Sometimes the cliches we hear over and over again get to a point of frustration within us, to the extent that we are ready to explode if we hear another one. Our emotions are boiling over possibly with worry, anxiety, grief, sadness, and any other assorted varieties of feelings and somebody near us utters one......like, "just pray about it"!
And after many nights of doing just that, we look at them and say, "Are you kidding me?" because they dared to insult our intelligence as if we hadn't thought of that (at this point anything sets us off)! Then, one of our trusted friends at a 12 step Meeting hears our plight, one in which we thought Armageddon was about to occur, and they say, just take it One Day At A Time, and they just fired off the fatal round in that chamber of the weapon we were playing Russian Roulette with! Instead of calming us down, we just went of the deep end.
Happy to say I didn't do that this week when facing my own trials of similarity. Looked like a desperation situation on several fronts, none of which I could control because I had exhausted all possible avenues on my own. I had definitely prayed about it, for sure had taken my version of One Day At A Time, but I had forgotten that God was getting ready to answer every one of those prayers in a different time schedule than my own.
Monday - one answered, Tuesday - another two answered, Wednesday - the biggest one answered, and I reflected back on my prayers Friday night with Jeff Lyle of New Bridge Church, and the prophetic words of Darryll on Monday night, that God would fill the storehouse - and I realized that God's one day at a time, is so much different than ours, and requires complete trust and belief on our part that he has the answers, not us.
And, not when it is our timing, but always on his because it usually proves a point to us.He understands what we need and when we need it; we think we do but we don't. Sure, we play some part in this, but our part is to be, and to put into practice what he trains us to do, be spiritually fit to run a race with many obstacles in it. To run toward him, not away from him, when the going gets tough.
Instead of a pill, I took a dose of the 23rd Psalm on Monday and did something similar that the prophet told Naaman to do (what Jeff preached about Friday), what God told me to do, read it three times and be healed. So I did, and it did it again on Tuesday, and did it again on Wednesday - and it calmed me down so that I could listen and watch for the answers. And they came......One day At A Time!
Guess what I'm doing today?
One of the most difficult things about addiction recovery is dealing with all the emotions that pop-up when you first try to get sober. Because we have usually escaped from facing them, because we were so high we couldn't feel anything except that moment of numbness, or because we were always in pure denial, we had no real experience handling our emotions.
Then along comes no escape route, nowhere to hide them, and we feel dazed and confused. When you think of it, going through a divorce or the death of a loved one is similar in that it is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, bewilderment, and grief because we lost something that had been very close to us - yes, our addiction can become our best friend.
How do we harness these feelings that seem like a tsunami has overtaken us? We can talk about prayer, about preparing for something like this with everyday faith, but when it happens, it can overcome walls of strength and penetrate the heart and soul of even the greatest believer (r: Job, David & Paul in the Bible).
So, imagine if you are a non-believing addict dealing with this, what are your options when if you are 28, your emotions make you feel like you are 15? Your options are to draw strength from your mates in a meeting or a recovery facility, go step by step, day by day until one day you open your eyes to the possibility of a higher power that may be out there. You begin to explore who he is, and along comes someone who shares a message of hope, love, forgiveness, and power greater than yours - and the light bulbs begin to turn on, and you hit your knees to finally pray.
Imagine that is what a Trey, a Darryl, an Alicia, a Sonia, a Barry, a Randy or a Stephanie, a Gina, a Bob, or any of the other volunteers we serve with do. We are here to be that person, at that time who helps connect the dots to the electricity of the Spirit of a God who can heal and help deal with those emotions.
The Emotion Commotion is calmed by the calming, healing power of the one who came to save us, and his name is Jesus. It may take us awhile to get there, to that point of surrendering what we cannot do ourselves, but when it comes, it lasts a lifetime, and once the tsunami has subsided, we realize He is what pulled us through.
We are a rescue boat searching on His behalf for survivors who want to find a way to be saved - and we are relentless about searching for them!
Where do you get your courage to face the battles of everyday life? Seemed so easy when I was a kid, Mom would tell me a story and encourage me to follow my dreams. And then when I would come home broken hearted, tail between my legs in another failure, she would make me one of her amazing Italian dishes, encourage me and send me back out to try again.
Then along came teenage dating and falling in love, sports injuries, grades failing, lack of money - it all added up to finding courage elsewhere. First a gang, stealing cars then underage drinking, then too early sex and on and on until the battlefields in the jungles of Viet Nam as a Marine.
Courage came from multiple sources of patriotism, alcohol and drug induced, and from the desire to overcome being not enough. That last one, not enough, propelled me into a performance driven life that required the fuel of addiction to keep it going, long after the patriotism wore off from disappointment in a very foolish war.
When it got really bad, when I hit rock bottom, I began to read the Bible for the very first time in my early 30s. First Proverbs, then the Psalms where I saw a man share his feelings in public, wrote Psalm after Psalm about his struggles. I found where he found his courage, and it wasn't in that bottle I was now in.
Lots of I's in this blog, but it was I that was preventing me from have the courage to face the battles that I was now running from. Not an upbringing fault, not a government fault, not another person fault; it was an I fault, but the man who wrote those Psalms used many I's as well, because his failures led him to surround that lone letter with two more, an H and an M - HiM!
And when he found HiM, he found that courage to be the man he was intended to be; he found the Courage to be In Battle, Not In The Bottle of fear and insecurity he was loathing in.
No mystery in my mind anymore; I may be not enough, but He is more than enough!
For so many people who ring that bell these two words are the best two they could ever hear - Cancer Free! After a tremendous emotional, physical and spiritual struggle, there is great relief and much joy.
Last week, our own Willie Mae Bush heard these words and those of us who have prayed with and for her and watched her struggle are dancing with joy as well for this lovely woman who has literally been through hell in her life. But what about the other folks who never hear those words, does God love them any less? Are their prayers, and the prayers of their friends and families not working? Is he listening?
I certainly don't have all the answers, but if I look at the life of Jesus, and follow the subsequent journey of others in the Bible, I see something that may be a clue. Not everyone was healed, not everyone had a wonderfully happy and disease free life and just ascended into heaven. There are factors that make no logical sense but in God's eyes they have a divine purpose and make perfect sense.
As an example, maybe your father, mother or spouse gets Cancer, and possibly at far too young an age. And, they do not become cancer free, but you have been praying day and night for their healing. First, if they pass away, and they are believers, their destination is far greater, and much happier than that of this world, and maybe this is actually the very best thing for them. But for us it is heartbreak and severe loss.
Think about how much closer to God those prayers brought you before you get mad at Him. I remember that long 5 hour journey from Daphne, Alabama to Atlanta after my son Paul was killed in a motorcycle accident. In that time God and I became as close as we ever have and the answers he gave me were not the ones that comforted my human spirit because I was devastated and virtually at a loss for any measure of encouragement.
But what happened has helped shape my life since then and bound my own family closer together. God comforted my soul, he let me know Paul was with him, he assured me things would work out if I just took the time to grieve. And then he laid on my heart that I would come back to Atlanta and in honoring Him and Paul, I would be reaching out to other young people to help save their lives.
We could talk about this forever, but here is what I know. God takes everything we see as heartbreaking, as devastating and sad, and turns it into a rainbow if we just look for it. And beyond that rainbow is someone who is Cancer Free, they are just in a different, and more pleasant destination.
And for us, the grieving loved ones, and the ones who survive cancer? We dance with joy for the life we have left, looking forward to that day when we too, will be on the other side of that beautiful rainbow!
I love hanging around grateful people, people who appreciate the little things, that can see something positive even in the most ridiculous things. And I love this statement from the Life Recovery Bible, Gratitude Makes Things Right!
Ponder on that for a moment. And after consideration it makes an awful lot of sense. If we can live our life counting the many blessings that are way ahead of the trials and tribulations we struggle with, we will automatically realize we are truly blessed. Try the 23rd Psalm as an example.
Blessing after blessing rolls out in each powerful sentence of that Psalm with one key element. If the Lord is our shepherd we will be given what we need under any and all circumstances. If he is not, we will always be searching for more, more and more, because we are following a path with no guidance or direction and little fulfillment.
There is no predictable outcome when we embark on our journey of self will except that we are rolling a set of loaded dice. Gratitude only comes when we appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us, our parents made for us, and our spouses and friends that we have harmed made for us, but still love us despite our incredible flaws.
Gratitude Makes Things Right because we realize that we have been given gifts we had previously overlooked because we were too involved in self absorption. Be grateful, be thankful that our God has such a tender and forgiving heart, you can't help but be grateful for that!
I used to be one of those lost sheep, so I can tell you firsthand how grateful I am that the Good Shepherd came and found me! Gratitude does make things right.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.