Jack* was a man we ministered to over twenty three years ago. He was constantly in and out of jail for various crimes. He lived with his mother and tried to take care of her (whenever he was not in jail). Each time he came out of jail or out of some major trouble with the law, he would call and we would get together and talk. I would pray intently for him and he would cry as the Holy Spirit came over him bringing conviction. He badly wanted to overcome his drug and alcohol habits which were the ultimate things that separated him and his wife. He wished he could watch his children grow up through each stage in life. But with his numerous addictions, that just wasn’t possible.
Getting a job also seemed impossible for him. Seeing his blood-shot eyes and piercing gaze would put fear in most people, much less give him a job. Long gaps in his work history gave way to questions he struggled to answer. But eventually he would tell of his prison sentence – and thus the end of the interview and opportunity for the job as well.
It still remains a challenge for me to know how to deal with such people who struggle to get a basic grip on life. We know what they really need – complete freedom from their addictions and a lasting stability. But that’s what they’ve wanted all these years. And that’s what we’ve been trying to help them with as well. But how do we get them from here to there?
The hindrances for these people are numerous. They are often interconnected with a circle of friends whose basic paradigm of life revolves around escaping the troubles of life. Time and time again they struggle to make meaning of their lives. But with a lack of hope and meaning, they gravitate towards others with a similar perspective on life.
But “shouldn’t they just get their act together like everyone else?” First of all, I’m not sure how many of us really have our “act together.” Often, the primary difference between those who struggle with addictions and those who don’t may not be much. My response to problems may be the type that can easily be hidden from others. But for these, their response becomes visible for everyone to see.
We need to adopt the basic understanding that we are all on a journey through life. As a fellow traveler, we need to be patient and understanding towards those who struggle with various addictions. That understanding will be the first step towards healing.
No one is too far gone for God to reach them and to transform their lives. There is always hope. With sufficient regular support and backup, they can overcome their addictions.
Yes, I have seen the occasional miraculous transformation where the power of God does an immediate and complete work. And the person is completely delivered from their addictions. But often, the need is great for an understanding community that will walk with this person to complete freedom.
*Name changed for privacy
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Photo by Casey Serin – Creative Commons