Over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with some students in the Adult and Teen Challenge of St. Louis program.
I asked two guys in the program I was working beside, “how did you get here?” and “What’s your story?”
As they began telling their stories I heard the familiar sounds of brokenness, disappointments, wrong choices and surrender.
After they shared their stories of why they asked me, “how about you? Why do you invest your time in the ministry of Adult and Teen Challenge?”
“My why is really quite simple.” I said to them and I went on to explain my reason.
“When I see you, when I look in your eyes I see my brother. I invest time because I want to see more lives freed from the bondage of life controlling issues.”
“For me, it’s personal. For me, it’s an opportunity my brother didn’t say yes to…to live free on the earth.”
I went on to tell them that I lost my brother to alcoholism at age 39. I explained that my brother is now experiencing the greatest freedom -a life face to face with Jesus in heaven- which is the greatest blessing we could ever have. He didn’t get to experience complete freedom on earth.
This may sound greedy, but I want BOTH kinds of freedom for people who are struggling. Freedom in heaven AND on earth! Just as I prayed for that for my brother!
The fight against addiction and alcoholism is personal for me and for my family.
We choose to engage in providing resources, help and hope to those who are in bondage and to those who want help!
But I also told guys from Adult and Teen Challenge about my heart to help their families.
One of the guys said, “yeah, I think my family has been hurt by all of this even more than I have. I know I have really hurt my family.”
I fought back the tears that were mounding up in my eyes. It’s true. It hurts.
Seeing your loved one hurt themselves hurts. Not being able to help hurts. Not knowing where to go hurts. Feeling isolated and like you can’t talk about it hurts. Feeling judged by others hurts. Feeling helpless hurts.
I choked back the tears, and said to the guys, “stick with the program. Stick close to God.”
One of the students with whitish blonde hair and rosy cheeks said, “I know what it’s like to walk with Jesus, and what it’s like to walk without Him, and today I choose Jesus.”
That’s it. Each day is a choice. Each day we have a choice to say yes and follow after Jesus. Each day we have a choice to die to self. Each day we have a choice to follow the patterns of our past or make a new choice.
After we parted ways that afternoon, I was alone with my thoughts and wished that I would have told them just one more thing.
I wish I told them that while walking through addiction hurt and was hard on all of us, the process brought us all closer to Jesus. And the relationship we have with Jesus now was worth every hurt.
It is worth every moment of pain and every tear.
Even Jesus was stretched in this way. We read in Hebrews 5 verse 8, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
Jesus learned obedience through the suffering he walked through. Suffering produces obedience.
I was at lunch with a friend yesterday who is in the middle of reading my book, Ascent to Hope. As we discussed the book, I mentioned to her that my vision was for my brother and me to do ministry together.
I remember countless times throughout my life when I would be presented with an opportunity to participate in an event or project and I would say, “I will only do it if Zach is doing it.” Or “I can’t do it without Zach.”
Having him by my side gave me confidence. Having my brother at my side gave me security. I’m not sure if I got to tell him that before he passed, but I hope that he knew how much I looked up to him.
I wanted to do this ministry that I am doing to help men, women and families be free from addiction WITH Zach. I had a vision of us travelling and speaking together. I had a vision of us writing together. I had a vision of us telling all that God had done to rescue us both! But doing it together.
My sweet friend reminded me that we are doing ministry together. As I share about Zach, who he was, his struggle and his transformation and his salvation – he is a part of the ministry. It just doesn’t look how I wanted it to look.
Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
God knows best.
I don’t know why God wanted ministry to look this way for me. I don’t know why He saw fit that I am the one who gets to tell the story instead of him. To be honest it doesn’t seem quite fair or right to me. I’d much prefer Zach to be standing on stages with me.
But I can’t and won’t argue with the sovereignty of God. He is good. His ways are perfect. He knows what is best for each and every one of us.
Psalm 71:16 says, “I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone
When I look at the students in the ATC program, when I look into their eyes, I see my brother. And I know that I am not alone. I am not doing this ministry in isolation. God uses the men and women, to spur me on in ministry to remind me of my “why.”
What’s your why? What has God used in your life to fuel a passion? How has he used the trials of your life to encourage you to engage in ministry, or grown your heart of compassion?
If you know someone who is struggling with a life controlling issue and wants help reach out to ATCUSA.org today!
If you are walking through addiction with a loved one and you are ready to stop trying to control, and hand them over to God, get your copy of my book, Ascent to Hope, and you will find HOPE again!
And remember you are not alone.
Stephanie – This touched my heart so deeply. I have shared this blog with my friends at Al Anon and others who have had the same struggles as you have.
Jesus was the ultimate servant leader and story teller. You’re sharing truth from God’s word, but most importantly you start with your story on how God has helped you and how he can support, love and care for all. This is the power of prayer and leaning into him when you feel like life is unmanageable. Addiction is a spiritual crisis leaving those who suffer desperate to be saved.
You are beautifully broken, like we all are. We were all born worthy as beautiful children of a mighty God. He created us to serve. You have stepped out into Fatih and trusted him and his word. You know your purpose and through your ministry you are executing on it with every breathe you have here on earth.
You are not only leaving a legacy for Zach, but for you and your family. I feel so honored to pray with you as we lift each other up in truth. Being a part of this journey with you and all our precious sisters is such a privilege and joy!
Justine, thank you truly for your comments. Thank you for your encouragement. God is in the driver’s seat and I am along for the ride of a lifetime! I am grateful that He is using these blogs! Prayers for your and yours as well.