Light in the Darkness: The Healing Hope
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
The two voices from the inside
In the midst of my darkest time, the fear of death was growing in my heart. I knew the kind of life that I was living was not right, and on the inside of myself, I knew that I had to change my ways. But how to do that? I had tried before, and that didn’t work. I began struggling with the thought of changing my lifestyle and not being able to do that by myself. I started to fight a battle with two voices coming from the inside of myself.
The voice in favor of my change was trying to convince me that it was possible for me to change and my dad was the best example that I had. My dad changed. He had left his addiction behind him and was living a life of honor and dignity, so I could too. All that I had to do was to follow his example, but I knew that I was not as strong as my dad was. Also, I was convinced that my life wouldn't last long if I did not change. I loved my family, and I didn't want to come to an end as many of my friends had already done. Changing… I should try again!
On the other hand, there was a voice trying to destroy all of those arguments. The cry against me changing my life tried to convince me that my lifestyle made people respect me, fear me, therefore I was actually protecting myself. People would think two or three times before saying something to hurt me. Also, that voice argued that I was not bad at all because I had never killed anybody. I beat some but I never killed. I had never stolen even one penny from anybody. I was working and paying for my drugs, my drinks, and my bills. I had never had my name in bad records, I had never been arrested, so I had no reason to struggle about changing. That was reasonable!
You cannot lie to your conscience, because your pillow will not let you sleep
There was a rock singer in Brazil – he is dead now - and I used to appreciate his songs. I got the sentence above from one of his lyrics. This sentence started popping up on my mind every night when I went to bed. The struggles about the way I was living my life were growing strong inside of me. Even though the voice against my changing was at least reasonable – for a person who is in darkness, of course – I knew that I was wrong, and my pillow was not allowing me to sleep. I had to change. I was scared of struggling with these thoughts. I feared that something terrible was going to happen to me. That fear led me to pray – even in my ignorance - and to ask God for protection and help. I remember several nights coming back home under drugs’ effect or drunk, but before I fell asleep I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s prayer. It is crazy, but it is true. I didn’t realize at that time, but God was already working in my life. All those feelings began a couple of months before the end of 1990.
Light in the Darkness: The Healing Hope
The year was 1991, and all of those struggles were still bothering me in such a way that I started to run away from the bad relationships that I had made with some of the bad guys in my darkest time. I was trying to stay at home more or just around my community with people who were not too bad. God was working, in silence again, but He was working indeed. To Him be the glory.
I remember one Friday night a friend of mine approached me and said. " Hey I am attending a Baptist church in our community now, and I would like to invite you to visit with us." Readily I said, "Sure, someday." I was not so sure that I was going to, but I said it more to please my friend than making a sincere commitment. The days were going on, and my life and struggles were still the same. In February 1991, a Sunday evening, I was at home, and my cigarettes were gone, so I went to buy more. All the places in my community where I could buy cigarettes were closed, so I went to another location not too far. While I was walking there, I passed in front of a Baptist Church, the same one that my friend was attending. I have that moment so vivid in my mind as if it was happening just now. When I was passing by the church, I heard a sound, and I looked from the street to the inside of the church to see what was going on. There was a group of kids on the stage, and they were singing a song and doing a choreography. Do you want to know what song they were singing? I still remember it. They were singing a song that says:
If I was a big elephant with my trunk I would praise the Lord; If I was a big Polar Bear, with my big belly I would worship Him; If I was a small fish deep in the ocean, I would praise God and never stop swimming. But neither I am not an elephant nor a bear nor a fish I am. But I am who I am, I have a heart, a beautiful smile and a new song, if God made me this way, this is the way that I will worship Him.
Ual!!! What was that? I was stopped in front of that church, and stayed there watching those kids singing that song for about four minutes… and they seemed to be so happy. What was going on with me? I thought to myself; maybe I should come to visit this church. God was working.
I went to a bar to buy my cigarettes – the bar was near to the church - and the image of those kids singing the song didn't leave my mind. I met a friend at the bar, and we decided to drink some beer together. In the midst of our conversation, I asked him, “Hey, what do you think about that Baptist church?” He said, “I don’t know; why?” Them I told him, “I don’t know either, but I was thinking about visiting it. Surprisingly, my friend said, “If you want to go, I will go with you.” I said, “Really?” and he said, “Sure.” Can you imagine two guys at a bar – and a guy like me - drinking beers and talking about going to church? It is not usual. My friend’s willingness to go to visit the church with me gave encouragement to do it, then we made a commitment to go visit that Baptist church the next Saturday, for the youth service. Light in the darkness!
I went through the whole week thinking about going to church on Saturday. When Saturday came, I went to meet my friend to make sure that he was still planning to go to visit the church with me. It was about 10 o’clock in the morning when I met him; and he said to me, “Sure, I will go, but let’s drink a beer for now.” Well, we stayed all day long drinking beers, other strong drink and smoking marijuana. It was around 6pm when I told my friend about going to church – service started at 7:30 pm - and he said me, “I think we should do it next week." I tried to argue with him, but he did not want to go. Then I told him, “Okay, I am going.” He said, “Are you crazy?” And I said to him, “Of course, I am! I have been using drugs and drinking all day long, so I am crazy; but I am going to church.” I left him.
I went home, took a shower, and told my mom I was going to church. She was speechless. When I got in front of the church, I was ashamed of going inside by myself, so I stayed outside for a while. Suddenly, a guy that a knewshowed up and asked what I was doing there in front of the church. I told him that I wanted to visit the church, but I was ashamed of doing that by myself. He said to me, "I can go with you." I said; "Cool, let's go then." He said, "Well, let's go to drink something first, and then we will go." I wasn't sure he was really going, but I decided to go with him for a drink; however I didn't drink. We left the bar, and we went to church. Finally, I was there sitting in a chair, inside of the church. Well, I was in the very back of the church, but I was there. Inside of the church, everything looked different to me. Everything was bright. The smell was so pleasant. People seemed so happy. I was kind of amazed. I know I was still little drunk, but that environment was definitely different. My friend called and said he was going to the restroom, and I sad okay. He never came back. I didn't care. I was there, and I was feeling good.
There was a moment during the worship time that the music minister asked if anyone was visiting the church. Of course, he knew that I was visiting the church, there were no more than twenty people in the church. Timidly, I raised my hand. He welcomed me and said they were going to sing a song worshiping God for my life. They started singing the song, and everyone in the church came to me and said that Jesus loved me and they loved me two. My friend – who had invited me to visit the church – came to welcome me and stayed by my side. Service was done, and I left the church immediately. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I went straight home.
I couldn't stop thinking about the service, especially about people coming to me and saying that Jesus loved me and they loved me too. I knew what hate was, but love… I didn't know that. Also, all of them were young like me, and they didn't need any drugs or alcohol to feel happy. I realized that I wanted that kind of life too. Something was different inside of me, and I made a commitment with myself to revisit the church on the next Saturday, and I did.
From that Saturday night – some Saturday in late February, I am not sure when – until April 24th, I visited the church every Saturday night for youth service, and some Wednesday nights for prayer service. I didn’t go to church on Sundays, because to me only believers used to go to church on Sundays and I wasn’t a believer. Also, I have to confess that every single time that I went to church, I was on drugs or drunk, but I was there, and no one condemned me. It is true that the youth leader and the music minister talked to me two or three times about me surrendering my life to Jesus, and he would set free, but I was still resistant to the idea of becoming a believer. I liked the church, but I was not sure about becoming a Christian believer. Even the pastor - who I had met twice in prayer service on Wednesday night - talked to me about giving my life to Jesus, but again I wasn’t sure about that.
On Wednesday, April 24th, 1991, I left my home for work, but I instead of going to work, I stopped in a bar and began to drink beer. At noon I decided to go back home. I continued drinking until 6pm, then I went home, took a shower and went to church. I was drunk. At the end of the service, when everybody was gone, I was still there inside the church. The pastor and one deacon were there too. When the pastor was leaving, he said good night to me, and I asked him if he could talk to me. He came and sat down on my side and said, "What is going on young man?" I told him, "Pastor, you have said that Jesus can transform my life." He said; "That is true." Then I told him. "Pastor, I need Jesus to change my life; I have tried it before by myself, but I couldn't. So, if Jesus can do it, I want to give my life to him. I don't want to go home before I do it." The pastor spoke some words of encouragement to me, and then he said a word of prayer and I repeated that prayer, confessing Jesus as my Lord and savior. The pastor also prayed for me, and after he prayed, he called his brother. That was awesome. I went back home happy and in peace. I didn't realize yet, but that night, God had set me free from drugs. I never used drugs again. Light in the darkness: The healing hope!
Now, as a new Christian, I started attending the church on Sundays. In the first Sunday service after my decision, the pastor introduced me to the church as a new believer. They clapped their hand. It was not because of me, but because it was common to church to do that. At the end of the service, almost all of them came to welcome me. A lady particularly came to me and said she and the ladies of the church were, for a long time, praying for me. I didn't know that lady until she told me who her husband was. I was ashamed. I have had a severe fight with her husband, and he had tried to kill me. I apologized to her, but she said all was gone, and now she was happy of being my sister in Christ.
As a new Christian, I was free from drugs, but unfortunately, I was still struggling with alcohol and cigarettes - It is a big deal for Christians in Brazil. I was not happy with that situation; I was praying for freedom, but I was still in bondage to my alcohol addiction. I remember when it came to change. It was Wednesday night during the prayer service. It was common in the prayer service for the pastor to divide the church into small groups for prayers. After the groups get together, I stayed alone. I was a little drunk that night, so I was glad of being alone; however, the pastor invited to pray with him. I was ashamed! The pastor talked to me for a while and asked me to say a word of prayer. I told him that I didn't know how to pray. And he told me to speak whatever was in my heart. I agreed. He said that he would pray first, then I would pray after him. I remember the words of my prayer that night. I asked God to set me free from alcohol and cigarettes, and to make me a new creature as He wanted. That was all. When I finished my prayer and opened my eyes, the pastor was looking at me. That was weird! Then he said to me, “Young man, I will tell you something that is hard even to me to believe, much more for you, but while you were praying, God spoke into my heart that one day you are going to be the pastor of this church.” That was unbelievable! He said, “I don’t know when and how, but I will be praying for you.” I couldn’t believe that, but in fact those words strengthened me to fight against my alcohol addiction. Jesus had placed a healing hope in my heart.
The next months… well, it is the subject for the next post. See you there!
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