by C. E. DeWeese
It was a sunny spring day in 1966. Hattiesburg, Miss., is a picture-perfect little city in spring. The azaleas are in full bloom, the joggers are running, people are digging in their yards. I started the day off as usual. I got up, brought in the paper, sat down in the den, and lit up my cigarette. As I inhaled, I waited briefly for the nicotine to satisfy my craving that had built up through the night.
It was the first of many for the day.
I got into the habit gradually, carelessly. I knew that a minister of my denomination was not supposed to smoke. But, along with many others, I smoked anyway.
After I finished one cigarette I soon began to crave another. The habit grew to 30 smokes a day. I had to buy gum to block my breath. But still I stank. My wife would hesitate to kiss me. Couldn't blame her. Still I wanted them. Still I bought them. Still I smoked them. Then I started a dry cough. Every day. Every night I coughed. But still I smoked. Still I spent money of cigarettes. Still I stank up my house. Still I coughed. All for a few moments of relief from a nicotine urge.
I wanted to quit. But every day I tried I failed. All it took was one brief moment and I was firing up again. My efforts to quit kept failing. I wanted to quit but was unable.
One sunny spring day I left my church to head to the local hospital. A friend of mine, about my age (in his 30s) was a patient. He had lung cancer. In those days a patient was allowed to smoke in his room. As I visited my friend he pulled out a cigarette and lit up in bed. I watched him as he puffed, inhaled, exhaled, and coughed through his cigarette. I thought about my habit (addiction) as he did so. But as soon as I reached my car, I lit up again.
Two days later I went back to the hospital to see my friend again. I found him under an oxygen tent. He was struggling to breathe. His wife was in the room. When I completed my visit, I had prayer with them. And when I reached my car, I lit up again.
I went back the next day. He was in intensive care. I waited there with his wife. About an hour later the doctor came out, put his arm around his wife. We knew what had happened.
As I left the hospital, I prayed. "Lord, deliver me," I implored. I went straight to my church, into the empty sanctuary and knelt at the altar. I was all alone. I took out my pack of remaining cigarettes. I laid them on the altar and prayed. "Lord, I cannot do this alone. Please help me. I give these cigarettes to you." A strange peace came over my spirit. I knew it would be difficult. But I knew also that the power of God is greater than the power of any addiction.
I got up from the altar, went home, and brushed my teeth.
About an hour later I got another nicotine urge. I stopped to pray. "Lord, help me through this one." He did. The urges continued. But so did the prayers. The urges grew farther apart. But still they were strong. The Lord gave me the grace and determination to persist. Two weeks passed. The desires and urges were still there. Sometimes my head felt light and strange. But God gave me the will to say no. Six months went by. I thought less and less about smoking. A year passed. It seldom crossed my mind. That is now thirty-three years ago. No urges. No desires for nicotine. No lung cancer. Good breathing. At least fifteen to twenty thousand dollars better off. Thank you, Lord.
"I can do all things in Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). You can too.