Points to Ponder/Beer Cans in the Bathroom
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
Some days I think I am standing at the intersection of Heaven and Hell Streets. In one day, I can hand groceries from the pantry to an appreciative mother with kids. Then, I will look out my window and see two or three alcoholics sitting under the tree already drunk before 9 a.m. Moments later, someone will say that Sunday’s message has been really causing her to examine her walk with the Lord in a certain matter. Then the custodian will bring me a beer can from the ladies room (a remnant of the previous nights recovery group meeting - apparently recovery is not going so well for some).
I have driven the same drunk to the hospital for detox three times this year. Another has been drug and alcohol free for a year and is gainfully employed. One soft-spoken man came by for help and we worked with him to get him on his feet. He kept his word, fulfilled his promises, and towed the line. We helped him get a car and get back to work. A little over a month later, he is in jail, the car was impounded and now gone; and after conferring with his family (who all seem to want nothing to do with him), I find the man has a history. This latest chapter of that history has now been sponsored by us.
I could continue on with the stories, the joys and the tears that come from working with troubled souls. Some of them really want to get help and get better; others seem to, but they refuse to do even the simplest things to begin recovery. I often reflect on how painful it must be for God to watch one of His creations suffer and struggle and waste their lives. He knows the greatest potential that resides within each person, yet some will throw away their lives through drugs or drinking. Others will pursue lifestyles that feign success, while at the same time prevent them from living a truly abundant life (See John 10:10). It can be discouraging to pour time and money into people who think nothing of throwing it away on their next fix, or on another series of bad choices.
It grieves me to watch people do things which I know will destroy them. It hurts to put your faith in someone who seemed to be trying, and then you find you have been lied to or, at best, disappointed because that one chose their old way rather than the wiser path.
So what do we do? The scripture reminds us: “Bear one another’s burdens (weaknesses), and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) That law is to love your neighbor, but it is not always an easy one to keep. So Paul encourages us in verse 9:
“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Ultimately the only person whose behavior we can control is our own. We each will answer to God for what we have done with the opportunities presented to us. The Christian person lives and acts as an “ambassador for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20); our behavior can glorify His name or bring shame to it. So as we may tend to become discouraged - even angry - with those who have squandered our help or trampled on our good intentions, we must focus on our higher purpose. We may sacrifice a sizable quantity of treasures on earth for the sake of others, but God deposits them, beyond our vision, in Heaven’s storehouse. These are the treasures in Heaven, which never rot or decay, nor can anyone steal them. Keep in mind the broader perspective as you take risks to help others. God knows your motives and remembers your actions - and that is all you are really responsible for. You can influence, but you can not control the behavior and choices of others. It is helpful to reflect on this biblical truth:
“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord. And He will pay back what he has given.” (Proverbs 19:17 NKJV)
“He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9 NKJV)
Be encouraged in the knowledge that you have served the Lord. You may invest much, but if it is for God’s glory and it is given in love, there really are no losses.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.