Updated March 13, 2002 - Habit, addiction, pleasure, whatever you want to call it, smoking is for life. That's the way it was for me and no amount of will power was going to change it. My attempts to stop smoking for good were all just temporary lulls in a habit picked up before I was 16. A habit acquired to be cool. Yeah, right.
Even after being hammered by congestive heart failure in a big way, my smoking never slowed down. I once made it 5 days with only 1 or 2 smokes a day. That fifth day, as I sat on the patio sucking smoke into my tired lungs, I felt my heart rev up like a Formula One race car. The problem was that my motor was on its last legs. I had to stop smoking or die; It really was that simple. Did I stop? Nope. I couldn't do it.
God called me to follow his Son a short while before this time, and I was still an infant Christian. I was too timid to ask for help from Jesus. In other words, I was a typical man - plain stupid and too proud to do the smart thing. Well, ask my wife about the people praying for me; they swung it my way. Here's my side of the story:
I got down on my knees one day, and confessed to my new found God that I was weak, helpless and just plain stupid. I needed to quit smoking but I couldn't. Would my new friend Jesus please help me? Please? I just can't do it, I said, please help me or I will die before I am even certain of my salvation. That thought made me sit there and cry.
Hey, I would tell you about the big, fiery miracle that Jesus whammied onto my head, with the lightning and the voice from heaven that knocked me down and made me shake, but it just ain't so. It was far more impressive than that could ever be. I simply never wanted another cigarette. Ever. Not once. To this day -- and it's been about 4 years now.
Not that I fought temptation and never gave in, you understand. Remember, I tried that and failed miserably. I have never wanted to smoke another cigarette. If you have ever smoked, you have some idea of the mercy and true love behind such a miracle. There was no kinder or more impressive thing that my Lord Jesus - my new best friend - could have done for me.
This was a show of power to which no bolt of lightning could ever compare: Calm, sure, unwavering power. The kind of power that never needs to boast or openly display itself for the sake of proof or pride. Absolute power.
Mercy and love like that could only come from a God who loves me like a Father. I'm a father, so I know this. We men want to take our children's pain away, even though we fear that in our own weakness, we will bear it with less grace than a child. Well, now I don't have to fear my weakness and I don't have to fear the pain my own child will face in her life. All I have to do is hear and obey the Lord my God, and He will shelter us from every storm, heal us of every hurt, and best of all, He will always be there!
Will life for us be easy? Not a chance. Who can grow in faith, character, and wisdom that way? However, in a nutshell, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Fill in the rest yourself. I am a dying man, and I have never felt so good. I have heard the Good News and it whispers in my ear that all things work to good for those who love God.