When Will Won’t Do!
When Will Won’t Do!
It was June 1984, Annie and I were standing in the airport in Majorca, Spain. We had already been married for 5 years and had lived in Clarksville, Tennessee and Frankfurt, Germany. This was the first time that we had really gotten away. As we waited for our luggage, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my pack of cigarettes and realized that I had only one left. I remember looking at that cigarette and thinking that Annie had never known me without a cigarette.
I had been smoking since I was 14 years old. I guess I started smoking for the same reasons as other people. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to feel accepted and, of course the classic excuse, everyone else was doing it. It had never really occurred to me that I was “addicted.”
I am pretty sure that Annie had prayed many times for me to quit smoking. I may have even prayed for it myself; but, I don’t remember. Honestly though, even if I had prayed, when you pray half-heartedly prayer losses its significance. Anyway, I turned to Annie and said, “this is the last cigarette I will ever smoke.”
Quitting smoking wasn’t a particularly noteworthy accomplishment, after all I had quit smoking at least a dozen times before; but for some reason this time was different. I don’t know why but a sense of peace and calm came over me. I didn’t even finish smoking that last cigarette, I put it out and that was it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or 1 of every 5 deaths. So why is it that so many people, find it so hard to quit, like I had. Simply stated, smoking is an addiction, and I was an addict.
No one is immune to the power of addiction, nor is it limited to alcohol or narcotics. We can look throughout history and clearly identify “leaders” that have become addicted to the power offered by their position, privilege or status. Ephesians 2:3 (NLV) tells us that “at one time, all of us lived to please our old selves. We gave in to what our bodies and minds wanted.”
Many critics say that addiction is nothing more than a lack of discipline or will power. Merriam-Webster defines will power as “the ability to control yourself, a strong determination that allows you to do something difficult (such as to lose weight or quit smoking).” So, if all that is needed to overcome addiction is “will power”; why do so many of us fail?
We fail because an addict’s primary, and perhaps only, objective is to feed that craving; to satisfy that never-ending desire. Addictions cause physical, psychological and emotional dependence. “You may want to quit, but most people find they can't do it on their own (mayoclinic.com).”
I wish I could take credit for quitting smoking. I wish, like Frank Sinatra, that I could say “I did it my way.” I wish I could say that it was shear “will power” that has kept me from smoking for more than 30 years; but I know better. I know better because, in the words of Anna Bartlett Warner, “the Bible tells me so.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (VOICE) states it simply by saying:
God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it. not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.
So how do we overcome our addiction? The truth is there isn’t a single answer, but one of the most common approaches is the use of a “12 Step Program.” There are 12 Step Programs for virtually any addiction that you can think of but, as summarized by the American Psychological Association, the process involves the following:
- admitting that one cannot control one's alcoholism, addiction or compulsion;
- recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
- examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
- making amends for these errors;
- learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
- helping others who suffer from the same alcoholism, addictions or compulsions.
These principles were tailored to help those with addiction, but throughout the Bible they are recognized as qualities of humility. I am not suggesting that addiction, in any form, can be overcome merely by becoming humble; but I am suggesting it is a good place to start because your will, won’t do.
Challenge: If you are addicted, or even if you’re not, identify a problem or area in your life and adapt the principles of humility. Don’t expect immediate result, but expect them because Psalm 149:4 (AMP) explains that:
“For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation.”