From Want to Need
We probably don't know each other, but I wish we could sit down on the squishy couch in the middle of my messy living room and look each other in the eye. Face-to-face, you would see that I'm not here to condemn. I'm not looking to burden you with shame over your past or present choices, but to help you recognize a place where bondage may be creeping in. Alcohol use is a complicated issue, but one worth our consideration.
My personality has a tendency toward taking things too far. When I like something, I love it. I struggle with patience, waiting, and moderation. I'm all in.
Drinking was primarily social and not particularly frequent in my early adult years, but I felt my relationship with it shift when I became a mom. Surrounded by our "mommy needs wine" culture, I began to look forward to a glass of wine in a way I never had before. As the needs of my children grew and the weight of motherhood pressed down on my overburdened shoulders, a new thought emerged in my heart on the hardest days: I need a glass of wine. I remember walking into my pantry, looking up at an uncorked bottle on the highest shelf and longing for it. Could I have a sip now? I’m not sure I will survive today without it. Do I have to wait until my kids are in bed?
The culture told me it was normal to need it. Mommies “need” coffee and wine—and of course, Christians add Jesus to the list as well.
But when a friend shared with me that her afternoon glass of wine had turned into full-blown alcoholism and that she was only freed from it by the saving work of Jesus, something clicked in my heart. In Titus 2:3, the Bible tells us that older women should not be “slaves to much wine.” That supposedly inconsequential glass of wine had climbed up onto the throne of my life and become my master. I was looking to it for salvation from my challenging circumstances.
In many churches, it is trendy and cool to live in open freedom concerning alcohol. But perhaps we've gone too far. We've forgotten the good reasons that many of our parents and pastors abstained from alcohol. If you abstain, I'm glad you've made that choice. If you do drink, join me in approaching alcohol with care and caution.
Approaching Alchohol With Care
- Consider your words: The attitude of our culture can infiltrate our thinking about alcohol through our language. If we make jokes about it, we make a weighty issue feel inconsequential. On the other hand, we can make alcohol too important when we label it a need. Ladies, we never need alcohol. No one talks to us as much as we do, so the words we choose shape how we act. If we label a glass of wine a need, we will come to rely on it as an escape from our current circumstances. Relying on alcohol results in shame and bondage, but relying on God brings freedom and joy. The moment we tell ourselves we need a drink is a moment we should go running to God for joy, comfort, and rest.
2. Consider your brothers and sisters: Our culture tells we are independent women, and our actions only affect ourselves, but that’s not how it works in the Body of Christ. What one part of the Body does always impacts the health of the Body as a whole. If we are unhealthy in our alcohol use, it will hurt others. Likewise, if our healthy use of alcohol causes another member of the Body to struggle, the health of the Body of Christ will suffer. “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:23–24). We should hold our independence loosely. It is never more important for us to have a drink than it is for us to love our neighbors.
Approaching Alcohol With Caution
- Avoid unplanned usage: I’m all about living without legalism by relying on an active, dependent relationship with God instead. But because alcohol messes with our ability to think straight, I'm going to advocate building a few guardrails around your use of alcohol. I’m not going to tell you what your guardrails need to be. Instead, take time to consider your personality and pray through your personal convictions. Write them down in your phone or your journal. If you're married, discuss your guardrails with your husband. If you are single, share yours with a close friend or mentor. But don’t neglect to build some protection for yourself. Our brains simply don't function clearly enough to make wise decisions in the moment, and alcohol is dangerous enough to deserve our caution.
- Avoid secret usage: My current alcohol use is about two drinks per month. We don't all need to share that information with the world, but I’ll be transparent as an example that putting it out in the open protects us from misuse and shame. We should have at least one person (a spouse, mentor, or trusted friend) who knows how much alcohol we drink and is aware of every time we have a drink. Never have a drink no one knows about. It's a very simple safeguard against creating a pattern of secret drinking that develops into sinful usage.
Whether you have never had a drink or you have one every night, alcohol will always have a hold over you if you do not recognize that God is so much more glorious than the best wine or cocktail in the world. Bondage to alcohol is very real, but those chains are never too strong to be broken by Jesus’ work on the cross. If you find yourself distracted by alcohol, ashamed of your past choices, worried about your current path, or simply making too light of a serious substance, God is waiting to offer His forgiveness and restoration. Bring what is done in secret into God’s glorious light. In the freedom of His saving love, you will not fail to see that He offers the rest, joy, and satisfaction your heart desires.
Maggie Combs is a wife, mom of three busy boys, writer, and speaker. When motherhood overwhelmed her, God drew her closer to him through writing her first book, Unsupermommy: Release Expectations, Embrace Imperfection, and Connect to God’s Superpower. You may have seen her before at The Gospel Coalition, Risen Motherhood, Revive Our Hearts True Woman Blog, The Journeywomen Podcast, and more. Find more of her practical application of the gospel to motherhood at www.unsupermommy.com or on Instagram and Facebook.
Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!