Reflecting upon the attitudes that exist in society towards those who turn to addiction to drugs and alcohol to numb the inner pain in their lives, I wrote this piece. I welcome your comments on the issues it presents for society and the Church.
Please note: This story is based upon a series of life observations that I have combined into a story. The situation presented is fictional.
I saw him standing at the church door. He had a kind face, but it was etched with years of hard living. He told me he was only 40, but looked more like 65. Life had been so rough for him.
The man cried as he told me how he felt so defeated by life. Two years ago he had a great job and a loving family. Then, tragedy struck in a wave of events that destroyed his life. His wife died of breast cancer. It was so sad to hear him tell me how she died a little more each day. He fell apart. This once happy man started drinking. He wanted to find anything he could to numb this agonizing inner torture that kept him awake at nights. The booze didn’t do it, so he turned to drugs. He knew it was a slippery slope to a living hell he felt helpless to escape.
An anonymous complaint was filed against him with the children’s services department. Their investigation determined that he was unfit to care for his three children. They were removed from his home and put into foster care. He lost the home because he couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments.
He had gone down so far that no one was willing to give him a place to stay. His own parents in as much as they loved him, couldn’t put up with his lies. He told them he was looking for work. His dad discovered him drinking away what little savings he had left at a local bar.
This sad man cried as he told me he stubbornly refused to go to a rehab centre to get sober. He refused any counseling for his alcohol and drug addiction. He had resorted to begging for money, so he could get his next fix. His parents had enough. They told him to leave. He told me he swore at them and said he hated their guts.
This tortured soul cried as he left for life out on the street.
He slept in a shelter to get out of the bitter winter cold whenever he could get in before it was filled to capacity. He told me he ended up in the hospital with hypothermia. He took his hands out of his torn jacket to show me that he had lost two fingers on his right hand to frostbite.
I wanted so much to invite him into church, but he stunk. What would the congregation think? He just didn’t fit in. I thought, “Maybe, if I give him $10.00 he’ll go away.” I can feel good inside that I listened to him and gave him enough for a hot meal.” Sure, I knew he would probably spend it on booze. I wanted to appease my conscience.
As I reached for a $10 bill in my wallet, I felt sick inside. Suddenly, guilt came into my spirit. What gave me or anyone a right to judge this man? We are all sinners. We all have our struggles. This hurting soul needed my love, not my judgment. So what if he had holes in his shirt and jeans. He was sober enough to come and ask not for a hand out, but a hand up.
I felt convicted in my spirit for my unloving thoughts. I gave a silent prayer to God. I asked Him to forgive me for thinking this man was unfit to be in our church.
I touched him gently on the shoulder. I smiled and said, “Welcome. Come in out of the cold. I’ll get you a coffee. Here. Take my jacket. Looks like it will fit you.” He accepted my jacket with a warm smile as he put it on over his torn one. I brought him his coffee. He accepted it as he shivered from having been out in the cold.
I escorted the man to a seat in the sanctuary. He was just on time to hear our pastor’s sermon about the story of the good Samaritan. When our pastor spoke about loving those who have fallen into addictions, I could see this complete stranger I had invited to our church relax a little more. He was beginning to feel welcome. He started to allow the emotional walls to come down he had put around himself.
Our pastor gave the appeal for people to come forward for prayer. The man stood up and walked forward to the altar. I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to go with him. He was shaking as I put my hand upon his shoulder. With tears streaming down his face he said he was tired of the way he was living. He said, “I want to give up my anger at God for every awful thing that’s happened in my life. ”
As my eyes met his I said, “You can do that right now by asking Christ into your life. I don’t believe it’s by coincidence you came here today. This is your God appointment. My friend, Christ wants to free you from your prison of anger. Will you let Him come into your life right now?”
He told me he was sorry for all of his sins.
I prayed with him that he would be saved. Suddenly, the shaking of the man’s body stopped. The battle was over. He was saved.
He smiled at me as he said, “I’m not an outsider anymore.”
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