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Do You Want to Get Welll?


By Don Umphrey

“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Jesus asked that question to a man who had been crippled for 38 years.  It seems obvious that the man would shout out, “Of course, I would!”  

But he didn’t. 

The man in question was one of many people with various ailments who spent their days at the pool of Bethesda.  They believed that from time-to-time an angel would stir the waters of the pool and the first one in the water after that would be healed. 

If you don’t know how this episode turns out, see John 7: 7-9. 

Change for the better can be painful or even seem to be impossible.  Sometimes it’s seems easier to just stay where we are.  That seems to be what the crippled man was doing. 

A man battling sex addiction who had been unfaithful to his wife on several occasions told me it was so difficult to change, he considered giving himself over to all his sexual desires.  I don’t know if he did that, but the last I knew he was a minister in a distant state without the woman to whom he had been married. 

I was addicted to smoking cigarettes for 16 years and particularly enjoyed one after a meal.  I tried to quit smoking on several occasions but the withdrawal made it seemingly impossible.  I would always give up, light up another cigarette and hate myself for being so weak.  

 Stopped Smoking but…

Finally, I decided to quit smoking by dipping snuff for a short period of time.   In case you don’t already know about it, snuff is finely ground tobacco that is placed between cheek and gum.  It’s a nasty habit that prompts a person to spew tobacco juice from time to time or swallow the juice and get indigestion. 

It worked. I did quit smoking.  But I continued to feed my nicotine addiction via  snuff for years afterward.   

On one occasion I was asked to join others on a missionary trip to Russia. What a great opportunity!  But I didn’t go because I knew I’d have to sneak off from others to feed my habit.

Thinking back on this,  it really galled me that this addiction had stood in the way of serving the Lord.

During a physical illness I had a fever of 103 and no desire to use snuff for three days.  Feeling better, the nicotine craving started.  But since the Lord had given me a 72-hour head start on quitting, I continually prayed for guidance to stay away from using snuff.  My prayers were answered and through the grace of God, I have been nicotine free for 28 years. 

Negative Effects of Alcohol

I have written many times about how alcoholism made me so miserable that suicide seemed like the only way out.  I started drinking in high school, and alcohol seemed to help me overcome fears relating to my social life and relationships with girls.  

Initially, this seemed to work well, but I ended up full of anxieties about many aspects of normal living.  After a decade of drinking, I was miserable enough to admit myself to a mental hospital.  From a fellow patient I learned that alcohol was my problem—not my solution. 

I left the hospital after two weeks and started attending a 12-step group for alcoholics. 

At the group I learned that as an alcoholic, I needed to maintain complete abstinence from alcohol in any form.  I believed them when they told me that even one beer would get me back on the roller coaster of daily drunkenness and headed toward death. 

The group referred to alcoholism as a three-pronged disease: mental, physical and spiritual.  Growing up going to church, I never learned that my spiritual life was tied directly to my mental and physical well-being.  But I soon learned the value of attending church while maintaining my membership in the 12-step group.  These two activities complement each other very well.  .

In the early stages of my new-found sobriety, I had a lot of anxieties.  Formerly, I doused my anxieties with alcohol. In the long term this was like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. 

Between church and the 12-step group, I learned to depend on God to keep me going in the right direction.  As I write these words, it’s been 49 years and one week since I had my last drink of alcohol in the parking lot of the mental hospital just before entering on Nov. 6, 1973. 


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Copyright 2023 by Don Umphr"New International Version and "NIV" are registered trrademarks of Biblical, Inc. Used by permission.