Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Struggle for Authenticity


I was deeply saddened when I read of the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the best character actors around. I like many of you was shocked to find out that drugs, and more specifically heroin, were the culprit for his demise.

I thought, “Why in the world would a guy as successful and talented as that need to medicate with drugs? What could possibly be so bad about his life?”

Then I read a blog or two about him that opened my eyes. I’ll do my best to simplify what I read there without plagiarizing anything or anyone.

Sometimes, character actors can lose themselves in their roles. They almost literally become the characters they’re portraying. Which is all well and good until it comes time to be yourself again.

I wonder if Philip had forgotten how to live in his own skin as himself? Or maybe he didn’t like who he was and preferred to live as someone else?

I know like so many addicts, he probably at some point chose the drug, but after a while it stopped being a choice. Unless the drug was the one who chose him.

I’m sure he hated the drug that he craved at the same time. Maybe he felt he was too far gone to save, too deep in his addiction to find a way out. Maybe he didn’t feel like he could let anyone into his battle with drugs and felt like he had to fight alone.

I’m speculating a lot here.

But I do know this. Jesus came to set the captives free.

He came for the addict. He came for the self-abuser. He came for those who don’t like what they see in the mirror and who don’t like themselves very much.

I’m not going to speculate as to whether Mr. Hoffman knew Jesus or not. Many believers get just as caught up in addictions and have just as many character flaws as anyone else.

I will say that God is close to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit. He’s near to those who cry out of desperation and deep need.

If you’re trapped in addiction, get help. Don’t fight your demons alone. And know that God is the champion of the downtrodden and distraught, the losers and underdogs, those who just can’t get their messes cleaned up or their lives figured out.

Last of all, remember that it’s only by the grace of God that it’s not you or me lying dead in a bathroom with a heroin-filled needle stuck in our arms. Only the grace of God keeps any of us alive and wakes us up in the morning.

Yeah, I still love the grace of God.

My two cents on spiritual warfare

A group of guys and I have been watching a DVD series on spiritual warfare by Chip Ingram called The Invisible War (and yes, that was a shameless plug). It got me thinking about the mindset of so many American believers (including me) regarding the whole topic of spiritual warfare. Plainly put, either most of us don’t believe there is an war going on with an enemy that is constantly seeking our destruction. If we believe, we sure don’t live like it much of the time. Again, me included.

The war is real. The enemy is real. In this world, we are not tourists on vacation, or passengers on some kind of luxury cruise, but soldiers engaged in battle. Our ignorance of the battle and our enemy can only do us harm. We need to wake up to realize that we are under attack. But here’s the best part.

The battle is already won. Chip Ingram said, “As believers in Christ, we don’t fight FOR victory. We fight FROM victory.” That’s the good news (which is why it’s called the gospel!). But there is still a battle.

We fight back by putting on the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. We should pray these on every morning and pray these for each other on a daily basis. We should pray with eyes wide open to the spiritual realm, asking God to give us eyes to see the battle around us like the Elijah prayed for his servant when they were surrounded by the Syrian army. We should pray for discernment and wisdom. Most of all, we should pray at all times to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled, taking every thought captive and submitting them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We must fight together. If you are fighting the enemy on your own, apart from other believers, you may succeed for a season, but you will ultimately grow weary and faint. You will stumble and fall. You need other believers praying God’s protection over you, encouraging you and keeping you honest.

We fight ultimately with one weapon– LOVE. Not as a feeling, but as a decisive act of the will. We fight by showing that Calvary’s love is stronger than hate and that love overcomes anything. Chip Ingram said, “Love is giving to another person what they need the most when they deserve it least.” Love is doing whatever you can, even to your own detriment, for the good of the beloved. It means dying to yourself and your rights and own ideas about how the world should work.

So live with eyes wide open, hands raised, side by side with your brothers and sisters in Christ. And remember that the battle is already won and that we have overcome!

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Stream-of-consciousness thoughts on spirituality

As believers in Christ, we don’t fight for victory; we fight from victory. The battle is the Lord’s and He has overcome. The battle is won!

The moment we choose to rebel against what we know to be true is the very moment we open the door to demonic activity in our lives. Peter is a good example of this when he opposed Jesus’ going to Jerusalem and to the cross. If we are under attack, maybe the question to ask is, “What am I believing that is a lie?” or “What am I not believing and acting on that I know to be true?”

God doesn’t want all your activities and programs and to-do lists as much as He wants your heart. And that does not mean a still-beating heart on a silver platter. It means that God wants your heart surrendered to Him. He wants your affection, your emotions, your devotion. In essence, He wants you to fall in love with Him all over again like you did at the first. God is not mad at you or disappointed in you. He knows you better than anyone. He knew who you were and who you’d turn out to be when He created you. Nothing you do is a surprise to Him. But what He’s about to do in your life will be a great surprise to you (and better than anything you could have dreamed of). As I heard someone say, God will use you unless you choose not to be used.

Some of Satan’s modes of attack is accusation and condemnation. That you are not good enough. That you are not nearly up to the task He has called you to. Remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called. He wants your availability, not your ability. Another mode of demonic attack is to divide and conquer, to get you isolated and vulnerable. If you are cutting yourself off from fellowship with other believers, beware. You are walking straight into the devil’s trap. But every story of deliverance starts with admitting that I am helpless and that I need Someone to come to my rescue. And God is in the business of rescuing.

God wants your heart. God wants your availability. Believe it or not, God wants you. God still wants me, after all I’ve done wrong and how I’ve often been a walking billboard of reasons not to believe. Rest in your Abba’s love for you. Wherever you are and wherever you’re headed, you can always turn around and come Home.