How Has God Impacted Your Life?
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Living God’s Word
Psalm 37 (excerpts)
Do not fret because of evil men (v1)…Trust in the Lord and do good (v3) … Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (v4)… Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; refrain from anger (v7-8)… The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their strength in time of trouble because they take refuge in him (v 39-40).
Prayer is a believer’s direct line of communication to God. The answer to our prayer may not change our circumstances, but it may produce something greater: changing our reactions to those circumstances and deepening our walk with God. We have all been in faith-challenging situations where we feel rejected, discriminated against, or have encountered other challenges where our faith is tested. Whatever our circumstances, as Christians we know that we can trust God to answer our prayers as He promised (37.4).
During the turbulent 1960s, it was mandated that all school faculties in the school system where I worked be integrated based solely on race. This mandate did not go over well in the community in which my new school was located. There was open hostility from both the community and the school administration. The hostility was shown in various ways ranging from car vandalism to verbal abuse. After the second day I began to pray for a transfer to a more receptive school. I selectively and erroneously remembered a passage of Scripture where God promises to grant believers the desires of our hearts, so I made being transferred number one on my wish list. For three years I prayed fervently, hoping that my prayer would be answered expeditiously, but my situation did not change. At that time I did not have the spiritual maturity to see that God was being true to His word by giving me solace and renewed strength to endure even during those darkest moments (v3).
Indeed, God gave me comfort and strength to endure, but my prayer was not to endure—my prayer was to GET AWAY, ESCAPE! Then, one night I opened my Bible and read Psalm 37 in its entirety. My eyes focused upon verse 37:7, where it says, “Be still and wait patiently for Him.” Suddenly, I realized that I had been going to God in prayer but on my own terms, asking Him to act on my clock. It was then that I changed my prayer and asked Him to help me make His will my will. It was not until I submitted my will to his that he granted my original petition. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them because they take refuge in him (v39-40). Now, over fifty years later, I still remember those days and God’s kindness and wisdom, and I smile.
“Please, Michael, you are going to end up dead,” my mom would plead. . . . For 12 years of my life I was bound by my addiction to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. In all honesty, I was addicted to anything that would make me feel better. . . . By the time I hit age 18 I was captivated by heroin and cocaine addiction that was far beyond my control. Here’s the kicker: people would tell me that I had a problem, and my response was always the same, “I can stop whenever I want to.” What a delusion!
Then it happened, a moment in my life that would change everything. I awaited a train I was going to step in front of because I wanted nothing more than to stop burdening my family. And I knew with every fiber of my being that my family would be better off if I were dead. Divinely, the train was late that day, so instead of suicide, I took a walk. A day later I found myself in a detox program on the south side of Chicago. Volunteers came in and spoke of spirituality, and I thought, These people are insane. If there is a God, he certainly hasn’t done anything for me.
Yet soon, I found myself in a very foreign position, doing something I never thought I would do: I was on my knees, praying to a God I did not understand. Shortly after that, a man who would end up being my mentor spoke of how we are all trying to fill a void that only God can fill. These words shook my whole foundation. Finally, I found out the truth, that GOD loves me so much that He desired a relationship with me. Praise God, I have been sober since November 7, 2013. I have spent the last five years mentoring fellow addicts in recovery, speaking about the dangers of drug addiction, and now leading the youth ministry at our church. Perhaps the most fulfilling position that the Good Lord has given me is that I am my mother’s son again, I am a brother to my siblings, I am a father to my children. You see, I am these things because of who GOD is. His love has transformed me from a broken drug addict into a masterpiece.
I was born into a “Christian” home. My mother taught Sunday school, my father was a deacon. My father was also an addict, so it was a dysfunctional violent home. My parent’s divorced when I was seven and my dad remarried. The domestic violence continued, but I also started being sexually abused by my stepbrother. I told an adult, but they did nothing and it continued for years.
So while I believed in God, I didn’t think I mattered to him. At thirteen I professed faith in Jesus to avoid Hell. But I paid him the same attention I thought he paid me. Then a friend invited me to her church camp. I wanted to get away from home so I went and I returned home with a renewed faith and desire to have a relationship with Jesus.
After returning home I started experiencing a debilitating depression. I told a youth pastor and I was scolded and told to check my faith. I did. I prayed, read my bible, I fell on my face before God. I wrote letters to God begging for forgiveness for my lack of faith. I asked him to take away the darkness and horrible constant thoughts that I didn’t matter, I was worthless, and I needed to die. He did not. Soon the letters stopped asking for help and started asking for forgiveness for when I finally committed suicide. It was like there was a broken record in my head that only played “you need to die” repeatedly. Finally, one morning I told my mother she needed to take me to the hospital or I would kill myself. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and I got help. But, while in college my dad, who’d become sober, and who also battled depression, let go of sobriety. I coped with my stress and fear in unhealthy ways and lost friends as I got lost again in depression instead of God. I reverted back to believing that I didn’t matter to God. So I decided he wouldn’t matter to me.
However, I attended a Christian University. They required chapel attendance twice a week. I went that week. There were hundreds of students in chapel. The pastor started by displaying an antique perfume bottle. I remember thinking about antique shopping with my mom when I was younger. I’d always wanted one, but they were too expensive. Then I stopped listening until, while ending the sermon, the pastor walked up to me, said “like this” and handed me that perfume bottle. After chapel, he told me that when he saw me walk in he’d heard God tell him to give me the perfume bottle. It was then that I finally believed that God cared and that he wanted me. His words became real to me. I realized that even when I feel lost in the dark complexity of depression, he is the God who sees me and I matter to him. God will not forget or leave me.