by Dale Ryan
Not long ago I spent an afternoon with a faculty member at one of the most respected evangelical theological seminaries in America. After discussing a number of topics he surprised me with the following statement: “I have never met a person whose personal problems couldn’t be solved in five hours. You just need the discernment to recognize which demonic influences are present and then you proceed to cast out those demons. Usually 20 minutes to a half an hour is sufficient, five hours would only be needed in the most difficult of cases”. (I didn’t make this up. Honest, I didn’t.)
I experienced a wide range of emotions as he spoke. Shock. Rage. Depression. But, I confess that there is still part of me that wishes he were right. I wish my problems could be solved in five hours or less. (preferably less). I think I could more easily tolerate it being very painful, if only someone could assure me that it would be very quick.
Unfortunately, this appears to be just the latest version of a very old and fundamentally sub-Christian instinct. It is not ‘trusting God’ to believe in quick-fixes. It is magical thinking. There are no quick fixes, no magical elixirs, no secret chants, no short cuts which make the hard work of recovery unnecessary. Jesus offered no such powerful magic. He himself experienced no such immunity from the struggles which are part of life on this fallen planet.
My experience with Theologies of the Quick Fix has been that they eventually lead to one of two outcomes. First, they lead to religious addiction. There is nothing more addicting than a religious ‘fix’. But, adding a thin coating of Christian language and sentimentality on top of the addictive process does not make it Christian. It’s just the addictive process dressed up to look Christian. A second common outcome is that we find ourselves deeply depressed. In the end we come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with us. If only we had a little more faith, or if only we were ‘really’ willing for God to heal us, or if only we were ‘fully’ committed. . . then we too would experience God’s healing power. But this is just another version of the shame cycle with a little religious language thrown in. It is not good news. It is not biblical faith. It is not grace-full It is full of shame.
Some things do happen quickly, of course. I know of many people who have been instantaneously delivered of their craving for alcohol. I have yet, however, to meet a single person whose family has lived with the chaos of addiction and then has experienced instantaneous deliverance from the effects of these years of dysfunction. Recovery takes time.
The real damage done by the Apostles of the Quick Christian Fix is the damage done to our capacity for hope. “Hope that is seen,” says the Apostle Paul, “is no hope at all.” (Romans 8:24). If we insist that our recovery be so rapid that you can see it every day, our capacity for hope will gradually diminish. Romans 5 tells us that persevering through hard times will develop within us deep-down hope – the kind of hope that ‘does not disappoint’ (Romans 5:5). That kind of hope during recovery comes from the conviction that God is genuinely ‘higher’ and more powerful than we are, that He pays attention to us, that He is actively involved in the process of changing us – even when it doesn’t feel like it.
May God grant you the courage and hope you need today to continue the journey. May your roots sink deeply in the soil of his love.
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