like we have at the Center for Counseling and Wellness. They can see you within a week, confidentially. God is there in shame-free accountability groups like Step One (for men addicted to porn). Step One meets on campus, too — you can go this Friday. God is there in medications designed and prescribed by caring, knowledgeable people. You can make an appointment with Health Services today. 

God is in the words of the Bible, but that’s not the only place where God is.

Use God’s word, but please never be ashamed to get help. These kinds of issues are really prevalent during these oft-overwhelming college years — even if you’re not struggling now, you might be next month. Don’t be ashamed if and when you need help. Getting help can make the difference between life and death, between bondage and freedom, between misery and peace. Pastor Mary has a great phrase she’s used on this: “prayers, pills, and people.” There is no shame in these! Let’s keep on memorizing and quoting scripture — and also, as a community, let’s help one another get all the help we need.