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When It's Time to HALT


By Don Umphrey

(with scriptural citations from the NIV)

What is the most important factor in the lives of formerly addicted people that prevents them from returning to their addiction?

The answer: Their relationship with God. 

But even with a great spiritual life, there are still circumstances when people are more vulnerable to temptation than usual.  Four of these may be identified with the acronym of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired).  Any one of them can impact a person’s thinking and actions.  And as Elijah discovered, two or three of them at the same time may bring on double or triple trouble. 

Esau and the Cookie Monster

Satan is well acquainted with human weaknesses.  That is why he tempted Jesus with food right after the Lord had completed a 40-day fast. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).  Of course, Jesus didn’t bite. 

One who did bite was Esau. 

His slightly younger twin-brother, Jacob, was cooking stew when Esau came in from hunting.  Esau demanded, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew.  I’m famished!” (Genesis 25:30).

Jacob apparently knew his brother well.  Shrewdly (but not lovingly), he replied, “First sell me the rights that belong to you as the oldest son in the family” (Genesis 25:31). 

Esau responded, “Look, I am about to die. What good are those rights to me?” (Genesis. 25:32). “Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew.  Esau ate and drank. Then he got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34).  

 Esau’s behavior is equated with sexual sin in this passage from Hebrews 12:16-17: “ See that no one is sexually immoral or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing,  he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.”

I once watched an episode  of Sesame Street that included the Cookie Monster giving the right answer to the big question on a TV game show.  He was then had the choice of getting $64,000 or a cookie.  Guess which he one he chose.  His decision demonstrated that like Esau, and he had was confused about the relative value of things. 

Bottom line: Be careful with your words and actions when you get overly hungry.

The Sad Effects of Anger

Mark Twain said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

Psalm 37:8-9 tells us, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

James 1:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Anger led Cain to murder his brother. Cain grew crops, while Abel kept flocks.  The Lord was pleased with Abel’s offering but not with what Cain grew from the soil.  “… So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast” (Genesis 4:5).  That’s when he killed Abel. 

I was able to observe physical changes that occurred with “Bill,” a man, with severe anger issues.  I met him when I started attending 12-step recovery meetings in and around Detroit, Michigan, my birthplace. 

Bill was red-faced and he walked around like a stick of dynamite that could detonate at any time.   He once told me about losing his temper and viciously attacking a co-worker. 

With two years of sobriety, I moved to Lubbock, Texas for a new job opportunity and didn’t see Bill for the next 13 months.  Returning to the Detroit area for a visit, I saw him at a recovery meeting.  He was no longer red-faced and no longer looked like he could explode.   Seeking God and staying sober had changed him from the inside out, the same as the Lord can do with anyone who seeks Him. 

Elijah Was Lonely

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved,” Mother Teresa.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? (lyrics from the Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby)

Of course, God recognized the potential problem of loneliness from the get-go.  “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18).

After Elijah’s difficult journey to Mount Horeb discussed further below, the Lord came to him and twice asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” (See 1 Kings 19:9 and 19:13.)  These two questions were separated by Elijah standing in the presence of the Lord as the Lord passed by. Elijah replied twice with the same answer, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.  I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:10 and 14).

The Lord gave Elijah the solution to his problems and concluded by saying, “…I reserve seven thousand in Israel—wall whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him (1 Kings 19: 18).

Have you ever felt like the Lone Stranger but later found out that your assessment of your situation was incorrect?  I have!

Elijah was tired

After God gave Elijah a big victory over the prophets of the idol, Baal, (See 1 Kings 18.), Elijah was filled with fear over retributions from the wicked Queen Jezebel. (See 1 Kings 18.) He ran 17 miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, 130 miles from Jezreel to Beersheba plus a day’s journey.  He then lay down under a bush and prayed that he might die.  Strengthened twice by food and water given to him by an angel, Elijah traveled 40 days and nights until he reached Horeb. 

Besides being lonely, Elijah had also been tired and hungry. 

Jesus provided the solution to acting out in the wrong way when we are hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired when He said: “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).

Before you are ready to scream at someone, punch them in the nose or doing something else you will regret, consider HALTing.

Copyright 2022 by Don Umphrey

“New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission.


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