Addictions are, almost by definition, something which takes more than a person’s own will power to get rid of. There are all kinds of addictions, but I suppose you could put them all into one of two categories... there are addictions to some kind of substance which creates a physiological dependency in a person, such as with cigarettes or over-eating. And there are addictions which are more sort of “psychological”, such as becoming addicted to computer games or pornography. Now, experts might tell me that even the latter kind create a physiological dependency, I don’t know? But that's not important, because neither of these kinds of addictions are necessarily “easier” to give up. Addictions are a form of bondage. In fact, dictionary.com uses the word “enslaved”; an addiction is “the state of being enslaved to a habit”. The Bible uses this same word to describe people’s relationship to sin...
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)
In a sense, sin is every person’s “addiction”; and we know that when we come to Christ, He takes away that sin which enslaves us so that we are able to be “obedient from the heart” to God's Word. He gives us His Spirit, which enables us to do this. Addictions are most certainly the result of the fallen state of mankind. They may not be strictly sinful, but they are also not the way we are supposed to be. They can be things which take priority in life over God, and so become sinful in that sense; but addictions need not do that. And we can see that addictions can cause sinful behaviour; even something like an addiction to food can cause irritability in a person who hasn't had their “sugar fix” for the day. Nobody ever wants to be addicted to something; people who are hate the state they're in. I know a chronic smoker who says he's tried every method there is for giving up. I happened to be speaking to an alcoholic last week who said, “My greatest regret in life is that I started drinking at the age of 18.” These people want to be free from their addictions but they don't have the necessary power to overcome them. Such power, of course, is given to us through Christ. The same Spirit which enables us to “kick the sin habit” enables us to take control over our addictions, whether or not we want to argue over the idea that all addictions are themselves, by definition, sinful. In describing the characteristics of the Holy Spirit which abides in us, Paul writes:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
This is what mankind is supposed to be like as they imitate the character of God, and we see in this list “self-control”. The Holy Spirit gives us that ability to take control over our desires; even our addictions. When Christ saves a person, He begins to transform us into the person God created us to be, having these characteristics we ought to be able to exercise... love, joy, peace... faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Addictive behaviours cause us to act contrary to these things, and so the effect of Christ in our lives will naturally be to give us control over our addictions. I personally know of a former alcoholic (not the aforementioned) who will testify that it was the work of Christ in his life that he is no longer drinking, and hasn't touched one drop for more than twenty years. I've mentioned in a much earlier post how, since the day I became a Christian, I haven't once looked at pornography. (Though it's probably fair to say that I was never actually addicted to it, I see it as the same principle at work).
Now you've probably been aching to say “But why do Christians still struggle with addictions?” I do affirm that Christians certainly can struggle with addictions. And the reason for this, in my mind, is probably the same reason that Christians still struggle with any sin. Whilst we remain in this corrupt body, we are still affected by our former sinful tendencies. I think that, generally speaking, God wants us to be able to identify with unbelievers and to be able to help them. It's not really through our lingering sinfulness that we are able to do this; Christ was sinless and yet identifies with us. Rather, it is by remaining on this Earth that we can be of help to unbelievers, leading them to Christ. But the “effect” of remaining here is that we are still influenced by our old natures. Our bodies are still subject to chemical addictions because of the way that they work. Our minds, likewise, are still subject to psychological addictions because of the way they work. But why are some addictions taken away whilst others remain? The reason is going to be different for each person. Let's consider the testimony of Nate Larkin. Nate is a Christian who was addicted to pornography for some 20 years or more. This question of ours bothered him for all that time as well; “Why won't God take away this wretched addiction!?” Eventually he found what he feels is the answer. For 20 years he'd been asking God for “a private solution to his private problem.” But it wasn't until he brought his problem before other Christians that God began to take away his addiction. The reason God had not taken away Nate's addiction seemed to be in order to teach Nate a lesson which, for Nate, is so profound it forms the foundation of his present day ministry... that God's desire is for the people of God to work together. The Christian life is not a private one! God considered this lesson so important for Nate to learn that he allowed Nate to suffer his addiction, and even the consequences it brought as it tore his family apart. Through this experience, Nate not only understands the importance of the Body of Christ, but shares this with others in a phenomenal fellowship-building ministry.
Should we say that those Christians whose addictions are taken away simply don't have any lessons to be learned? No; we all have much to learn, but God has an infinite number of means at His disposal. But whether addictions or physical ailments or whatever, God has His reasons for allowing us to suffer them. We can think of Paul's “thorn in the flesh” in which Paul prayed that God would take it away, but God didn't. And then Paul recognized that through this affliction, whatever it was, Paul learned humility and dependence upon God's grace. Whatever we're going through now...
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)