The Love Them To Life support group meeting at America’s Keswick has been cancelled for 2/11/2019 due to weather concerns. We look forward to seeing you next week.
Christmas 2018 Newsletter
Matthew 1:21: “She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
It is so easy to get focused on the problems all around us. Our country is experiencing the worst addiction epidemic in its history. In 2017, more people died of drug overdose and alcohol than died in the entire Korean War and Vietnam War combined. And for every person who is part of the statistics, there are family members and friends grieving the loss of their loved one. It is easy to become overwhelmed and think that we can do so little to make a difference in this battle, and yet we have been called to be a light in the midst of the darkness, to point the way to the one true hope of freedom: Jesus. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Our prayer is that we will be that small drop of water that falls into a placid lake so that the ripple effect spreads across the whole body of water. We want people to see Jesus in the midst of their fear and pain and know that He is the only answer to being set free.
We have had a very busy year, between counseling, speaking at churches and support groups, and teaching our Set Free Seminar. Our most recent seminar was at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Acton, MA. We had a good turnout and great response from the people who attended. Joe also gave his testimony during the morning services the next day.
We are looking forward to two seminars in the month of February, one in Cape May Courthouse, NJ, at Lighthouse Church on Feb 9th and one in Egg Harbor Twp, NJ, at Friendship Bible Church on Feb 23. Check our LTTL Facebook page for further details.
If you would like us to present our seminar, testimonies, or start a support group at your church, please let us know. You can contact us at 732-773-7747.
New Men's Support Group
The LTTL women's support groups have been very effective in helping women dealing with loved ones in addiction. The question has been asked many times, "What about the fathers and husbands who have a loved one in addiction?" A new support group called A Father's Heart will be launched at America's Keswick, Whiting, NJ, on January 7th, 2019, from 7pm-8:30pm. The meeting will be held in the Saint Memorial Lodge Lounge and will be facilitated by Joe Freeman. The curriculum will be our book Beside Still Waters: Discovering Peace in the Midst of Your Child's Addiction. The cost of the book is $12.00. All men dealing with a loved one in addiction are welcome. We would like to see A Father's Heart groups start in other locations. Contact us if you are interested: email@example.com
We are very grateful for the financial support we have received this past year. Love Them To Life is a non-profit ministry; we depend on the gifts from our supporters to keep spreading the news of freedom in Christ to a scared and dying world. We do not take a salary - all donations go directly to the expenses of the ministry. If Father lays it on your heart to support this ministry, either with a one-time gift or through monthly donations, this can be done in the following ways:
- By Check: payable to Love Them To Life, 31A Yorktowne Pkwy, Whiting, NJ 08759.
-By electronic transfer: There is a "Donate" tab on our website here.
Your help is greatly appreciated!
We wish you all a wonderful Christmas as we remember the birth of our Savior and Living Hope, Jesus Christ. May the year ahead be one of rich blessing as we draw closer to the return of our beloved Messiah.
Joe & Cherri
My Dad's portrait hangs in a prominent place at a lifecare center he helped to start. As I walk out to my car after visiting there, I always go by his very lifelike picture. One of the traits of this portrait that has been commented on by many people is that his eyes seem to follow you as you walk by. Though my dad has been in Heaven for 10 years, I still imagine his watchful eyes on me as I walk by.
One of the issues that I have struggled with over the years is feeling that God is there and sees me but in a very distant, uninvolved way. Through much turmoil in my adult life, He seemed very quiet and uninvolved; I felt that He was leaving me to figure it all out on my own. There was a quiet desperation that dogged me as I stumbled through all the pain, almost hopeless that this life would get better. I knew that someday I would get to Heaven and all the tears would be gone, but it just seemed as if I went from one bad time to the next to the next.
Our perceptions can be so flawed! Nothing was further from the truth - Father was not distant at all! In fact, one of the names of God is El Roi, mentioned only one time in the Bible, meaning "The God who sees." Genesis 16 is an example of people taking things into their own hands and not waiting for God's timing. Abraham and Sarah desperately wanted a child and decided to have Abraham get Sarah's maid Hagar pregnant. God had already promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sands by the sea and the stars in the sky, but as he and Sarah aged, their faith was severely tested. When Hagar became pregnant and ran away from Sarah's anger, God met her with promises for her future. Hagar recognized the truth of what was spoken to her. "The God who sees" was the one who preserved her life and the life of her child. "The God who sees" would fulfill the promise to give her so many offspring that they could not be numbered. Hagar exclaims, "Surely here I have seen him who looks after me (Genesis 16:13)."
Does God seem far away from you right now? Are you struggling with feelings of abandonment due to situations you can't control that are hurting you? Father is as close to you as the air you breathe. He sees every hurt, every fear, every worry, every heartache. When the answers don't come when we want them to come, remember that His timing is perfect. After all, Abraham and Sarah were both beyond child-bearing age and yet He blessed them with Isaac. God kept his promise to Hagar to found a great nation from her son Ishmael. El Roi, the God who sees, sees you and loves you unconditionally.
"Never once did we ever walk alone,
Never once did You leave us on our own.
You are faithful, God, you are faithful."
Beside Still Waters: Discovering Peace in the Midst of Your Child's Addiction
We were blessed recently to be able to republish the book Beside Still Waters: Discovering Peace in the Midst of Your Child's Addiction through Christian Faith Publishing. This story began with a very enthusiastic woman, Ann, who attended the LTTL group at Keswick and called Christian Faith Publishing, very emphatically telling them that they needed to pick up our book. We received a call from the literary agent and the rest is history. Our church, Bayside Chapel, and the Carole Mastroddi Foundation covered the cost of republishing, which was a huge blessing! CFP did a wonderful job with every area of the book, from the editing to the cover design, and we are excited to see where Father will take the book as a result of this step of faith. The book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple books.
You can view the publicity trailer below:
Set Free Seminar
The addiction epidemic in our country continues to increase, with no end in sight. It seems that everyone we talk with either has a family member in addiction or knows someone who is addicted. The number of overdose deaths each year is staggering and continues to climb. The estimate for 2017 is that there were 72,000 deaths from overdose, with opioids (heroin, fentanyl, and pain pills) being the major cause of death . This epidemic crosses all socio-economic boundaries and geographic locations. More and more grandparents are having to raise their grandchildren because of the poor choices of their children. Many churches feel confused and overwhelmed as to how to address the needs of their own families as well as the surrounding community needs.
We are available to present our 1-day seminar Set Free at your local church. We talk about the problem of addiction and its effects on the family and friends of the person trapped in addiction in the morning sessions and then address the solution, which is a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, in the afternoon sessions. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Recovery Coach Training
"God does not call the equipped. He equips the called."
One of the essential tools a church needs is to have people trained to deal with someone struggling with addiction. Pastors are already extremely busy with the church ministry and need people to come alongside them to work in this area. Joe presented the need to have Bible-based, Christ-centered training for addiction coaching to the board of Grace Fellowship International back in 2013. Recently, we have partnered with Dr. John Woodward of GFI in developing such a training and certification program. It has been shown that lay people properly trained can be as effective as a professional counselor. John has put together a certification track for people interested in becoming recovery coaches. We are excited to see the impact that this training will have in our hurting, needy world. https://gracefellowshipinternational.com/recovery-coach-certification/
One of our pastors, Ken Carlson, recently put together a 9 minute version of Joe's testimony From Wreckage to Redemption that has been shared on Facebook by many people. We have been amazed at the impact this video has had and continues to have. People are in desperate need of hope. Please watch and share with those you know.
September 22, 2018 - Set Free Seminar, Faith Evangelical Free Church, Acton, MA.
October 14, 2018 - Gospel Concert Fundraiser for Love Them To Life, Bayside Chapel, Barnegat, NJ
October 19-21 - Weekend at West Davenport Free Baptist Church, Oneonta, NY
Love Them to Life is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. All donations go to the ministry fund and do not benefit Joe and Cherri Freeman personally.
If Father lays it on your heart to support this ministry, either with a one-time gift or through monthly support, the following methods may be used:
1. By check: please make checks out to Love Them To Life and mail it to 31A Yorktowne Pkwy, Whiting, NJ 08759.
2. PayPal: https://lovethemtolife.com/donate/
All donations are tax deductible and will receive a receipt.
More than anything, we thank you for your prayer support. The evil one hates what we are doing. Thank you for standing in the gap for us.
Cherri and I will be sharing our testimonies this Sunday at Friendship Bible Church, 4004 Ocean Heights Ave in Egg Harbor Twp. A huge part of our testimony is how Father continues to use us through our ministry, Love Them To Life, where Jesus provides,” help and hope for family and friends of addicts”! Service begins at 10:30. Please pray for us and feel free to encourage us.We need our Jesus and we need your support. Thanks!
“We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise”
– Laura Story
As we go through the fear that comes from having a child in addiction, it is so easy to allow that fear to consume us. We live it, we breathe it, we virtually bleed it until it seems that there is nothing left of the person we were intended to be. Any brightly colored joy we may have felt in the past seems to be painted over by a dull aching gray.
But what if the fear that torments us and robs us of joy is also the very paintbrush that Father wants to use to draw us deeper into His color palette, richer and more brilliant hues, not based on our carefully constructed and now crumbling image of what life is supposed to be? What if Father offers us so much more of Himself when we trust Him, not hesitantly sticking our toes in the shallow end of the pool but, with wild abandonment, flinging ourselves into the waters of His love and peace. He calls us to leave behind our image of hope and instead find what true hope is.
Does that mean I won’t hurt anymore, that I will not lie awake at night wondering if my child is still alive? No. But the gloomy gray aloneness of fear will be replaced by the comfort and joy of knowing that my Papa walks with me and wants me to know Him ever more deeply. The pain becomes a gift, a tool to break me out of my self-satisfied ways in order to receive so much more, that I may shed the gray glasses and become fully alive to the vibrant colors of His joy.
Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Love Them To Life is not about “fixing” our kids’ addiction problems, but rather it is about learning to trust Father. We want to help our children do the right things. We want to keep them from overdosing or going to jail. We want to find out the way to make them more responsible or to help them see how they are destroying their lives. We get happiness from “fixing” our children because it shows that we are needed, that we have value, and that we stand in the gap between them and the consequences of their actions. All the while we are helping dig their graves and nailing the lids on their coffins. While those are tough words, they are true. When we don’t allow our kids to experience the consequences of their actions, they have no motivation to change. Fixing is enabling and enabling can lead to death.
Love Them To Life is about finding our identity in the one true Healer, Jesus Christ. It is about falling in love with the One who loves us beyond any love we have ever known before, who weeps with us when we weep over our children’s destruction, and who loves them more than we ever could. It is about our own brokenness and healing. It is about giving up our need to fix and trusting Father with our most precious loved ones, whatever that looks like.
In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham regarding his faith as it related to his son Isaac. In essence, God asked Abraham if he was willing to give up the most prized person in his life and trust God to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham concerning the founding of a great nation. How many of us would have been willing to experience the brokenness that Abraham did? And yet from that act of surrender and trust, the nation of Israel was birthed. The book of Job shows us how Job was tested beyond what any of us can imagine and yet his words were: Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15a).
Father asks us to trust Him, to take our hands off and allow Him to work, and to find our hope and identity in Him. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you.; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (Deut. 31:8).
I listened with sadness as my friend told me about her nephew’s addiction. He told her recently that he would rather lose both his legs than give up heroin. While he may state it more boldly than most people, the heroin epidemic has enslaved so many of our sons and daughters who no longer care about anything other than using heroin.
In our Love Them To Life ministry, we talk about “assisting them to brokenness,” meaning that we allow our loved ones to experience the consequences of their choices without enabling or rescuing them until they come to a place of brokenness and repentance. The pattern was given to us in Luke 15: 11-32, known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Many books, articles, and sermons have been written and preached on this parable, yet it is fresh and pertinent to our situations as those who love addicts.
The key points for us are:
1. The father allowed his son to leave. We can’t make choices for our kids. When they have their minds set on doing things their own way, we need to take our hands off and trust them to God.
2. He waited and watched. He did not rescue. He did not go drag the young man home. He did not search for him and pull him out of the pig slop. He prepared himself by waiting and watching for the day his son repented.
3. He accepted him back into the home WHEN his son turned away from his sin, humbled himself, and acknowledged what he had done.
I read an article recently written by a former addict, who is the son of a well-known pastor and author, in which he advocated “let them come home” while still active in their addiction. There are a number of problems with that advice:
1. Giving them a place to live does not assist them to brokenness. Housing is one of the basic human needs. It wasn’t until the prodigal son was living with the pigs that he humbled himself and offered to live as a servant in his father’s house.
2. If your child is addicted, it is not a matter of “if” they will steal from you and anyone else in the home, it is a matter of “when.” THEY WILL STEAL! When the ravages of withdrawal begin, including uncontrollable diarrhea, vomiting, shakes, sweats, and abdominal cramping, an addict doesn’t care about the sentimental value of jewelry or other things in the home. They only care about getting the drug to stop the symptoms.
3. Having an addicted person in the home colors all of the relationships in the household. If you have other children living in your home, they will be negatively affected by having their sibling destroy themselves in front of them. In addition, the addicted person becomes the focal point for the family dynamics and that takes away any sort of normalcy from the home.
Many parents inadvertently enable their children (and many times assist them to their death) by bailing them out of the consequences of their actions. I wonder how much sooner my own son would have turned away from his addiction if we had not bailed him out, paid his fines, and given him a place to live, essentially pulling him out of the pig slop. While it is counter intuitive to a loving parent’s heart to watch the destruction and not “do something,” taking our hands off, praying, and trusting God to keep our hearts in one piece while we wait and watch is truly the most loving course of action.
“Well, here it goes; my testimony is only because of Christ and Him dying for me and the lost and sick in the world. It is only because of God’s grace and my yielding and obeying Him that I have been able to stand and testify.
“I was married 17 years and was never so lonely; my ex was a good provider, but we never found love in our relationship. It was both of our faults, not understanding how to love properly. We built a business, or should I say an empire, based on money being my ex’s god, and I had the 3 boys I had to keep out of my ex’s way. He never spent quality time with us, and the boys behaved terribly due to his lack of attention. I grew angry and bitter and drew far away from him as the marriage was ending. Around the same time, I discovered that my 2nd son Joseph, age 14, was using pills and then progressed to shooting heroin. Nicholas, my first son, soon started using oxycodone and then heroin. My 3rd son, Vincent, at the age of 15 started using pills & then heroin, 10 years after his brothers started.. So, from 2003 thru 2015, all 3 boys were addicted to IV heroin. All three dropped out of school due to not functioning. Between all 3 boys there were more than 15 detox’s, rehabs, personal families trying to help, people praying, police, principals, arrests, motor vehicle accidents, fines… By the way, my ex would not help, never answered the phone in any crisis, told me to handle them my own way, and that I was causing them to be this way. It was horrible and no one understood why he wasn’t helping. Then he started using crack cocaine, lost his business, ended up in jail, asked me to put my house up for bail, tried to manipulate me, hired a private investigator to prove me unfit, stopped paying child support, and did not provide health insurance anymore. I was so fearful and cried constantly; each boy was worse off daily. I found 50 heroin baggies under the bed; I also found needles often. My neighbor was robbed; my friends were robbed; I had police knocking at my door telling me my son was in the hospital beaten up from a drug deal; a dealer followed me in my car; I found my son shooting up in my bathroom; my youngest told the school principal; Department of Youth and Family Services arrested me; state troopers broke my doors in, looking for guns. I installed a security system on my home because I was afraid of my children and their friends. It kept getting worse. Then came the grandbabies. One granddaughter was born addicted. It was horrible to see her wean off of opiates, requiring a 2-3 month stay in the hospital. While I was hoping & praying, worried about her growth and future, I also wanted to die, as it was easier than watching the boys kill themselves. It went on and on; anyone who knows my children and me will tell you it was horrible to watch; no one could help them.
“I had such guilt trying to figure out what I had done to them for this to happen. 3 boys in addiction is hard to wrap your head around! Who has this happen to all of their children?? For the past 15 years I have cried, been depressed, lost my job, and was broke. I tried to look like I had it ALL under control, but I was in so much pain physically that I was going to admit myself to the hospital. Looking back now, I may have had a nervous breakdown or heart attack. I found out about Love Them to Life, the support group for mothers whose children are in addiction, when my 2 sons were at America’s Keswick Colony of Mercy and started going, hoping for help. The group has been a life saver for me and others. We support each other and there is no condemnation. We are healing and growing because we all understand each other’s pain as a mom and a human being. Looking back, God has restored me daily and all I had to do was ask and believe; He always came through, in His timing.
“Today I am set free and will continue to stay steadfast in God’s loving arms and believe my children will also be set free.
“The Scripture that comes to mind often is 2 Timothy 1:7: ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power & love & a sound mind’ (mature, wise, responsible, peaceful, calm).
“John 8:32: ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'”
“You mean I am supposed to be thankful for my child being in addiction? I am to thank God that they are destroying their lives and our hearts in the process? All the darkness and ugliness that has taken them over – even for that?”
It is so much easier to thank God in spite of the circumstances, to rise above, so to speak, and thank Him for keeping us through the pain and heartache. It is a whole different thing to thank Him for the situation and the ripping, shredding, violently consuming agony we are experiencing.
Hebrews 13:15 says Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
I Thessalonians 5:18 says In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine)
A sacrifice is something that costs us. If it is easy, it is not a sacrifice.
God knows that for us to thank Him for difficult situations means that we are trusting Him to bring about good in that situation, even if it may not look the way we want it to look. The good may only be our own growth and deeper walk with Father. It might be the ability to come alongside others who are hurting the way we are and share what we have learned. It may be that our kids finally stop running and come to the place of brokenness and healing. Thanking Him signifies that we are taking our hands off the problem, have stopped attempting to fix our kids, and have stopped trying to control them (by the way, that doesn’t work). Thanking Him allows the refiner’s fire to clean and heal us so that He can bring beauty out of the ashes of our broken dreams and desires.
A special friend of mine gave me a poem many years ago that has stayed with me through so many difficult times.
The Gain of Losses
My anxious soul tonight is stirred,
Like some content yet caged bird,
I live surrounded by the wealth of pleasure —
Friends, home, delights, enjoyment without measure.
God’s voice unto my soul His peace hath spoken;
Our bond of union hath remained unbroken.
Yet, when some heart-loved treasure He denies,
In agony my longing spirit cries:
“Lord, when can I attain to this –
To thank Thee for the things I miss?”
My yielded heart would not rebel;
He doeth all His dealings well.
His watchful eye is o’er His children ever;
His promised care and strength have failed me never.
I know the way Omnipotence hath planned
Must far exceed that formed by Man’s own hand.
Yet to be really glad He wills it so
Seems more than I can ever feel or know.
I surely cannot utter this —
A prayer of thanks for what I miss.
I wish through grace that He applies
To cease to crave what He denies:
Still were the gaping wound so truly hidden
That not again would tears gush forth unbidden,
His love henceforth would have no void to fill;
His peace would have no clamoring voice to still;
And I should never feel His love and power
Flooding my soul in every lonely hour.
So, if through loss I find His bliss,
I’ll thank Him for the things I miss.
– author unknown
This is not easy to read but it will help those of us who are parents of children in addiction to understand more clearly the terrible choices that threatens the very life of our child.
I NEED To Get High.
I’m your child, or spouse, or friend.
But I’ve changed.
I don’t care about you.
Not in the way you want me to.
I care about getting high.
I WANT to get high.
I will do ANYTHING to get high.
I LOVE getting high.
I NEED to get high..
and I will step over you to do it.
When I look at you, I don’t see YOU.
I see a means to an end.
You have money.
I want it.
End of story.
I don’t care if you can’t pay the rent.
I don’t care if you need groceries.
I don’t care if you promised not to give me money.
I don’t care if you lie to Dad.
I don’t care if you’re broke.
Sell your rings, take a loan, sell your electronics, max out your credit cards, or borrow the money, because if you don’t, I will STEAL it.
I WILL find a way to get HIGH.
You think you can CHANGE me, or SAVE me.
But you’re WRONG!
I don’t respond to love.
Something cold and dead slithers within me.
You can CRY all you want.
It won’t change things.
My morals are a thing of the past.
I will say anything, do anything, and hurt anyone, to get my next FIX.
Although I may play the game with you, make no mistake.
I play, because I want money for DOPE.
I’ll say what ever you want to hear, I’ll promise you the world, I’ll look you in the eyes, and I’ll break your heart…
Over and over again.
I don’t have a heart.
I have a HUNGER.
It’s calculating and manipulative, and it OWNS me.
In a strange way you’re thankful for this.
For when I need something I find you, quick!
Then, when I’ve gotten what I want, I leave.
You’re anxious without me.
You offer to buy my food, or pay my rent.
You live to GIVE.
By now, you’re NEED is almost as great as mine.
I can’t stay SICK without you.
You can’t breathe without ME.
You think you’re helping me.
You believe you’re making a difference.
But what you’re really helping, is my ADDICTION.
I won’t tell you this, but you know it, deep down.
If we keep going like this, one or both of us, will die.
Me from an overdose, that you paid for,
and you from a heart attack, or stroke.
You’ve waited YEARS for me to change, or see the light.
You keep my secrets and protect my lies.
You clean up my mess and bail me out.
You love me to the exclusion, of EVERYONE else.
My addiction, changed you.
You hide from your friends and isolate.
You’re bitter and depressed.
Your world revolves around one thing only… ME.
But will your LOVE, ever become greater than your FEAR?
Would you be strong enough to reach out for help?
Will you learn to say NO?
Will you allow me to experience the consequences of my actions? Will you LOVE me enough to feel your discomfort and stop enabling, my addiction?
I lay trapped with within the confines of this cold dark, serpent – addiction, and I am… dying.
Soldiers for Faith and Coastal Christian Church in Ocean City, NJ, are hosting a women's conference on August 18th 2018. Registration begins at 8:45am. Cherri Freeman will be presenting a workshop session on Identity Matters: Healing from Relationship Issues in Light of Our True Identity. There are still some spaces available. To register, go to https://soldiersforfaith.com/faithful/. We would love to see you there!
Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! (Psalm 84: 5-6 NLT)
I often feel as if the Valley of Weeping is where I live, not somewhere I am just passing through. The pain of destructive marriages and of children in addiction has been a part of my life for a long time. The pain of watching my husband suffer for the past 5 years with a debilitating and deadly disease drills into me every day.
The ancient Israelites walked through difficult, dangerous, and dry land on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. We also walk through difficult, dangerous, and dry places in our lives. Verse 6 of this Psalm talks about walking through the Valley of Baca. This name did not mean anything to me until I read that it could be translated “The Valley of Weeping.” I could certainly relate to that!
The image is that God turns our salty tears into springs of fresh, refreshing water that nourishes us and those around us. Tears of pain, hurt, rejection, and anger could become bitterness that poisons us and others around us, but God can make those tears become a fresh spring, a pool of blessing. How can that be?
God has changed my perspective on the Valley of Weeping. A friend of mine has shared with me the quote “In acceptance there is peace” many times. That peace comes from discovering the following truths:
1. Knowing our identity in Christ. We are pure and lovely in His sight. We are His daughters, His princesses, deeply loved and treasured, no matter what our past decisions and failures were. He loves us exactly as we are because it is the righteousness of Jesus that Father sees in us, not our own. We are clean and holy because Jesus is clean and holy. We can never earn His love by being “good,” but the beauty of it is that we don’t have to. For those of us who were raised to think that we had to perform to earn love, that we had to keep trying and trying to reach the point where He wouldn’t be disappointed in us, only to fail time after time after time, this is freeing beyond belief! Zephaniah 3:17 says that He sings over us with joy. In the same way that He created each snowflake to be unique, He created us to be who we are, each one a work of art to Father. This world is full of pain but our story doesn’t end there. True joy comes from a love relationship with God who sacrificed His Son in order to have you be a part of His family. He loves you that much!
2. Knowing we can’t deal with life in our own strength. Verse 7 talks about going “from strength to strength.” God’s strength is the source of our strength. Joy comes when I surrender “my claim to my right to myself” (Oswald Chambers) and recognize that it has to be Christ living His life through me: I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). We have the privilege of exchanging our fearful, frantic, fragile life for Jesus living His life in us and through us. That is a great deal!
3. Knowing that Father is intimately aware of our situation and cares deeply about it. Not only does He know about it, He uses it to grow us into the person He wants us to be. I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone through the things I have gone through. I also would not be able to empathize with mothers who have children in addiction in the same way if I had not experienced it myself. I would not be able to work with women in abusive marriages in the same way that I can if I had not experienced abuse. I know their pain firsthand.
In Hannah Hurnard’s classic book Hinds’ Feet on High Places, the main character Much-Afraid has chosen to leave the Valley of Humiliation and go with the Shepherd to the High Places. The Shepherd gives her two companions to go with her on her journey, Sorrow and her twin sister Suffering.
“Poor Much-Afraid! Her cheeks blanched and she began to tremble from head to foot. She felt so like fainting that she clung to the Shepherd for support.
‘I can’t go with them,’ she gasped. ‘I can’t! I can’t! O my Lord Shepherd, why do You do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear. You tell me that the mountain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone. Then why, oh why, must You make Sorrow and Suffering my companions? Couldn’t You have given Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought You would do this to me!’ and she burst into tears.
A strange look passed over the Shepherd’s face as He listened to this outburst, then looking at the veiled figures as He spoke, He answered very gently, ‘Joy and Peace. Are those the companions you would choose for yourself? You remember your promise, to accept the helpers that I would give, because you believed that I would choose the very best possible guides for you. Will you still trust Me, Much-Afraid? Will you go with them, or do you wish to turn back to the Valley, and to all your Fearing relatives, to Craven Fear himself?’
Much-Afraid shuddered. The choice seemed terrible. Fear she knew only too well, but Sorrow and Suffering had always seemed to her the two most terrifying things which she could encounter. How could she go with them and abandon herself to their power and control? It was impossible. Then she looked at the Shepherd and suddenly knew she could not doubt Him, could not possibly turn back from following Him; that if she were unfit and unable to love anyone else in the world, yet in her trembling, miserable little heart, she did love Him. Even if He asked the impossible, she could not refuse.”
As in this allegory, we also need to trust our Shepherd’s wisdom and higher purposes. Joy and Peace will join us on our journey as we live in the sustaining grace of our Shepherd.
4. Knowing that we can trust God to work in our situation. We are incapable of controlling other people and the situations around us. When we finally come to the place of understanding that fact, we are free to accept and trust God’s working in our lives. Our pain and struggles can be used to refresh others as they see the beauty of Jesus in us.
May these discoveries encourage you whenever you face the “Valley of Baca” seasons of your life. God’s faithfulness will refresh you with His pools of grace and hope.
For the Lord God is our light and protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right (Psalm 84:11)
Gerald May, MD, in his book, Addiction and Grace, defines addiction as follows: ”Addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire.” There are many different types of addiction but they primarily fall into three categories:
- Addiction to a substance(s), such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, food, or caffeine.
- Addiction to a behavior, such as shopping, sex, pornography, gambling, work, and others.
- Addiction to relationships, such as codependency or domination/abuse of another person.
The essence of addiction is idolatry. We try to find fulfillment in a person, substance, or behavior and will do anything to satisfy that need, no matter what the cost. That cost could be our families, our bank account, our freedom (jail/prison), our health, or our lives. Any time we try to fill the hole in our soul with something other than God, it is a form of addiction.