In the first 10 days of February, we talked about why the religious/spiritual language of “sacrifice” can be problematic in a recovery context. In the next few days, I want to discuss why the term “salvation” can be problematic for those of us in recovery.
When people of faith talk about salvation, the term is generally used to refer to one of two things: 1. The moment of conversion or 2. Life after death. A person “becomes saved” when they begin following God and “being saved” means that life after death has been secured through this act of following. In other words, we become faithful so that we can become immortal.
Why is this problematic for people in recovery?
There are probably any number of ways in which we can answer this question, but consider this. There are many people in our country whose lives are not that bad. Nobody is problem free, and everyone deals with crises at some point, of course, but some people lack the overt suffering that is part and parcel of life in recovery. For someone whose life appears this way, it’s okay to relegate all of God’s activity to the afterlife. What I mean is, if life after death is the only reason faith exists then we’re essentially saying that God is only at work in our lives once we’re dead. Or, at the very least, when we say the only reason to believe is so that we keep living after we die, then we lack a clear way of talking about how and why God is at work in the world. If your life is pretty much devoid of deep suffering, you may be content with the idea that salvation only happens later on, and that God himself is only really at work later on.
People in recovery come face-to-face with great suffering on an almost perpetual basis. Death is not an afterthought considering that people in recovery die all the time, but the afterlife is a much smaller concern for people who desperately need God’s activity in their lives today. When you need God’s help right now then talk of the afterlife can seem like a cheap consolation prize.
What can we do about this?