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Beloved Unbeliever - Part 2

Guest: Jo Berry

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March 01, 2017

Pain Hurts… And Helps


God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. 

—C.S. Lewis 

He was oblivious. Perhaps blind. But it happened.

As a 22-year-old soldier, Bill Wilson accepted his first drink. When he welcomed alcohol into his life that day, he didn’t think about his deadbeat alcoholic father or his carefree mother, who both left him in Vermont when he was just 10 years old. His father went to Canada and his mother to Boston. The predisposition to alcoholism went unrecognized.

And it was easy to see why. Working his way through the ranks, he became a second lieutenant in the military and later found corporate and financial success as a stockbroker in New York City. Bill Wilson was a natural leader and a hard worker, and in 1918 he became a married man. The lucky girl was Lois Burnham.

Together, by motorcycle, they traveled the country. They were young, vivacious, and living on the adrenaline of his business success. Life was good.

But it didn’t last long. Life’s celebration quickly turned into a destructive, damning plight. Alcohol was no longer just a celebratory bliss; it also became a toxic mask for Bill’s depression. He began to show up to work hung over and to verbally offend clients and coworkers. In those days of prohibition, he hid in underground speakeasies for days at a time, leaving Lois to love him back to sobriety. When the stock market crashed in 1929, Bill crashed with it, losing both his job and apartment. Left with nothing, he and Lois moved into her father’s home.

Most of us can relate to Bill’s condition, either through our own personal experience or by knowing somebody who’s been there. Such stories are not uncommon. We all have problems and pain in life. What we do with the problems and pain will differentiate the heroes from the common man. Some fight through the pain, and others submit to its devastating effects.

For Bill Wilson, the end had come—not to his marriage, health, or even to his life, but to his tolerance of alcohol. Bill’s fourth admission to the hospital was finally the crisis he needed. He hit rock bottom, and when he did, he reached out to the God he had never known, realizing for the first time that the only thing that could save him from dying of alcoholism was his newfound faith and fellowship.

Bill co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous after meeting a fellow alcoholic named Dr. Bob Smith, a surgeon from Akron, Ohio. In its first four years, the movement produced 100 sober alcoholics, and today over 2 million people call themselves members.

God often uses the most painful parts of our lives to heal others and bring them to Him. He is the “God of all healing counsel… [who] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, MSG).

Have people walked alongside you recently to encourage you through a difficult time? If so, call them today and thank them for their willingness to be used by God to help you.

Have you taken what God taught you in your pain to help somebody else? If not, you still can.

That’s what Bill Wilson did. He found his own freedom helping others. And he knew the key to successful sobriety was people helping people, so he set up sponsors to walk with fellow alcoholics through their pain, failures, and discouragement.

But he didn’t find the solution until he found the Freedom Giver during his fourth trip to the hospital.

One key to unlocking the mysteries of God’s Word is to cry from the depths of our pain, Why? Why, O Lord, have You forsaken me? Why are You doing this to me?

Those who are saved will spend eternity in Heaven because of pain: Jesus’ pain. He had to endure it to save the world, crying out; “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

You cannot become like Christ without pain. Rest assured that God can and often does use your pain and disappointments in surprising ways.

Sydna Masse is an extraordinary woman. As a 19-year-old college student, she discovered she was pregnant. An unsupportive boyfriend led her to choose abortion. She’s not alone. About half of American women have experienced an unintended pregnancy, and at current rates, more than one-third (35 percent) will have abortions by age 45. Among women having abortions in the United States, about one-half have already had a prior abortion.

Though abortion seemed like an easy solution to Synda’s unwanted pregnancy, it wasn’t. Instead, it led to years of grief that began with the birth of her second child. As she held her child in her arms, she grieved the child she never got to hold. Her pain ultimately led her to begin Ramah International, a post-abortion ministry. Today, she serves as its president, giving of herself to help other women heal. It took courage for her to admit the sorrow of her past, but God is capable of redeeming any situation.

Your best friend may have had an abortion, or your neighbor, a co-worker, or the woman you sit next to in choir. Or maybe you are in that number. If you still carry pain because of that decision, regardless of how long ago it was, let me speak directly to you.

God is the Freedom Giver and wants you to experience freedom. He sent Jesus so that we could “have life to the full” (John 10.10). The burden you may continue to feel serves no purpose. Any shame that bubbles up at the mention of abortion serves to bind you, as do the emotional scars you may carry or any sadness that creeps into your heart occasionally. That’s not what God wants for your life. You can begin healing right now. All you have to do is ask. When you do, I encourage you to pour out your heart to Him. Though He already knows the circumstances surrounding your decision, acknowledge what you were feeling at the time, how you feel now, how the decision affected you in the past, and how it continues to affect you today. Then, ask Him specifically to release you from the burden you’re carrying. Trust that He will be faithful in responding to your request.

Ponder these words, “Before I was afflicted I went astray…now I keep Your Word” (Psalm 119:67, NASB).

A woman’s life has many potential areas of pain. We’ve looked at alcoholism and abortion. But those are just two issues that cause pain and disappointment. We haven’t addressed abuse, anorexia, bulimia, depression, infertility, other addictions, promiscuity, marital infidelity, to name a few.

Though pain is plentiful in this life, God’s willingness to redeem pain is infinite. Will you let him redeem yours? It may well lead to some of the most meaningful relationships you’ll ever enjoy, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

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