We had a cat once. His name was Dusty, although having his own name was not something he seemed to find particularly engaging. If it ever mattered to him one way or another, he kept it to himself. Dusty was masterful at demonstrating indifference. He could remain detached and disinterested in regard to almost anything unless it interfered with his primary preoccupation, napping, or involved potential access to something edible, and only then if he happened to be in the mood for it.
Once in a while, we expanded Dusty’s role in the household a bit and involved him in some ‘G’ rated family entertainment. We discovered that if we took a bright light and a little mirror or one of those red laser pointers and started flashing a little dot of quickly moving light around him, the response was incredible.
He couldn’t restrain himself. He became a cat possessed, totally psychotic and out of control, wildly chasing that little spot of light around like whatever was left of his nine lives depended on catching it. Nothing else mattered and nothing was safe in his path. All of his energy and every instinct were unleashed with reckless abandon. It was quite a show.
Not Wired for Entertainment ~
The antics we found so amusing did not occur because Dusty harbored some heartfelt desire to entertain us. His actions were perfectly natural for a cat. His little brain (not to be demeaning) was “wired” to do exactly what he was doing. God built that reflexive reaction into cats because skill in chasing and capturing small, quick, and elusive creatures was vital to their survival. Of course, we could have enhanced Dusty’s God-given skills by turning a bunch of juicy little rodents loose to run around the house, but we opted for cat food and laser games instead. In spite of that, the basic cat-wiring was still there.
The enemy of our soul entertains himself by manipulating us in much the same way. He uses those self-sustaining, gratifying, and beneficial needs, desires, and reflexes that God created in order to bring us under his control. He grabs our attention with enticing visions of imagined rewards that we can never really possess. Then watches with amusement as we exhaust our lives in vain. He delights to see us squander our energy and expend every resource in a quest as frenzied and hopeless as Dusty’s was.
Brain-changing Behavior ~
The phenomenon of addiction has come into focus lately, largely because of a sharp increase in the number of deaths related to drug abuse. Over 50,000 people died in our country in 2015 from overdoses, many from prescription opioids. It has been suggested that addiction and other compulsive or obsessive behaviors change the way our brains are designed to work.
Those ensnared are said to become “hardwired” to see the object of their compulsive behavior outside its normal range. Natural desire becomes a need, something crucial to their well-being, or even vital to their very survival. Attaining it takes precedence over everything, including their primary relationships and fundamental responsibilities. They see in it a means of escape from their miseries and failures, a source of support, hope, strength, pleasure, and ultimate fulfillment, but all those things are only illusions. They chase helplessly after something as unattainable as Dusty’s point of light.
Faith ~ Just Another Addiction?
Critics often speak of faith in similar terms, as nothing more than an illusion built on empty promises. They say we generate mental images of an invisible Savior concocted out of our desire for things to be better, a kind of psychological “drug” to help us get through times of grief and loss. But God described it this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV).
The word “hope” in that passage is often misrepresented as something not only invisible but unreal. That is as inaccurate as declaring that the invisible quality of gravity or magnetism makes them unreal. Two other words in this passage are vital to understanding the difference between a life guided by faith in Jesus Christ, and one driven by sin’s compulsions—“substance” and “evidence”.
We must admit that faith does arouse captivating images of things not yet seen and those images do energize us to respond. On the surface, we might seem to be little different from those exhausting their lives in a futile quest for some unseen and unreachable illusion, but there’s a profound difference.
Dusty reacted to that beam of light exactly as he would have had it been a mouse, with the same concentration, and dedicated perseverance. It’s just that there was no reward at the end—no satisfaction for his sacrifice, no nourishment to strengthen him for the next challenge. His “hope” had no possibility of delivering anything but frustration and emptiness because it contained no “substance” and was not sustained by any “evidence” that fulfillment and satisfaction would eventually come. Faith in Jesus Christ has no such deficiency.
Re-wired by Sin?
Sin in all its forms does affect how we think, and the more we practice it, the more “hardwired” we are to treat sin’s unattainable objectives as vital necessities. In Satan’s dictionary, sex equals love, acquisitions equal happiness, power and control equal peace, and popularity equals satisfaction and fulfillment. Our craving for these things is real, and worth the energy and sacrifice we’re willing to invest, but sin can only offer illusions and can never provide the real thing.
The light Dusty chased had no mouse in it. Its appearance was real, and the hope of fulfillment was compelling enough to capture all his attention and consume all his energy, but there was no “substance”. God calls us to a life filled with an abundance of evidence supporting His promises. Sin, on the other hand, can never deliver what it promises. It can only leave us hardwired for heartache.
(Join us for next week’s Gallagher’s Pen edition … “Addition Rewired ~ from Heartache to Heaven”)
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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