Grateful Deliverance

Are you or someone you know hurting today as a result of addictions or choices that have had devastating consequences? Please read along as our regular guest blogger, Brian Miller, shares a raw but redemptive narrative.

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation, so rich and free.

Those were the words my grandpa, who went to be with the Lord this past winter at 97 years of age, repeated so often the last few years of his life, when aphasia had robbed him of the ability to find the words he wanted to say. He was grateful to be able to remember those words.
It occurs to me that too often I am not thankful enough, or even at all, for the tremendous sacrifice Jesus Christ made on my behalf. How do you thank the one who rescued you, who saved your life? How do you thank the One who gave His life to save your soul?
It was a Monday, the week of Thanksgiving, a decade ago that the following words were being typed. How has it been 10 years?
A young man, who was not so young anymore, woke that morning amidst tangled sheets, his body tingling in a familiar torturous way. His mouth was dry, and on his lips, he could still taste the salt of the tears he had shed hours before during his desperate struggle for sleep to silence the voices that haunted him.
Those voices pelted him with lies and half-truths:
“You’ve blown it. You’re alone, and you always will be. Nobody cares about you.”

 “You’re the only one who can figure out a way out of the mess you’ve made. You’re so smart; you’ve got to do it yourself.”

 “You’re unforgivable, irredeemable. You might as well resign yourself to that fact.”

 “God doesn’t love you. How can He love someone who has done what you’ve done?”
The deafening silence of the big empty house was another taunt, the realization that six years before that week he had been unable to save his marriage―in hindsight, he hadn’t done all that he could have. Then, after nearly dying in a car accident a few months after that, he had been unable to save his little brother from that same fate a year later.
It is ill-remembered if he reflected on his upbringing that morning. He was born, the oldest of four boys, to parents who loved Jesus and brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. His dad became the pastor of a small Bible church when he was young.
When he was almost five, he sat at the kitchen table with his mom one night after Bible study. As he ate toast with strawberry jam, she explained the Gospel again to him. Acts 16:31 stuck with him: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” He professed faith in the finished work of Jesus that night.
He was immersed in God’s Word from the time he was a toddler―daily family devotions, a good Christian elementary school, church thrice a week, vacation Bible schools and camp every summer, Bible studies in far-off towns with his dad or uncle, correspondence courses, memorization of hundreds of Bible verses, and reading every book in the church library.
But there was always something missing from his life―he never developed a personal relationship with Jesus. He had oodles of head knowledge, but God increasingly became an abstract―far off and unknowable. As he grew older, he became more concerned with the approval of the world than the approval of the Lord who made him and gifted him with many talents.

Eventually, he began to allow things in his life which he knew were wrong, but he became good at rationalizing his actions by adopting the world’s standards.

Public school introduced the world’s philosophy of moral relativity into his thinking, and he became religious in his actions, “doing the right thing” for his parents’ and God’s approval out of obligation instead of love.
Eventually, he began to allow things in his life which he knew were wrong, but he became good at rationalizing his actions by adopting the world’s standards. One of those things was drinking―after all, he didn’t start until he was 21, and it was legal. At first, it was only on weekends, and then Thursdays were OK, and eventually all the days that ended in “y”―no day was sacred anymore. And in the culture he found himself in, drinking to excess was the norm.
It was fun, for a season. Alcohol helped him overcome his natural shyness, and he made many “friends” and became known as “the life of the party.” But it also led to bad choices and risky behavior. It bothered his conscience for a while, but eventually, it didn’t so often.
He got married in his mid-20s, and for a year or so, he tried to lead his wife, a new believer, in the right direction, but he didn’t completely abandon his former lifestyle. He experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, who brought to memory many verses he had memorized as a youngster, but hadn’t read or thought of in years, while witnessing and sharing God’s Word for many weeks to a searching friend. He witnessed the Spirit open his friend’s heart to the truth of the Gospel.

“If you continue the way you’re going, you’re going to lose your job, your wife, and your life.”

God blessed him at that time, providing him an opportunity at an old job that he loved. But he grew proud and slipped back into his old ways, and his life soon began spiraling out of control. He was upset by (but failed to heed) his dad’s warning: “If you continue the way you’re going, you’re going to lose your job, your wife, and your life.”
He quit his job to try to save his marriage but lost it anyway, and his life was graciously spared despite the horrible car accident. While he used to drink for fun, now he drank to try to silence the demons that tormented him. He drank because he was too afraid to face what was left of a broken life without it, even though he was beginning to suffer physical effects from it.
That morning, in the silence of that empty house, there was just one voice that spoke to him as he limped to the bathroom to get a glass of water. “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV).
Photo credit: Aaron Burden
How do you thank the one who rescued you, who saved your life? How do you thank the One who gave His life to save your soul?

I am eternally grateful for the daily fervent prayers of my parents, grandparents, and other loved ones during my lost years, and for the way God pursued me with love even as I ran my own way.

As you may have guessed, that not-so young man was me. I’m thankful I heeded that voice to call on the Lord that morning. He took my burdens and healed my broken heart (the real issue, not alcohol, which He provided a complete release from), and richly blessed me far above I could ever imagine.
Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday, but for six years, I dreaded its arrival. Now, I truly am thankful for this special day to give thanks to God for all His blessings and sure promises.

What About You?

If you have a child or a loved one who is trapped in addiction or habitual sin, the best thing you can do is persistently demonstrate the love of Christ and to pray fervently for them, but refuse to enable them, as difficult as that may be. Trust God to chasten and to draw them back with cords of love. I am eternally grateful for the daily fervent prayers of my parents, grandparents, and other loved ones during my lost years, and for the way God pursued me with love even as I ran my own way.
If you are the one who feels trapped, know that your rescue is just a decision away to ask for deliverance. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you" ( James 4:8). For me, the road back was a gradual one at first, but my first step was to wake up in the morning and think of one thing to be thankful for. Slowly, my focus was removed from myself and my problems and transferred to God and His goodness, until that final morning I woke up and had my “Prodigal Son” epiphany, and came to my senses.
If you are a teen or young adult, make knowing God and developing a personal, trusting relationship with your Savior a top priority. It will undoubtedly save you from much heartache and trouble, and when you do encounter difficult circumstances, you will have a trusted friend― the very God who created you―to rely on. He is a friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Happy Thanksgiving! I pray that each of us can truly be thankful to our Lord Jesus Christ, for His great salvation, so rich and free.
Author Bio:
Brian Miller is a longtime newspaper columnist and freelance writer. He and his wife Bethany, a fellow “preacher’s kid” (and talented musician and chef) split their time between Eveleth, MN, and South Padre Island, TX. Brian seeks to use lessons learned in his life of God’s unchanging love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness to bring hope to others who may be struggling. The Millers are seeking God’s guidance for future ministry opportunities and appreciate your prayers. You may write to him at bd1976@pm.me.

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