When we think someone is sinning, we often feel compelled to comment. We can change them. We can help them. They just don’t fully realize the extent of their actions. They haven’t tried hard enough to change their stripes. They haven’t asked the right questions to get help. They haven’t read the right books to understand their own waywardness.
By Sarah Ruf
The news hit the entertainment world hard one night in late July: singer Demi Lovato was found fighting to survive after an opioid overdose.
She was alive—but knocked down pretty hard.
The 25-year-old superstar known for her openness about battles with bipolar disorder, self-harm, eating disorders, and substance abuse suddenly saw her struggles laid bare in the most public way imaginable.
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There had been warning signs. Demi even released a single earlier this year titled “Sober.” The lyrics form a heart-wrenching and raw apology to her family, friends, and fans as she confesses to slipping back into addiction after six years of sobriety. The words foreshadow her very public relapse and revealed she was already fighting:
“Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore
And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor
To the ones who never left me
We’ve been down this road before
I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore.”
The sheer honesty and bravery of the song astound me. Most people aren’t honest like that to their closest friends, let alone with the entire world.
It also makes me stop and think. Would this be a song welcome during church testimony time?
In his excellent book Midnight Jesus, author Jamie Blaine details his time working at a rehab facility in a small Southern town. Everyone knew everyone. There was no hiding drug addictions and mental health issues there. Even his preacher is dropped off for alcohol treatment in the middle of the night.
I am really proud my local church began holding mid-week AA meetings a couple years ago. It’s been spearheaded by one of our pastors, himself celebrating many years of sobriety. His accomplishment doesn’t keep him from being open about his battle with addiction and inviting others to a safe space to get support in a spiritual setting.
That’s rarer than we realize.
“Everyone has a story,” Blaine writes. “There are stories that we tell each other, and then there’s the truth—the life we live behind the curtain. Jesus knows the story behind the curtain, who we are with the lights out, just where to meet us on the road.”
Luke 5:32 lays out Jesus’ desire to help the honest sinners over the religiously pompous: “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
So are you a religious person or are you an honest sinner?
Most of us have experienced addiction, whether it’s substance abuse, pornography, food, gambling, sex, video games, rage, or any other type of slavery Satan wants to drag us into. True, not all addictions manifest the same way or damage lives in the same way. But all try to steal the beautiful identity Christ calls us into. Just know if you are struggling, it’s not your identity. That’s not how God sees you. You have infinite value in His eyes.
So I’m praying for Demi Lovato because her story could belong to any of us. It’s a wakeup call to pay more attention to each other’s burdens. Her courage and honesty also set an example for Christians who want to face the fears of the hurting among us.
“I’m sorry that I’m here again, I promise I’ll get help,” she sings at the end of that confessional song. “It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry to myself.”
If you need help, you can visit Adult and Teen Challenge here.
You can also call the National Drug Helpline if you need to talk to someone at 1-888-633-3239.