*This is a post from the archive — from a while back in my Youth Ministry days.*
I was driving into the McDonald’s parkway this noonish-time, looking forward to a double-quarter pounder with cheese, large fry, and large Diet Coke. I always order Diet Coke, not because it’s ‘healthy,’ but because I simply like how it tastes. It does seem ironic with my usual #4 though! As a side note, I was severely let down by the taste of the fries. A disappointment!
As I was pulling in, I happened to glance up into the truck beside me, pulling out. The man was dragging on his cigarette, and I winced. It reminded me of a conversation we had at youth group many, many months ago, as we were talking about substance abuse. “What does the Bible say about cigarette use if you’re 18?” someone asked. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about the issue too much, and so I responded, “You know what? It’s really just stupid.” My cigarette-smoking students were a little put-off.
Another student chimed in with a classic defense of smoke-less-ness, “Doesn’t it say that ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?’ So shouldn’t we treat it better than smoking?”
I’d heard that argument before, and I’ve heard it since. It’s almost as if the originators of that proof-text didn’t even read the context in I Corinthians 6; the passage is about sexual unions. I agree that we should treat our bodies with respect, as blessings from God; I’m just not sure I Corinthians 6 is the best place to go for evidence to that fact.
It all hit me as ironic, anyway, preparing to take in a weeks worth of calories, and a lifetime’s worth of saturated fat. But that’s beside the point.
Much more than stupidity, or poor stewardship, or a drain on financial resources, though, cigarettes tap into a far greater sin: idolatry. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the comment, “Gah! I’m so stressed… I need a smoke.” Ok, I’ve mostly heard that on TV, but it’s a mentality I’ve seen evidenced in many different people, and in many different situations.
The reality is that cigarettes provide a stable norm that people escape to whenever life gets difficult. Other’s escape to harder substance, or to movies, friends, books, studies, sports or anything else. Try to count throughout a week how many times someone’s response to stress, weariness or frustrations is something other than a total reliance on God.
It’s almost as if we live life thinking of Christianity as, “Nice in theory, but limited in practicality.” Our day-to-day issues are solved with day-to-day, culturally normative solutions — we leave the big, life issues (like, well, mostly death) to be solved by God.
Where are the Christians who, after a fitful and stressful day, return home to throw themselves into prayer? Where are the believers who trust in God to smooth their mountainous days at work; to energize their souls during long stretches of difficulty, and who faithfully, “cast all their cares on Him, because He cares for them?”
The Psalmist recounts his rescue from desperation by saying, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me. He lifted me from the pit — from the muck and the mire — and set my feet on a firm foundation.” The implication is that he waited patiently in the muck and mire, trusting fully in the coming redemption of the Lord. He didn’t turn to idolatry, immediate relief or a ‘quick-fix.’
Isaiah commends us, “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength — they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary.”
This isn’t to say we need to suffer intentionally waiting for redemption. I can just see some naive person suffering through a headache because they’re waiting for the Lord, not ibuprofen. Please, take your ibuprofen.
But when stress, frustrations or weariness raise their ugly head, run first to the Lord. Run to the Lord, and wait patiently on Him. His will is good, His redemption is sure, and His love for you is desperate. Let’s live out the practicality of Christianity!