Freedom From Alcohol. Freedom from Fear.
by Craig Smith
At the age of twenty-three I was riddled with fear and guilt. At that time I was unemployed and a university drop-out. I had no qualifications and no job prospects. I was dependent on alcohol to the extent that I could not function socially without being drunk since I used alcohol to cover up deep feelings of inferiority. Desperate to be accepted due to my poor self-image, I would immediately conform to whatever ideas and behaviour was in vogue amongst my friends. This extended to ridiculous lengths with even my opinions on music being preconditioned by the constant internal question “What will my friends think of this?”. Consequently I didn’t express any independent ideas or show any initiative. Just to be accepted by my peer group was my sole aim.
Ironically, few of my peer group respected me. I was rapidly developing into a laughing-stock. I was also a habitual liar, having started lying about my University grades to my parents in order to cover up the fact I was not even bothering to attend classes. In fact my parents had no idea how I behaved or what I was like outside the home since I lived a two-faced, hypocitical life, presenting a “good boy” image to my parents (while continually stealing money from them to fund my social activities) and a “party animal” image to my peer group. All told, I was a person in despair; despising my life and hypocrisy, but full of fear and not seeing any alternative or hope. I continued my self-destructive lifestyle of drunkenness and profligacy getting by on part-time jobs and lies.
Late in my twenty-fourth year I started thinking of Jesus all the time. I couldn’t get him out of my head! In the morning I’d wake up thinking about Jesus. I’d be going down to the shop to buy lunch and I’d find myself thinking about Jesus. “Great”, I thought, “now I’m going insane.” In my view only crazy people thought about Jesus. I couldn’t stop thinking about him and in particular there was this one thing that kept cropping up in my head. It was something I’d learnt in Sunday School: “Jesus said that He is God”. I had no peace from these insistent thoughts about Jesus. They intruded into every hour of my life.
After a few weeks of this I decided to resolve this question once and for all. I would research this topic and determine for myself whether or not Jesus really was God like he said He is. If it turns out he isn’t then I can dump Jesus into the rubbish bin of history and get on with my life as best as I am able, but if Jesus *is* God like he said he is then I would have to worship him. So I started going to libraries and Christian bookshops, trying to find out about Jesus and the Bible and I started listening to the Sunday night religion talk-back radio programs, keenly listening for any mention of what the Bible actually said. After a few weeks I made an appointment with a Uniting Church minister to discuss some of my questions. I had two in particular that I thought were very clever and which the minister would be unable to answer. “How can Jesus say ‘Follow Me’ ?” I said arrogantly.”Jesus can’t expect me to become some kind of wandering priest, can he now ?” The minister’s answer caught me completely off guard. “If that’s what the scriptures are saying to you, then perhaps, yes, you should.” I followed up with my killer question “How could God be so cruel to Job, covering him with boils and everything? Surely God can’t really be like the Bible says.” “I struggle with this myself” said the minister to my amazement. “My wife is lying in the next room with a brain tumour. She hasn’t got long to live.” His honesty completely disarmed me. I left a humbled and thoughtful person.
I realised that I needed help to understand the Bible so I decided to join a Bible study at a local church. I joined up with great excitement at the prospect of being able to understand what the Bible really said. The first talk was about why Jesus had to die on the cross. I listened as the presenter described how man and woman were created in perfect relationship with God and enjoyed his presence every day and how God talked with man and woman as a friend in the cool of the evening, but how man and woman sinned by making up their own rules and doing their own thing and how this caused a judgment to fall on them. The presenter described how all men and women everywhere have also done wrong and deserve judgment.
I knew he was speaking the truth. I didn’t need anyone to explain to me how my drunkenness, lies and hypocrisy were wrong. I was daily living with the knowledge that my life was a complete mess of my own making and I deserved to be held accountable for it. The presenter then spoke of Jesus death on the cross and how he took the punishment that I deserve because of his love for me. I then heard a voice over my right shoulder saying “Believe it. It’s true.” The voice wasn’t coming from any of the other people attending the talk, but it was real nevertheless. My heart was pounding like a trip-hammer. ‘Believe it. It’s true. Believe it!’.
And I found I did believe. So just sitting there in that little class room while the talk was still in progress and unbeknownst to anyone else there I talked to God “Jesus, I believe you died for my sins. I believe you are God. Please forgive me”. Immediately I felt something like warm paint being poured out over my head, flowing down over my shoulders, over my arms and dripping off the end of my fingers. It was a delicious warm feeling. It felt beautiful. It was a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. When I arrived home that night I looked at my family clustered around the television set and I found that I loved them. I was actually feeling love towards them! I always considered that I loved my family, but this was the first time I felt caring, warm, concerned love towards them. It was surprising and beautiful.
From that day my life has been revolutionised. The first thing that God did for me was give me courage to change my life. I re-enrolled at Uni as a mature-age student and took a course in Politics and Computer Studies which has led to a successful career. Jesus gave me the courage to do something with my life! It took five years to fully overcome the unease I felt in social situations without the crutch of alcohol. But Jesus was with me and I found that by taking my eyes off my own problem and loving people with the love that Jesus had given to me that my own unease was lessened. Slowly my paranoia faded. Today I have confidence to talk and relate with everybody without the need to be drunk. On the occassional times when some of the old fears resurface I find that by asking Jesus to help I can regain peace and confidence by relying on his strength to help me overcome those feelings of awkwardness. I haven’t been drunk or smoked a cigarette for over ten years and never will again. I have put away lies and deceit and with Jesus’s help will never again tell a lie.
It makes life much simpler not having to remember the various fibs I told to different people! Living with Jesus is a delight and a joy. He continually sustains, strengthens and comforts me. He has given me a hope and a future and his strength to sustain me. He has given me a meaningful life and continues to unfold his destiny for me and my wife in his service. I only wish I had discovered him much earlier!
The most recent example of how I have learnt from Jesus came just this past fortnight. My wife and I had an argument and we were both feeling hurt. My wife wanted to talk the problem out but I was feeling to upset to talk. I wanted to wait until I stopped hurting before I forgave her and re-started healthy communicative relationship with her.
As I lay in our room it occurred to me that Jesus forgave us all while he was on the cross. Even while the cruel nails were being driven into his wrists and through his feet, even as he hung there in excruciating pain he forgave the people who were hurting him so much and those who gave him up to torture and ridicule. Jesus forgave people while he was still hurting. I knew that if Jesus could do this while in real agony and while being rejected by so many, that I could follow his example and forgive my much smaller hurt with my wife. I turned to her and asked her forgiveness. Our relationship was restored. Once more Jesus had shown me how to love. Jesus has bought me to God, delivered me from fear and shown me how to live. He will do the same for you.
God Bless You!