Are there things you look back on that make you hang your head in shame or regret? Do you wish you could blot some of your most embarrassing moments from your memory? I know there are times I look back and I cringe at things I have said or done and think, “Wow, really??”
The good news for all of us is that in God’s hands, our past can actually become a tool for His ministry. He can bring good out of even the most improbably sad or embarrassing moments of our lives, our biggest faux pas.
For a long time, I struggled with an addiction to alcohol, and this was even as a Christian. I tried my best to hide the effects of my drinking from co-workers and from church friends and other friends that I thought might judge me. As my drinking progressed, there was no longer much hiding it from anyone. My children and husband lived with me, so although in the early stages I hid the cans and bottles from them, I didn’t do it for long. I was really just one walking hypocrite, and felt totally ashamed, guilty and depressed.
Then, on one particularly bad drinking spree, I thought that it would be a good idea to post about my struggle on social media. There was all of my business out there for friends, family, business associates and co-workers to see, some of whom didn’t even know me that well. I know now that it was a cry for help – I was reaching out to anyone and everyone who might understand. I was tired of hiding and trying to pretend that I was doing okay on my own. The weight of trying to keep it all in caused me to collapse. I also posted numerous statuses on Facebook crying out to God for help. However, in the days that followed, I would wake up hungover and unable to remember what I’d said (or typed), but I just felt utterly humiliated, ashamed and depressed.
Several friends and acquaintances (even from work!) responded and told me that they were praying for me. Some even related their own struggles. It took a long time to get over the shame that I felt, and I had a ways to go before I would finally be able to find sobriety, but the mask was off. Once the initial shock and humiliation of what I’d done sank in, I began to feel relief.
I hope and pray that by sharing my past and my struggles, someone else may find the courage to share also, and come out of the dark into the light.
Today I am sober, not because of anything I’ve done, but it’s solely by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in my life. Many times I thought I was ready to quit drinking, and I sincerely meant it, only to reach back for the bottle when things got stressful. Other times, I had prayed for deliverance from the alcohol addiction, only to find that I wanted another drink more than I wanted to get sober. I can’t really explain why or how I am sober today other than by His power. And perhaps that is how He had to deal with me so that I am unable to boast about anything I’ve done or how I got myself out of that situation, as I am so prone to do. I think He knows that my pride and my self-sufficiency will kill me if left to my own devices.
In Romans 6:4, the word says “that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life.” I love that we get the chance to walk in newness of life! Newness! Meaning that the old, the past, the scars, no longer have dominion over me anymore. “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:6 NKJV)”
Now this doesn’t mean that we won’t sin. After all, we don’t become perfect when we accept Christ, just forgiven. But this does say that I no longer should be a slave to sin. Therefore, I need to be vigilant about participating or partaking in anything that may lead to bondage. This is why I don’t even take one drink of any kind of alcohol now, as I know that there is a high probability that it would lead me back to being alcohol’s slave.
I want to be clear that it is only by His grace and what Jesus did on the cross that we are saved, through faith alone and not of our own works. I was saved as a teenager, and the Lord promises that there is nothing we do or could have done that can cause us to be “unsaved.”
What Paul is saying in this chapter is that because of Jesus’ gift of us, and the price he paid for our freedom, we should not be like pigs returning to the mire, but should live for Him. I didn’t do that for a long time. I was still living for me.
Paul goes on to write in this chapter to the Romans:
“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15-16)”
And then further on he writes, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:21-23).”
Addiction was leading me straight toward an early death. But thank God through His Son Jesus, I no longer have to walk that way. And I no longer have to hide or hang my head in shame, but can bow my head in humble gratitude and adoration and say, “Thank You, Lord. Let my story become Your glory.”
“Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity to walk in newness of life. I thank You that I no longer have to live in shame, guilt and fear. Be with those reading this, and whatever our struggles, help us to remember that in Your hands, the victory is won and those struggles can be transformed from instruments of shame in our lives to instruments of healing and ministry. I want to give You the praise and the glory, for You alone are worthy. Help us to find freedom in any area in which we still struggle, and to look back on the past with peace rather than regret. Bring to rememberance the ways in which You’ve been faithful, even when we haven’t been, and how You’ve carried us when we didn’t have the strength to walk one more step. Let my life bear fruit toward holiness and give You praise. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”