Apart from Him
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. Psalm 107:6
Yesterday marked the beginning of the third and final week of Twenty One Days of praying and fasting at Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. The first two weeks have been an amazing period of spiritual growth, enlightenment, and strength. It has been a time for deep meditation and inner reflection, as I’ve looked for ways to become even closer to God with each passing day. It has also given me an opportunity to reflect on the past…
Each week at Highlands, members of the congregation are invited to fill out cards requesting prayers for their needs or the needs of others by the Prayer, or Intercessory Team at church. Having filled out a couple of the cards during the past year, I can tell you that I found a lot of comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my petitions to God. Looking back on it now, I realize that I drew a lot of strength as well from that knowing.
For the past two weeks, excluding Sundays, my days have begun with a one hour prayer service at the church. During this service, those in attendance are invited to offer prayers for other members of the church, using those very same prayer cards as a resource. After going down my personal list of people that I’m praying for, I turn my attention to the stacks of prayer cards at the front of the church.
There’s one thing about these prayer cards that absolutely amaze me: a great number of the cards I’ve read have been filled out by people seeking prayers, not for themselves, but for others. This is especially the case when it comes to addictions…alcohol…drugs…gambling.
I found myself wondering why the people with the addictions weren’t filling out these cards for themselves. Well, I think that the first and most obvious answer to that question would be that the addicts weren’t in church to fill them out. And you know, that is a very good answer…but it’s not always the right one. In pondering the question that I had posed, I found myself reflecting on my life twenty-three years ago, before Jackie and I were married…
Look, before I continue I have to explain something to you. I’m gettin’ ready to share a couple of things with you that I’m not really proud of, but I believe that there are times when I have to set my dignity to the side and tell you what’s on my heart. The primary purpose of this site is to share what God had done in my life; this includes the good and the bad stuff. I make no apologies for who I was, what I was, and what I’ve done in the past. What matters most to me is who I am, what I am, and what I do today. You can judge me as you will.
Twenty-three years ago, I was in the final year of a fifteen year marriage to my first wife. It was a very, very rough relationship, yet one that to this day I consider a blessing because of the birth of sons Brian and Christian.
I’m neither laying blame nor claiming blame for why the marriage didn’t work. Let’s just say that I don’t believe that it was one of those matches made in heaven. I think that sometimes many of us make a mistake in judgment when it comes to whom we should spend the rest of our lives with.
Through all of those trying years, I never asked God to get me out of the relationship. With my marriage, as with all the other trials and tribulations in my life, I merely asked Him to give me the strength to carry the crosses that I was given. And I prayed a lot.
A funny thing happened when I wasn’t looking.
I became addicted to cocaine.
I don’t know how it happened. I tried it once with some friends. Then I tried it again. And again. Soon it became a part of my life. It became the center of my life. I woke up, and headed for the coke. My day ended with the coke. And the hours in between? I don’t really have to answer that question for you, do I?
You see, cocaine became my escape from a world filled with arguments, and cursing, and verbal abuse. Cocaine filled the void in my life that had been created by the absence of hope for a better tomorrow. Yeah, I knew that I was probably killing myself, but it didn’t matter; I was dying on the inside a little bit more each day. What difference did it make?
And here’s the funny thing: during the time that I was hooked, about eighteen months, I was in church every Sunday! Yep, and I was asking God to help me carry those crosses, which were my marriage, and my career, and trying to be a good father to my sons. I never even asked Him for help with my addiction to the cocaine. I figured that I could handle it by myself. Get this: I didn’t want to draw His attention to the fact that I had an addiction! I was too proud to admit to myself, and to God, that cocaine had become the ruler and master in my life.
What’s worse was the fact that I didn’t believe that He was gonna answer my prayers.
I’m gonna cut this a little short because, well because I’m not real comfortable talking about it. Let’s just say that my marriage came to an end, and one night shortly thereafter, I went to sleep in prayer, begging God to heal me of my addiction.
I asked. He answered. I woke up the next morning, free of the need for cocaine. That was over twenty-one years ago. Yes, I believe in miracles. Yes, I believe that in the blink of an eye, He can free us from any and all chains that bind us.
Why do so many of us try to disconnect from God with some of the issues that we have in life? I’m not talking exclusively about addictions. I’m talking about relationships, fears, doubts…I’m talking about life.
How can we go to church, and worship God, yet think that we have to walk without Him? How can we include Him in certain areas in our lives, yet shut Him out of others? How can we possibly believe that we can handle anything in our lives better than He can? How can we see Him, yet be so totally blind to His presence? How can we possibly think that we can do anything apart from Him?
I urge you to read Psalm 107 in its entirety.
God can lift us up from every circumstance. He can free us from any chains, cure us from any illness, and guide us through the darkness.
Welcome His presence in your life. Ask for His presence. Ask for His help, in every walk of life. He will help you. Why?
Because God’s love for us is unfailing.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good: his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1
See you next week.