This year, I can finally say quitting smoking is no longer my resolution.
Editor’s Note: Names have been changed for anonymity
Things were amazing when I first accepted Christ. I came to Impact Life Church in 2012, when I was 16. I learnt about having a relationship with God, and had an incredible community that was constantly encouraging and supporting me. I was actively involved in Life Group, and was also serving as an usher. I even started to disciple people.
But I quickly lost sight of why I was serving in the first place. I started spending less and less time with God. When I let busyness fill my life, my heart became unhealthy and religious. I started to believe that God’s standards were set too high, and were unattainable for me. I felt like nothing I did would ever be good enough for God.
When I stopped feeding on God’s word, I started feeding on other things. Soon, I gave up on spending time with God altogether. It’s exactly like what Pastor Daniel Cheo said, “What we starve dies, and what we feed thrives.” I spent lots of time on social media, and was influenced by what I saw online. I started to believe that my worth was based on what others thought of me. I would try to emulate the cool people I saw on Instagram.
During a stressful period in school, I picked up smoking to cope. When I smoked, my frustrations and worries could be forgotten for a few minutes. It was like a form of escape. But at the same time, I felt guilty and ashamed. I was a smoker, yet on Saturdays I still served and welcomed people to church. I felt like such a hypocrite. That is how sin works: It entices you, and when you fall into its trap, it condemns you for taking its bait.
This shame led me to stop serving and to let my responsibilities slide. People in my community noticed, and tried to give me godly counsel, but I had already hardened my heart. I pushed them away, and hurt them with my words. After I left, I did not feel free at all. Instead, I was hollow and empty on the inside. So I kept chasing after new highs to numb myself. I began drinking more often, and when that wasn’t enough, I started to take drugs
One day, I was out with a group of friends when one of the bouncers at a club found a bag of weed in my friend’s possession. They called the police and we were arrested. I was terrified. I remembered being handcuffed, and chained to the holding room in lock up. I started thinking about my life. How did I end up here? I also started thinking about how my future would be affected by a criminal record. In desperation, I prayed to God and begged Him to save me. I promised Him that if He got me out, I would change.
Then, the officer came in with my urine test results. She told me that my results came back negative, meaning they didn’t detect any drugs in my system. I was free! Shortly after, they released me and dropped all charges.
But guess what happened after I was released? I went right back to my old habits. In fact, my drug use got even worse. But in 2016, I found out that the girl I was seeing was actually going out with someone else. I felt so lost and empty. Everything I thought would satisfy me had failed me. I realised there was something seriously wrong with my life.
I told myself I’ll try going back to church and see how things turn out. My first week back, I remember being so ashamed that I tried to avoid all eye contact, and sneaked in quietly to sit at the back. That week, the person who shared his praise report on stage was Jimmy*, and it was about how God helped him to quit smoking. How could it be so coincidental? I knew that God was speaking to me through his praise report. From then on, I started to attend church more regularly. It wasn’t easy coming back. I thought that I was too sinful and dirty.
To my surprise, there were many people in church who encouraged me and told me how glad they were that I was back. I barely even knew some of them. Through them, I experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. I am really humbled to be a part of a church that understands what God’s unconditional love looks like in action.
As I walked this journey with my community, I experienced my Heavenly Father’s love and forgiveness. They helped me to realize that these voices of condemnation were only half-truths. Yes, I did all these terrible things, but that is not where the story ends!
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple.”
Through this verse, I finally understood that God’s forgiveness is available for me! It’s not because I deserve it, but because my Heavenly Father loves me so much that He has redeemed me at the cost of His only son.
Even then, I still struggled with smoking. I figured we will all die eventually, so I did not care about how it affected my health. I made many half-hearted attempts to quit without actually having conviction. But time and again, I picked it back up. Change begins with desire. One day my discipler told me, “While your actions should be based on conviction, you can’t just passively wait for conviction to come. You can actively pray for God to change your heart.” I had been with my disability for so long that I had lost my desire for change! How can God change me unless I wanted change?
I spoke to God honestly about my thoughts on smoking. God began to reveal to me that I smoked because it was my source of relief and comfort. Whenever I felt angry or upset, instead of turning to God, I turned to cigarettes instead. I suddenly realized that I was worshipping paper tubes of dried leaves!
I decided to submit my emotions to God. I chose to turn to Him every time I felt stressed. Through these daily intentional choices, I finally understood that God cares for me, and He wants to carry my burdens. Change has to come through my cooperation with God. As I took responsibility for change on my part, God supernaturally provided me strength in my time of temptation and need. Soon, I realized that because I have Jesus, I don’t need the cigarettes anymore!
In 2020, I can finally say, “Quitting smoking is no longer my resolution.” Now, it’s been more than a year since my last stick. Looking back, I am so thankful to God for pursuing me, even when I took Him for granted.
If you feel like life is spiralling out of control, go to God as you are. No matter how ashamed we might be of our past, God can turn it around for good.