How Attachments Can Cause Suffering

 

how attachments can cause suffering

By Rhonda Jones

Since becoming a Christian meditator, I place a great deal of emphasis on paying attention to my feelings and emotions. I am always looking for signs to whether I am joyful, sad, angry, or frustrated. One of the steps in my Date with God Devotional Guide is to finish the sentence, “Today, I feel…” to take an honest assessment of what is going on in my head which will inevitably affect my emotions. Jesus said “my peace I give to you,” meaning God’s peace is here in abundance, but it’s up to me to tap into it at all times.

Therefore, I make it a practice to always be aware of the inner workings of my heart, and when I notice that am not at peace, I need to find out what thought, mindset, or situation I have allowed to steal it from me. One of the biggest culprits to losing my peace and joy is a little term called attachment.

So what is an attachment? An attachment can be anything outside of us and God that we believe will bring us joy or happiness.  Media and advertising are built upon the illusion of attachment. They promote the belief that if you just had this product, that person, looked this way, or lived with these circumstances, all you’d be worry-free and happy. Hence, being bombarded with the message that happiness is attainable through things or circumstances, we continue on a long goose chase to find the proverbial fountain of utopia.

Jesus actually calls attachments, the lusts of the flesh. He said in 1 John 2: 15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Christian or not, many people suffer from the illusion of attachment and we usually have long lists of them: money, children, mates, cars, looks, dreams, food, our way, control, power, etc. If you are like me, you probably have a bucket list, vision chart, or long-term goals written down somewhere, and you should. God said, “without a vision the people perish.” However, none of these are problematic unless we believe that attaining them is the sole source of our joy, fulfillment, and contentment. Even such seemingly honorable goals as finding your purpose, growing your ministry, finding the right spouse, or pursuing the perfect career can cause suffering if we believe that our joy is a byproduct of reaching or obtaining them.

So why do attachments cause suffering? Attachments cause suffering when we believe that they are the key to happiness. With this reasoning, if we lack an attachment or desire, we cannot be happy. For example, you may believe that until you marry (situation), buy a new home (product), or have a child (person), you can’t possibly be fulfilled and happy. Having attachments that we attach happiness too, sets us up for suffering because unless we obtain them we are destine for unhappiness.

Instead of pursuing attachments (things, situations, or people) for our joy, peace, and fulfillment, God wants us to seek him. He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The more we begin to seek God for our happiness, outside attachments will lose their power over us.  We will learn to see attachments for what they really are, objects of desire.  However, with the right mindset or perspective, instead of attachments being something that we hold unto with dear life, we can learn to enjoy the momentary pleasures that they bring. We can see them as blessing from God that comes from trusting and loving him.

Attachments are fleeting. I recently saw a movie where a young couple spent several days hiding out in a cabin on the beach and one of them said, “I wish this moment never had to end.” Although I’d often love to extend great moments in my life, this is not reality. Life comes in seasons and is forever changing. That is why it is never in our best interest to rely on our attachments for happiness, peace, or joy. They are not constant. We must learn to enjoy them in the moment, thank God for them, and then release them to our pleasant memories. If we believe that attachments are the source of our joy we will try to hold unto them and our life will be characterized by lots of ups and downs, as attachments have a tendency to change with the wind.  Children leave you; spouses make you angry; jobs end; and ministries fade. Relying on attachments to sustain us is a surefire way to living with lots of suffering.

Life is made up of moments, some great moments and some terribly bad moments, depending upon your perspective. Generally, in between the good and bad moments are lots of neutral moments where not much is happening. I like to call these meantime moments. In reality, most people don’t handle meantime moments very well. They think their life should always be filled with fun, excitement, and adventure and when it is not, perhaps God is mad at them or they are doing something wrong. People who live for good moments are usually plagued with lots of anxiety and frustration. If things aren’t happening fast enough for them, they are going to help God out by making something happen. This generally leads to lots of drama. Some people actually thrive on drama because without it they don’t feel alive. These types usually have many attachments that they strive to seek happiness from.

Many pastors preach messages about “waiting on the Lord” as if we are always in a constant state of want and discontentment.  We are waiting for so many things instead of learning to just embrace and enjoy where we are right now. Even if you never received anything else from God, I’m sure you can find many things to be thankful for. I believe that all of this “wanting” and “waiting” undermines our joy, peace, and happiness.  1 Timothy 6:6-11 declares, “but godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

I think we can also replace the word rich in the passage above with the word “attachments.” I would then revise it to reading, “Those who seek after attachments fall into delusion and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into suffering, depression, and anxiety.”

Yes, I do believe God wants us to have joy, but joy that comes from a deep, abiding, and rewarding relationship with him. This joy is cultivated when we continually seek God with our whole heart, mind, and strength and from experiencing his divine presence. There is a balancing act we must learn so that our attachments never become a replacement for what only God can give us.   For many believers, this may require a shift in our thinking and perspective. We must recognize that as soon as we begin to believe the source of our joy is something we can attain or maintain from sources other than God, we’ve crossed the line into illusion.

This is one reason why I believe so many people have relationship issues. Many couples have been lead to believe that their partner should make them happy instead of taking on the responsibility to find happiness for themselves. Our partners can bring us moments of happiness but it often leaves as quickly as it comes. That is why God wants us to live fully grounded in him and in the present moment. He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow…take no thought for your life … but seek ye first the kingdom of God.” He knew that if we got wrapped up in seeking the creation instead of the creator, we’d never find that “abundant life” that dwells on the inside of us and not the outside.

The only thing that is truly a constant in our life is the Lord Jesus Christ. He said that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I appreciate most about having a relationship with God is that he is always available for us. He is always there to hear our cries and comfort us in our time of need. He says he will “never leave us or forsake us” and that “we can say with confidence, the Lord is my helper I will not fear what man can do to me.” God may not always provide us what we think we need, but if we trust him and his word, we know that “ALL things are working together for our highest good, even in the midst of our pain. God wants us to bring our pain to him as well.

We must get away from the notion of instant fixes. Rarely does God deliver us from everything that we are facing. I believe God does this for a reason. He wants us to return to the well, his living water, again and again. Sometimes we think that if our prayers aren’t answered immediately that God isn’t working on our behalf. I have learned while in the healing team’s ministry that often people must be prayed for multiple times before a complete healing takes place.

Also, In the past, there were healing rooms that housed sick people that were not permitted to leave until they were healed or died. Sometimes they spent weeks, months, and even years being continually prayed for.  Also, in some healing ministries, the healing practitioner were sent to live with ill people and told not to come back until they were well. Even Jesus, when he prayed for the blind man, the first time he prayed the man said, “I see giants.” It wasn’t until he prayed for him again that his sight was fully restored. I am sharing these incidents with you to encourage you to persevere in your faith in God and don’t give up just because you still have pain, anxiety, or depression. We have become a society that wants to give up too soon, but please, keep praying, keep taking authority over sickness and disease, keep casting out all spirits of infirmity, and continue to do so until you have real relief.  In the meantime, ask God to open your eyes to the blessings in your life right now and what you can be thankful for.

In order to break free from our attachments, we must first acknowledge that they exist. We must also recognize that attachments do not create happiness and dwelling on what we don’t have is only going to cause suffering. Secondly, we must bring our emptiness, toxic emotions, and illusions to the Lord for healing. Talking to God about what is plaguing your heart is the first step. Journaling to God is a great way to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper where you can clearly see them. Next, it is important to must spend time in God’s presence and learn to fellowship with Him. Something supernatural happens when we begin to spend alone time with God in silence and solitude. It is almost as if he reaches in our heart and removes the longings and attachments that we’ve held onto and refills this place with his peace and joy.

 

If you are experiencing a lot of suffering in your life, begin to see look for any attachments that you may have equated with your happiness. By suffering, I mental or emotional; however, prolonged internal suffering can make us physically sick as well. I believe that if you dig deep enough you will uncover attachment(s) clinging onto your heart. Once you discover your attachments, acknowledge them, and then give them to God. Generally, the more attachments you have, the more suffering you will experience. Ask the Lord to continue to reveal attachments to you and one by one, release them and let them go. As a child of God, you want to be free from anything that is going to weigh you down or steal your joy.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 admonishes us to, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus came to set us free and not bind us up with all types of cares and concerns. In this one passage (above) alone, we are told to let go of every weight (attachment) and to look to Jesus the author and the perfecter of our faith. If we want to become perfect in God, we must seek our joy and fulfillment in a growing and authentic relationship with Christ and not just a Sunday commitment. It is a relationships as well as a daily lifestyle.  It is so much more than Bible study and a church attendance. God actually wants to spend time with you.  We can replace our attachments for more of God. Then when someone disappoints us, instead of falling apart, we go to God our source for healing, strength, and restoration. When we can’t attain a certain this or that right way, no problem, we find our satisfaction in the loving presence of God our creator.  It is possible to be so filled with God’s love and spirit that we are insulated from the turmoil around us, as well as our perceived lack and shortcomings. Romans 14:17 declares, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink (attachments); but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Attachments can bring us pleasure or pain.

Every day, learn to get victory over your obsessive attachments by constantly taking inventory of your thoughts and emotions; then purpose to release them to the Lord and find your joy in fellowshipping with him instead.

Lastly, use the Welcoming Prayer to help surrender your attachments over to the Lord. I speak about the Welcoming Prayer at length in my programs Help Me God Change My Life and A Date with God. The welcoming prayer can help you to recognize and turn your pains, hurts, anger, and restlessness over to God to restore your peace of mind and contentment in the present moment.  You can learn more about the welcoming prayer by visiting this website.

 

One thought on “How Attachments Can Cause Suffering

  1. susan swanson says:

    thanks for the gentle reminder. A well written, well timed article for me. One I think I will save and reread.

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