I am 28 years old. My parents divorced when I was seven and my mother married a man with two small children. Together, they had one child. By the time I was nine, I felt as though I did not have a mom or a dad. To overcome my rejection and loneliness, I became sexually active when I was twelve. I found it easy to attract boys, but I also found that boys often treated me as though I were a piece of trash after having sex. For them, sex was a game. For me, sex was a means to an end. I wanted a close friend. I have been married and divorced. I have no children and haven�t seen my mother for years. I cannot recall the number of sexual partners that I have had. I have a history of alcohol and drug use. When I learned that I was HIV positive (about a year ago) I was shocked, but not surprised. Even though men say I am attractive, I feel worthless inside and at times, I loathe myself. I have a good paying job, but I hate it. You might think this is weird, but I don�t think hell could be much worse. I tried going to church, but songs and Bible texts brought no comfort. A co-worker suggested that I write to you. I would like some peace and joy before I die.
� Becky [fictitious name]
If my response does not help, keep reaching out until you find the help that you need because God has prepared someone on Earth to help you. God loves all sinners unconditionally and the Bible says that if we keep asking, knocking, and searching, He will help! (Matthew 7:7) Somewhere, there is a qualified person who can make a tremendous difference in your life, so don�t give up.
I have read your letter several times and truly, your pain is great. Even though your sad, miserable, and rebellious past cannot be changed, you can still experience "perfect peace and inexpressible joy" before you die. Of course, tranquility and happiness won�t happen instantly, but you can become a whole new person and enjoy a whole new outlook on life IF you will (a) take the initiative to do a few things for yourself, and (b) give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to miraculously transform you. To get started, here are three self-help initiatives that I hope you will immediately pursue:
1. HIV is a deadly disease. If you are already taking medication for HIV, you know that your chance of living 25 more years is quite good. Without medication; however, the time before AIDS sets in is about nine years. Unfortunately, after HIV develops into AIDS, the average life span is about nine months. So, find a doctor who understands HIV if you have not done this already and begin taking the appropriate medication. Don�t delay.
2. You did not write anything about your current lifestyle. If you are sexually active, Becky, you must stop. You have a contagious disease that is deadly and you should not expose others to it. Furthermore, your letter reveals that you already know that promiscuity does not bring joy or happiness. Promiscuity will rob you of self respect and self worth. In the end, it will leave you emotionally scarred and very lonely.
3. If you are using drugs and alcohol occasionally, you must get help to stop immediately. I�m talking about stopping "cold turkey." If you don�t do this, you will not be able to get off the merry-go-round caused by chemical dependancy. Consider your life�s report: You have a job that you hate, you have a disease that will kill you, you have no family support, and you have been treated like trash by former lovers. It is no wonder that you are in depression, and every time you use drugs and alcohol, they induce greater depression because they are depressants. In exchange for a few moments of "well being," drugs and alcohol will impair your ability to think straight and weaken your resolve to do what is right. For each drug-induced high there is an corresponding low which calls for another drug-induced high. This merry-go-round is a deadly vortex. Drugs and alcohol will not fix a single problem. They cannot help you get to where you want to be.
Substance abuse is a ball and chain. Alcohol and drugs are chemical demons. They wield great power over their victims, and when people are under their influence, they cause people to say and do all kinds of harmful, stupid, and shameful things. Once they master you, they will taunt you by saying, "Look how we have made a hopeless fool out of you." The Bible says, "Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1) Becky, if you have used alcohol or drugs during the past year, you must join a twelve-step program. If you don�t join, the odds are 99% that you will not be able to redirect your physiological dependency from them to God. The Alcoholics Anonymous program is excellent and their arms are open. Embrace them! Don�t delay!
Your letter ended with a plea for "some peace and joy" before you die. You might not realize this, but peace and joy are spiritual experiences. To have genuine peace and joy, you must have a spiritual life. (Notice, I did not say "a religious life.") Even though you may be spiritually dead at the moment, God can raise you up from the ashes of your past. (See Isaiah 61:1-3.) I�m sure you understand how a person can have everything that money can buy and still be completely miserable. The plenty/poverty phenomenon occurs because God has put a place in our hearts that He alone can fill. When God is absent, the heart remains empty regardless of how much stuff we cram into it. Here are three spiritual initiatives that I hope you will follow. If you apply them, these initiatives can lift you out of your present dilemma and within a few weeks, you will find yourself on the road that leads to eternal peace and joy.
1. Know and Honor God. Becky, the first step toward joy and peace is knowing God. I am assuming you do not know much about God or His laws regarding human conduct. (I say this because you indicated that you tried going to church and the "songs and Bible texts" did not do anything for you.) It is my prayer and hope that you will give God and His Word another try. You need to know about God because He is our Creator. God is the source of truth! Human beings are, in general, slow learners. We are slow to recognize the horrors that sin produces. Think back to when you were twelve years old. Did you anticipate the pain and suffering that would come through promiscuity and substance abuse? No! You ignorantly took a path that has all but destroyed you mentally, physically, and spiritually. And now you loathe yourself for having made such stupid choices. Right? I�m being blunt in hopes that I can put a dent in your thinking. God�s rules for human conduct are for our benefit, not His. Every time we violate His laws (either knowingly or ignorantly), we hurt ourselves because sin always extracts a high price in the form of a painful penalty.
This next point is extremely important to understand. God is not punishing you with HIV because you have been sexually immoral. No, "the law of sin" is punishing you. The law of sin is inescapable. This law can be described in two sentences: First, whether we sin ignorantly or deliberately, we have to suffer from the consequences of our sins. Second, sin imposes a degenerative process on everyone and this process eventually terminates our life. (See Romans 6-8.) Consider how the law of sin works for a moment. Millions of people die each year from cancer. They are not dying from this disease because God is punishing them. They are dying because the law of sin eventually robs sinners of life. On the other hand, some deaths are premature and can be directly linked from cause to effect. For example, mesothelioma has killed many people who have inhaled asbestos fibers, lung cancer has killed many people who have smoked, and AIDS has killed many people who have engaged in promiscuity. So, death comes upon mankind in two ways. First, death comes to us even when we do everything right, because everyone is subject to the degenerative curse of sin. Second, as your letter so honestly reveals, death can come prematurely if we ignorantly or willfully violate the laws of health. Becky, think about your past as you consider this verse: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)
When you started having sex at age twelve, you probably thought that promiscuity would bring love and popularity. The attention young men showered on you probably gave you the illusion of being loved. But now, I am sure your experienced eye sees this truth: Promiscuity brings loathing and death instead of joy. When you consider your life up to this point, I am sure you wish you had known the truth about promiscuity at age twelve. But do not despair � all is not lost. The good news is that you can still experience genuine love, peace, and happiness if you will begin to honor God in words and deeds.
Honoring God is a two step process. First, you have to put forth some effort to get to know Him. Start by studying the Bible. Begin by reading the books of Genesis and Exodus and then Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Second, ask God to help you make choices that will enable your spiritual life to become stronger. Since we do not know the future outcome of every choice that we will make, it is important to put your trust in God�s knowledge by obeying His commandments. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) If you will do this, good results will soon come your way because God knows what is best for you! After all, He created you. You are unique and original. So, if you will resolve "to go, to be, and to do" all that you presently know about God�s requirements � peace and happiness will soon sprout in the soil of your heart. In due time, as you learn more about God and His love, you will taste the wonderful fruit that you desire!
2. Avoid promiscuity. As I wrote earlier, if you are sexually active, you must stop. Promiscuity took away your self-worth and self-respect, and in return, gave you HIV. Becky, the devil has destroyed millions of young people with promiscuity. He knows our vulnerability for sexual misconduct and he is relentless in his efforts to lead us into sin because the law of sin�s consequences are heavy and harsh. You may know that the highest grossing business on the internet is pornography. The devil understands human sexuality far better than human beings. He has helped millions of people become porn addicts. Porn is especially troublesome for women because porn causes men to assess the value of a woman according to the amount of sexual arousal she visually produces. Most women are unaware of this demonic process because women, especially young women, do not think about sex like men. From a very young age, girls are taught that they should be "pretty." The devil has used TV and the media primarily to convince young women that to be happy, they must be pretty. Young men, being visually orientated, readily agree. Peer pressure to be fashionable and beautiful drives young women to buy all sorts of products to enhance their appearance. They starve themselves of nourishment to be thin like the women they see in magazines and on TV. They want the same recognition, fame, and wealth. Without being aware of what is happening, a young woman�s desire to be accepted pushes her to find ways to make her visually attractive. This is the devil�s destructive loop: Women strive to be more attractive and men�s visual nature drives them sexually, and of course, the porn industry feeds this horrible destructive loop. Men addicted to porn do not value women as human beings; rather, the woman�s value is determined by fantasies created through visual sex. Many rapists have confessed that their addiction to porn led them to violently acquire sexual satisfaction. The devil creates sexual desire in men through porn, then he taunts the passions of these men by putting beautiful women before them, and the result is predatory violence. Many women today do not have a healthy self-esteem. They look for recognition in all the wrong places. Nothing is more heady for a woman than getting the attention and/or affection of a good looking guy. Men addicted to porn worship sex and insecure women worship fashion. These two industries have led hundreds of millions of young people into promiscuous behavior and the results are horrible!
You correctly observed that many of your lovers considered sex a game. A male typically cares more about sex than about the woman who participates with him. The male drive for sex enables him to "move on" to other sexual conquests whenever physical relationships become complicated (that is, when the relationship becomes emotionally involved). You have admitted in your letter that "love, joy, and peace" did not come through numberless sexual partners. So, if you are sexually active, stop immediately and begin honoring God with your body. God says there is only one environment where sexual intimacy accomplishes everything He designed it to do. That environment is within the confines of marriage. (Colossians 3:5,6; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4)
3. Prayer life. Becky, this is something that you must do every day: Pray without ceasing. This means that you need to "talk with" God every waking hour. You need to tell Him about your feelings. You need to tell Him about your thoughts and plans. You need to talk about your problems as though you are talking to your closest friend. Then, after telling God everything you have to say, the difficult part begins. You must listen for His response. God rarely speaks out loud, however, He does speak. He whispers through the Spirit! Here is a sample of how the Spirit speaks: Let us say you are perplexed about some issue or problem. As you talk with the Lord about it, the Holy Spirit will help you sort through your various thoughts and possible solutions because your highest goal now is to honor God. As you struggle to reach "the right" decision, the Holy Spirit will fill your heart with peace and resolve when you spiritually find the right answer. This process is not easy nor is it natural, but it is the essence of walking with God. As time goes by, you will get better at detecting the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit and in so doing, peace and joy will fill your inner being � even in the middle of a crisis! I hope you can see that the purpose of prayer is communion with God. Yes, God already knows everything about you and your problems, but He wants to hear from you. No matter how many problems you have, He loves you! But remember, prayer is not a one-way street. Memorize this: Prayer is the process of aligning ourselves with God�s solution to our problem. Many religious people ignorantly treat prayer as the process of aligning God with their solutions and then they get angry with God when He does not do whatever they think He should do. How foolish! God created us to experience a wide range of joy and fulfillment. This wonderful happiness comes when we consistently submit to His sovereign authority. There will be situations when circumstances threaten our joy and peace from the Lord, but these "cliff hangers" only prove (after they pass) that God intimately knows our situation, and if we allow Him, He will enable us to be victorious over every challenge. Walking with God produces peace and joy. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
4. Tell Your Story. And finally, Becky, you need to tell your story to high school students or youth groups of any kind. There is no greater joy than loving others enough to keep them from making the same mistakes you have made in your life. There is something very "freeing" about coming clean and getting your story out in the open. Helping others will give you a sense of purpose, and joy will lift the burden of guilt that you carry. If you can prevent one person from suffering as you have suffered, your life and the lessons learned are not in vain. Becky, when you help others, they help you by raising your spirits and increasing your joy.
In closing, Becky, the secret to experiencing love, joy, and peace is found in knowing and honoring God in everything we do. God does have some rules about conduct which the world rejects. There will be some tough tests as you exit relationships that are harmful. There will be some embarrassing failures and, more importantly, there will be exciting victories. But, most of all, there will be love, joy and peace if you stay connected to God through His Spirit. I can assure you that walking with God produces better results than anything the world can offer. I hope you will give these suggestions a try and I hope to hear how you are doing.
With prayers and best wishes,