God can release the shackles 0
I remember the moment well, it’s deeply imbedded in my memory. There we were, two newlyweds in our mid-20s, my wife and I, standing before an exhibit at The Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. Staring us in the face were two lungs individually bottled in chemical preservative. One lung was fleshly pink and looked like new, the other shaded black and grey in spots resembled a dried prune and appeared to have lost its elasticity. Beside each there was a caption. “This is a Non-Smoker’s Lung,” and “This is a Smoker’s Lung.”
At that time I was a pack-a-day guy, my wife somewhat less, both of us had been smoking for about 10 years or so. Did the science exhibit phase us? For a brief moment both of us had a visceral reaction, one of those “Wow, isn’t that gross!” responses, but in its aftermath I continued with my 20 Rothman’s King Size Filter every day. If I thought the glass-encased display of the two lungs I saw that day was somewhat grisly, then I hadn’t seen anything.
This past week the Australian government issued some new proposals for cigarette packaging. Have a look at it, it’s clearly designed to deliver a “Shock and Awe” gut-level reaction. Leave it to the Aussies, they don’t mince their words, and here with their new proposals they’ve evidently gone for the jugular. The images are grisly and grotesque, obviously designed to elicit a strong emotional response. One picture shows green decaying teeth with lips covered in sores, the accompanying caption says, “Smoking Causes Mouth and Throat Cancer.” Another shows a motionless, staring eyeball, it’s like a movie frame out of “The Creature From The Black Lagoon,” and reads, “Smoking Causes Blindness.”
The new proposed cigarette packaging is obviously part of the Aussie plan to ultimately make ‘down under’ a smoke-free zone, and together with the graphic images Health Minister Nicola Roxon is advocating that all packages also be coloured a drab olive green, a shade researchers have discovered is one of the least attractive to smokers.
Meanwhile, Canada and other countries are watching with interest. Here in this nation Melodie Tilson, director of policy for the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association said this past week, referring to cigarette packaging, “Death should not be sold in a little perfume pack like it is now.” How true! Here in this nation, 100 people die each day from smoking related diseases, that equates to one person every 15 minutes, or 36,500 per year. Take the entire population of Pembroke, Petawawa, Deep River and Chalk River...and some, and that’s the mortality statistics for smokers.
Smoking is like putting your lips around the exhaust pipe of an automobile with its engine running and ingesting the deadly carcinogens, yet strangely enough all kinds of highly intelligent people smoke. I once had a family physician who smoked, high brow socialites indulge, men and women who are heads of companies, individuals with immense mental capacity, scientists, as well as those from the lower socio-economic bracket. So if smoking is irrational, deadly and insane, how come?
Well, the answer of course is self-evident! It’s an addiction. People who smoke are hooked, chained, incarcerated in a prison of their own making.
I well remember trying to quit. There I was, unable to sleep, up and out of bed at the midnight hour feverishly rummaging through a smelly garbage can full of potato peels, cabbage leaves and wet tea bags to find that package of cigarettes I had thrown away the night before with the firm resolve, “That’s it, I quit!”
In a less glorious moment I recall when I had ran out of money, scouring the sidewalk and gutter for a cigarette butt someone had thrown away. Hard to believe that this is the depths of depravity you will sink to when you’re addicted, but it is!
My Scottish Mom used to call cigarettes “coffin nails.” Sadly she was widowed when my Dad, a habitual smoker, died of lung cancer. For her, “coffin nails” would become a sharp and painful reality as my Dad, addicted to smoking daily, drove a nail into his own casket. In my day there were no nicotine patches, no hypnosis, no gum, no “Butt Out” programs, if you wanted to quit the habit it had to be by sheer will power. But let’s face it, many people have tried all the methods – and still have their lips wrapped around the exhaust pipe!
Finally one night, a year after becoming a Christian, I was sitting in a mid-week church service. The pastor asked, “Is there anyone with a personal prayer request?” Nervously, with a lot of apprehension, I stood up and some words stumbled out of my mouth. “I w-w-would like to ask you to p-p-pray for me. I have this (pause) problem..........I can’t stop smoking.” Well, they prayed for me that night. I realize, looking back, that I stopped hiding that evening, I acknowledged I had a problem, I admitted that I was helpless and powerless to overcome it, and I asked for help from Jesus.
“Nothing is impossible with God,” says the Bible. “He, God that is, is able to do above all that we could possibly imagine!” (The Bible, Ephesians 3:20)
Well, that night He did it for me! He broke the chains of nicotine addiction and He set me free, and I’ve been free since. At today’s prices of let’s say $9 a pack I would have spent $63 a week, or $3,276 a year. Wow! Over 42 years of non-smoking, I’ve saved a cool $137,592.
Listen my friend, get wise, quit. Someday, if the Aussies have their way, cigarette packaging may look like a closed casket with a dead emaciated smoker lying there.
That’s not God’s plan for you, He has something better than that! Turn to him, and He’ll help. I guarantee it. What He did for me, He can do for you!
Rev. Eric Strachan is pastor of New Life Community Church in Petawawa.
Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world, I know because I’ve done it thousands of times
– MARK TWAIN