Obedience Equals Blessings
In July 2021, I began to see a Christian counselor to help me with my anxiety and depression. I had been going through a difficult season following kitchen renovation that had challenged my patience and marriage. Which was followed quickly by feeling like a single parent as my husband started a long stretch of frequent traveling for work. (Not to mention over a year of a global pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and becoming a new mom). To say the least I was feeling under-supported and depleted.
One of the things I learned from my Pastor/counselor during our sessions was a technique of prayer therapy. She would pray for us and then proceed to ask me to clear my mind. She would ask a question and ask God to answer it for me. With a strong faithfulness that the things that came to mind were in fact an answer from God.
One day I was sitting in my chair doing my morning devotionals and I practiced this form of prayer therapy. As I sat quietly, a word came to my mind. My mind was black and floating through the air in all caps in white writing was the word, “Sobriety.” I immediately felt despair. “No God, not that.” Alcohol had been something that had become deeply embedded in my social interactions. Whether that be a wedding, holiday, happy hour, family dinner, or a Saturday night bonfire cocktails were included. Now in my mind, I didn’t have the typical characteristics of an alcoholic. I had never been arrested. I wasn’t drinking every day. I could have one drink and be done. So why would he ask me to do this?
Stage 1: Denial/Isolation
I went on throughout my day and told nobody about the vision I had. There’s no way that’s what he meant. However, every time I took time to read my bible or pray the word showed up again.
Black background, White writing, “Sobriety.”
Stage 2: Anger
How did he expect me to give this up? Didn’t he know how difficult it would be to explain to other people? Can you imagine, “Why aren’t you drinking?” “Oh, God told me not to.” That sounded crazy. Especially, at a time when most of the people in my life were not Christians. All our social interactions had alcohol, everyone does it!
Stage 3: Bargaining
How am I supposed to never have another drink for the rest of my life? Please no, don’t make me do it. I don’t want to. What if I’m more careful about drinking in moderation? I will limit any encounter to two drinks. Would that work instead?
Black background, White writing, “Sobriety.”
Stage 4: Depression
How am I supposed to never have another drink for the rest of my life? It’s impossible?! Please no, don’t make me do it. I don’t want to!! What would I have to look forward to? What am I supposed to do at special events?
Stage 5: Acceptance
So, on a Thursday two weeks after the first message I received, I finally told my husband about it. As soon as I said it out loud. And breathed life into it. I knew it was what I was supposed to do. How could I ignore it? I had specifically asked God if there was anything, he wanted from me, and he answered. How was I supposed to have a stronger relationship with Father God, but be disobedient to a direct commission? I couldn’t. So, I made the decision right then that I would try.
The following day was a Friday. And it was a tough one. There had been a storm that night. My husband was out of town. The power was out, a tree was down in the yard, and daycare was closed. Talk about a rough start to a challenge. I proceeded to unravel throughout the day from stress, and the idea of a glass of wine was looking better and better. My sister called me at that point, and I began to sob. I told her about the commission and the stress and the hopelessness I was experiencing. My sister just smiled at me and said, “I feel like God was preparing me all week to take care of you.” My cup is full, and I want to help in whatever way I can. Talk about an olive branch. I dropped my son off at my sister’s and had the night to myself. Now typically I would indulge in a glass (or a bottle of wine) while I watched TV and relaxed, but… I made God a promise and I was going to stick to it.
The next day I woke up feeling refreshed, with no residual bad feelings from the wine, no puffiness, and no fatigue. I made my coffee and spent the morning with God. I thanked him for the self-control to abstain from alcohol. I sat quietly and asked him if there was anything, he wanted me to know.
As I closed my eyes God painted a vision of special promises before me related to my marriage, my ministry, my home, and my business. It felt like something straight out of a movie.
At that moment I began to weep uncontrollably. Even now as I write this, I have tears in my eyes. My hair was standing up on my arms and I was shaking. Truly a vision of divine orientation. And I knew that at that moment it was a promise from God himself.
Now, immediately I called my mother. She had once described a similar experience where she had received a vision from God, and I needed reassurance or clarity about what I had just experienced. She answered and after I shared my vision with her. She proceeded to tell me that God had inspired her that morning with a message: out of obedience will come my blessings. This is what she had written.
Give careful thought to your ways.
Have you been waiting for my blessing but have gotten little?
It is because you are busy with your own house while mine is in ruins.
There is an order when receiving my blessings:
Fear the Lord.
I will stir my spirit in you.
My glory will be seen!
Oh! The joy of my blessings!
I have chosen you.
I mean talk about divine inspiration and connection!! The Lord had convicted me to make a change in my lifestyle. He saw that my consumption of alcohol had become an idol in my life. It was the primary source of my inability to demonstrate that I was a child of God.
Just like in Haggai, the people of Judah had not given God first place in their lives, their work was not fruitful or productive, and their material possessions did not satisfy. While they concentrated on building and beautifying their own homes, God’s blessings were withheld because they no longer put him in first place. Judah’s problem was confused priorities. Like Judah, I was prioritizing my own needs (need for stress relief, need for social icebreakers/conformity, and a need for comfort). However, what I didn’t realize is that I had allowed my mind to be governed by the flesh.
In Romans 8:5 it says, Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6- The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.
When God convicted me to give up alcohol my mind was governed by the flesh. I was hostile and angry with God for asking me to give up something that had been such a big part of my life here on earth. But as I thought it through the Holy Spirit did work on my heart. I began to rationalize and make sense of the request. You see when I consumed alcohol the Holy Spirit’s voice became dim. It as though a vale was put over my eyes. I had loose lips and my inhibitions were lowered. I was not the person God aspired for me to be. And I didn’t exemplify a child of God. How could I do God’s work if those around me didn’t respect me or see me as a child of God?
And with that rationalization, a choice needed to be made.
In my life application bible in Romans, it says that Paul divides people into two categories- those who are dominated by their sinful nature, and those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit. All of us would be within the first category if Jesus hadn’t offered us a way out. But once we say yes to Jesus, we will want to continue following him, because his way brings life and peace.
So on this day, I’m saying yes. Yes, to living a life without alcohol. Yes, to life. And yes, to peace. I want to live a life where I can hear the Holy Spirit pointing out what is right. I want to live a life that exemplifies that I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that eternal life comes through him. With this, I know he will begin a new work in me. I will live a life as Christ directs. I will find help in my daily problems with prayer and feel empowered to do his will. And with this I know I will become a part of God’s plan to build his church. And his promise for blessings will come to bear.
With that being said, I have a similar prayer for you. I pray that whatever earthly idol you are prioritizing over God will be shown to you and you can begin the work to set your priorities straight and say yes to life and yes to peace.