As he was reading a passage about overcoming addiction the lights went out. Suddenly a curious message from above sent him into action.
- Posted on May 28, 2019
I had tried repeatedly to stop smoking, but my resolve never lasted. I had built up a powerful nicotine addiction. It had started in the Marine Corps when I was 17. By the time I was city editor of a Pennsylvania newspaper 23 years later, I was up to a four-pack-a-day habit.
One afternoon I was walking down the street puffing away when I had an urge to go into a used-book store. While browsing among the dusty bookshelves, I spotted a worn volume whose title, Direct Healing, caught my eye. I snapped it up.
At home in my apartment that evening I clicked on a lamp, grabbed my new book and settled into a rocking chair, a fresh pack of cigarettes on the table beside me. The book, which talked about how God is capable of healing everything from a broken arm to a broken heart, intrigued me right from page one.
I was three quarters of the way through the book when I came upon a paragraph that stopped me cold. It read, “Let us suppose, for instance, that you are a slave to the tobacco habit ... ” Uh, oh. The writer talked about the importance of prayer in overcoming an addiction. When ready to pray, the author advised, “Go into your closet or your quiet, darkened chamber.” I don’t have a dark, quiet room. At that second the light went out and the room was plunged into darkness.
I groped for the lamp and jiggled the shade, thinking maybe the bulb had been loose. No, that wasn’t it. It had to be burned out. Or maybe it was a blown fuse. I flicked the lamp switch off and stubbed my cigarette in the ashtray. Then for some reason I tried the switch again. The bulb blazed with a burst of light so sudden it hurt my eyes.
I got the message. I walked to the front door, opened it and flung my pack of cigarettes as far as I could down the block. That was the first night in years I didn’t want my usual bedtime smoke. Nor did I crave one the next morning.
When I got to the newsroom at 6:00 A.M. the first thing I saw were packs of cigarettes on the desks near mine. I couldn’t go into a dark room, but I could pray. I closed my eyes. Please, Lord, help me. Someone lit up. I got a whiff of smoke—and gagged. I knew I would never touch another cigarette as long as I lived.
Twenty years have passed. I still haven’t.
This story first appeared in the April 1997 issue of Guideposts magazine.