Spend all your time waiting for the second chance,
For a break that would make it OK.
There’s always some reason to feel not good enough,
And it’s hard at the end of the day …
Those words are from Angel – a beautiful, melancholy song recorded by Sarah McLachlan in 1997. They reflect the hopelessness of drug addiction, the darkness of a cruel slavery from which few escape.
At that time I was sixteen, attending grammar school and working part time at a Mexican restaurant. Brought up lovingly by my father and stepmother in West Yorkshire, I lacked no comforts. But on leaving school I planned to go and live with my natural mother in Arkansas, USA.
I had visited her twice already, but only for a few weeks. At the time she was wealthy and great fun to be around. My summer weeks in Arkansas had been one long party, and English life seemed so incredibly dull in comparison. But my mother’s party lifestyle turned into something more sinister – she became addicted to crack cocaine.
A changed life
I went to live in the USA in November 1999 and found that my mother’s life had completely changed. There were no longer any fast boats, expensive cars, or even parties. She had lost everything, and was very weak emotionally. But she was off drugs.
And something else was different. She spoke about God, telling me that her ability to stay away from the drugs was because ‘the Lord’ had ‘delivered her’ from them. I didn’t even know if there was a God, but beneath my scepticism and ridicule, I was beginning to wonder if what she told me was true.
From reading Jesus’ words in a ‘red letter’ Bible, I came to believe he was real, and wiser than I. But at first this wasn’t good news. In the light of a God who was real, I realised I could never meet his expectations.
Parallel to the corruption in society, I now saw something of my own inward corruption. It wasn’t hard to find – my mind was filled with bad thoughts all day long, and I couldn’t stop myself thinking them. Until that point I’d never tried, but now I knew I really had a problem.
God was gracious
My inward turmoil brought on frequent anxiety attacks as I tried to sleep at night. I would throw off the covers, head to the kitchen and smoke a cigarette hoping it would calm me. But that didn’t help.
In such turmoil, I had no choice but to try to pray to God. I reasoned that if he was as loving as I was told, and if he also wanted me to do right, then he would forgive me and give me the power to do right – as he had done with my mother. So I prayed. I also started attending church with my family.
In America, religion and politics are heavily connected, and I became involved in political forums on the internet. This was a distraction from the real issues – the righteousness of God, his power and his Word.
However, God was gracious to me once again. On a particular political forum, someone used to post religious articles by a man called Charles Spurgeon. The language was poetic and perhaps that captured my interest at first.
But I soon realised that this man spoke the truth about God, and truly taught what the Bible said. I was really learning when I read these articles and couldn’t get enough of them!
What the good news is
I quickly realised what the ‘good news’ is – that God in his love freely saves sinners like me from our own sin and darkness. He can do so because his Son, Jesus Christ, willingly bore the punishment we deserve and died that we might be reconciled to God.
I also learned about God’s sovereignty – the fact that he is completely in control. Knowing we are unable to do good ourselves, he promises to do all the saving! What a glorious truth for someone who struggled and failed like I did.
I could now pray to a God I knew was able and willing to save me and keep me. I have found him true to his Word and promises, time and time again.
Not only has he been faithful to me, but also to my mother who, seven years away from her drug addiction, is actively serving the Lord by seeking to help those still needing deliverance.