"Can I stay with you tonight?" Carlos asked in a trembling voice. He'd had a terrible argument with his wife, he explained over the phone, and he couldn't return home. My wife and I knew that Carlos had already been going through a very difficult time in his life. To begin with, he'd hoped to be promoted to general manager of the company he worked for, but the job had gone to someone else. A few days later he'd been involved in a traffic accident, though fortunately no one was injured. Now this! Everything seemed to be going wrong.
I invited him over, and before he arrived, my wife and I prayed for Jesus to help us encourage him, as well as for wisdom in how to advise him in this personal situation, if he should ask for that.
When he arrived, we could see that he felt truly hopeless. He'd had a second car accident the night before, it turned out, and this time the car had been totally demolished. Now his wife was really upset.
When he had gotten it all out, we asked him why he thought all these things were happening to him. At first all he could do was complain about his wife and how she was always nagging him about his drinking. "She keeps after me about it. I think she just doesn't want me to have a good time!" he said. He clearly couldn't understand her justifiable concerns about his drinking.
After listening for a while, we suggested that the best thing he could do was stop blaming her or anybody else for his problems. We also explained that most of his troubles seemed to stem from misplaced priorities—too much emphasis on having a good time and not enough on the deeper, more important things of life.
"God doesn't send us troubles just to see us suffer," I told Carlos. "But He sometimes allows us to suffer the consequences of our wrong choices because He knows that often that's the only time we will sincerely pray, when we are in trouble. Sometimes He has to send trouble our way so we'll change. When bad things happen, we turn to Him for help, pray and read His Word more, and try harder to follow what His Word says. By getting back on track, doing our best to love Him and do what He says, we make it possible for Him to give us His full blessing.
"He doesn't expect us to be perfect," I continued. "What counts is whether or not we are sincerely trying to do what's best. When we are, He'll do His best to take care of us and protect us and make us happy, but sometimes He has to send bad times our way to make us stop and listen to Him."
Carlos's drinking seemed to be the main reason his wife was so upset with him, and it was about to cost him his marriage, so I told him how the Lord had delivered me from dependence on alcohol years earlier, and that he could also be delivered.
Carlos's situation reminded me of the story of Esau in the Bible, when Esau had been so hungry and so short-sighted that he traded his entire inheritance for a bowl of his brother Jacob's stew (Genesis 25:29-34). I related that story to Carlos, and explained how I thought it applied. It was like Carlos was exchanging his happy married life for a glass of whisky. "By running away from the situation," I said, "you could be destroying your marriage. Probably the best thing you could do is return home, apologize to your wife, and tell her you love her."
At that, Carlos burst into tears and told us that nobody had ever talked to him that way before, but he thought I was right. As we talked more, he became determined to change and to try to make up for the harm he had caused.
We read a few appropriate passages from the Bible and several devotional books, and my wife and I prayed with him for God to help him stop drinking and to bring about a real and lasting change in his life.
A few days later when my wife and I visited Carlos at his office, he was beaming! He gave us each a big hug and said, "God has changed me! I can't thank Him and you enough for helping me get straightened out!" He went on to tell us how everything had improved in his relationship with his wife, and how happy they were now.
We're so thankful for the change God brought in Carlos's life. He never fails when we pray!
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Samuel Cordon is a member of the Family International in Brazil.