December 7, 2022 A Religious and Political Commentary

Solutions to our opioids crisis cannot neglect the spiritual aspect of humans

Easter, 2016. A sunrise service and two wonderful resurrection celebrations. Afterwards, I had Easter dinner with the family, then my wife and I travelled to a hospital in Dallas. We spent the afternoon and evening with friends whose son had overdosed on fentanyl the night before.

I’m happy to report that he has recovered physically and is fighting to recover from his addictions. Like many others in our community, he could use your prayers and your support of recovery programs.

Texas, like the nation, faces an opioid crisis. According to the latest data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 1,375 deaths from opioids related overdoses in our state in 2016. That is 4.9 deaths per 100,000 (better than the national average of 13.3). Though Texas fares better, the numbers continue to rise. In 2015, Texas physicians wrote 58 opioids prescriptions per 100 persons (70 was the national average). [Source: DrugAbuse.org]

That this is truly an “epidemic” can be seen in the fact that our polarized congress pushed through ­­­political, election-season gridlock to sign a sweeping bipartisan opioids bill promised and signed by President Trump [Source: DentonRC.com]. Since we haven’t seen much “crossing of the aisles” lately, this must be serious.

Texas is at work, too. Two weeks ago I spoke about this issue with Dr. Lynn Stucky, House Representative for District 64. He, too, used the word “epidemic.” When I asked what was being done, he described the House Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse. Although Dr. Stucky is not a member of the committee, he told me he and his staff are watching closely.

The committee is examining connections between opioids abuse and mental illness, especially related to veterans and the homeless. They’re reviewing prescription monitoring programs and policy guidelines of state-funded health agencies. They’re examining how opioids abuse has effected law enforcement, first responders, hospital emergency department personnel, and ultimately the Texas economy. From these studies, legislation will be formulated (Interim Committee Charges, Texas House of Representatives 85th Legislature).

They have their work cut out for them and they need our encouragement and prayers. Texas’ best minds in Austin will do well at analyzing and gauging the cost of opioids abuse in our state, but it is doubtful they will reach a solution. For that goes beyond the physical.

To understand the problem, we need to go way back in history…to God’s creation of humans. Though each of us is fundamentally one being, we each have several constituent parts: spirit, body, and soul. These three aspects can be seen in the creation account: “…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed (ruach, Hebrew for spirit) into his nostrils (physical body) the breath of life, and the man became a living being (nephesh, Hebrew for soul) (Genesis 2:7).”

We are spiritual beings, contained in bodies, who have souls (minds, wills, and emotions). In other words, the human is first and foremost spiritual. This spiritual nature leads us to desire connection with the Divine. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee,” says St. Augustine. Pascal claims we have an “infinite abyss” that can only be filled by God himself. Whether we realize it or not, we search to fill this void.

This spiritual being his “housed” in a physical body that needs food, water, and shelter in order to survive. The Apostle Paul called this a “tent”…a temporary dwelling place: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in…(2 Corinthians 5:1).” In other words, this world (and this physical body) is not our forever home, but temporary. God has more for us.

Finally, within this being is a soul – our mind, our will, and our emotions. Out of all the creatures God created, only humans, created in His image, can think, can make deliberative, moral decisions, and can feel emotions.

Yet we are broken. In theological terms, we’re fallen. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s original design for us (Rom. 3:23). In a sense, our sin has led us to re-prioritized.  We’ve downplayed our spiritual makeup and overplayed our soulish and physical natures.

In some cases, we put souls as our first priority. We’re driven by our intellect or our stubbornness guides us. Maybe it’s our emotions, whether good or bad, that dictate life for us. In other cases it is physical pleasure, our desire for comfort and wealth, which are our priorities.

The intimate connection between the three means that when one is damaged, they all feel the effects. “Soul-crushing” news affects one’s health. Abuse or violence harms much more than just the body. And that’s why solutions to our opioids crisis cannot neglect the spiritual aspect of humans.

When we are spiritually “restless” (Augustine) or have a “God-shaped hole” we’re trying to fill (Pascal) and we don’t know where to look for solutions, so we often turn to physical or emotional comfort because it is the easiest “solution.” We self-medicate to numb the pain, worry, doubt, and distress.

We’re broken. The Bible shows this. Mental health statistics show this. The statistics in the rise of opioids abuse shows this. A good government can help stem the tide, but it can’t solve the problem. The answer is found in a loving God who says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

Related Posts

When feeling the stress of the holidays, turn to God morning and night and keep slate clean

December 6, 2018

December 6, 2018

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestIf your holidays are like mine, there will be stress: the cumulative weight of issues we...

Create or Consume

April 25, 2019

April 25, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin Pinterest“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that he had made,...

Hidden spring of salvation still flows today

March 23, 2018

March 23, 2018

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestOnce upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a dictator who controlled every aspect...

Willing Accomplices

March 13, 2019

March 13, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin Pinterest“No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of his age and country, and however...

Religion

August 7, 2019

August 7, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestAccording to Science Daily, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. Make that 4,201. I...

Individual opinions have become offensive to others

July 26, 2018

July 26, 2018

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestIt is said, “Everyone has an opinion.”  In America, we take this one step further: “Everyone...

Eco-pocalypse

October 16, 2019

October 16, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestLet’s begin with a confession: We Evangelicals aren’t the most eco-friendly lot. I recycle and conserve...

The Soul of Work

October 25, 2021

October 25, 2021

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestThe Washington Post reports that in our nation there are still 8.2 million jobs left to...

You’re Fired!

May 8, 2019

May 8, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestIn my 50 years, I’d never been fired. I have come awfully close, but my never-been-fired...

It Was Good

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestIn the Genesis account of God’s creation of the world, there is an important, repeated refrain:...

Bible even points to idea of innocent until proven guilty

October 4, 2018

October 4, 2018

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestDo Americans still believe the adage that someone is innocent until proven guilty? Would you believe...

The Golden Rule

March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestOf Jesus’ many famous sayings, perhaps the most well-known is one we call the Golden Rule....

We each bear responsibility to the sinful world we have created

May 31, 2018

May 31, 2018

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestIt never ceases to amaze me when angry young protestors destroy businesses and property belonging to...

Obituary for 2020

December 28, 2020

December 28, 2020

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin PinterestThe year 2020 breathed its last, COVID-infected breath on December 31 at 11:59 p.m. Although it...

Honesty, civility, positivity key to free speech

April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018

Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin Pinterest“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *