Have you ever started a diet, 🙂 lost some weight, 😀 stopped the diet,🙄 and then gained back more pounds than what you lost?😠 (Most of us are nodding our heads.😒) You could insert just about any habit for the word “diet” and the results would be the same. We decide something in our life needs to change, we make the change, things are great, but then time goes by and before too long we are worse off than where we started. Unfortunately, this is what happens after 12 months to 80-95% of people who leave a rehab center for alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.* It’s a problem. And it’s not just a 21st century problem. Jesus talked about it! Take a look.
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first. (1)
Hmm. 🤔 So . . . Let’s study this and see if we can figure out some things. First, the “unclean spirit” (bad habit) leaves—it is gone. Yeah! 😁Good for us! We have worked hard, disciplined ourselves, made a few changes, and have started a new path. Second, the bad habit “passes through waterless places seeking rest.” (2) Hmm. 🤔 These habits we struggle with are not really gone. They lurk. They linger. They float round us. They are always within arms’ reach. And eventually they will return—which means we open the door and let them back in. Why? Well, we have cleaned house. Our lives are back in order. We feel safe inviting the old habit back because we have conquered it. We know how to handle it this time. We know how to battle it, to keep it at bay, etc. And sure enough the bad habit comes in, looks around, sees the clean and tidy house and then it leaves. Yeah! 😁Good for us! We fought the temptation and did not succumb to it.
Until . . . Until the bad habit returns. And it comes back with a vengeance! It comes back with “other spirits more evil than itself.” (3) It’s easy to say no once or twice to something we are tempted with. But after that, it’s really hard. Really hard. ☹️ So we give in. And the bad habits—now seven times worse than before—“enter and dwell” in our home. We are worse off than before.
Well, this is quite depressing. ☹️And Jesus does not give us any solutions here. He is just stating the facts. I believe Jesus wants us to reflect on this one ourselves. Here’s what I observe. 1) We are really good at looking good, sweeping up, putting things in order, and giving off the impression that our lives are neat and tidy: no problems here. 😬 But all we have done is create a façade. 2) True change in our lives begins in our hearts. On the inside, not the outside. And our hearts require daily attention. We are never done. And 3) we cannot change on our own. The great Apostle Paul struggled with it, too. He wrote this: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing.” (4) What was his solution? “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” (5)
And that’s it. Our strength is never enough. His strength is always enough. 🙂
(1) Luke 11:24-26 (2) Luke 11:24 (3) Luke 11:26 (4) Romans 7:19 (5) Philippians 4:13
*“What Percentage of Individuals Relapse after Leaving a Rehab Center?”ARK Behavioral Health, 10 Nov. 2021, https://www.arkbh.com/blog/relapse-after-rehab/.