Question: I am living with a chronic alcoholic. He refuses to go to church or seek help with his disease. This has affected my health. I am not able to afford living alone nor do I have family in the area. What do I do?
ANSWER: For the comfort of all those who suffer, God assures us that He is always with us. His Son was born one of us to bring us God’s grace. God said: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:4–7). Because of Jesus, God promises, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). On His cross, Jesus did His greatest work. He redeemed us from the threat of hell. He assures us He will take care of the smaller matters we suffer in this world.
We struggle. We have sorrows and trials. We may feel as if God has left us. Through His Word and His Sacraments, He comforts us and assures us. He is as close as a prayer. Day by day and minute by minute give your struggle to the Lord. Ask for His help and strength.
The struggle may get you down. It may work to weaken your faith. Turn to your pastor for assurance from God’s Word. Regularly receive strength from the Holy Sacrament. The members of your congregation are also there for your support.
You must also do what you can to ensure your own safety. If your spouse is a threat to your body or life, seek protection from the authorities.
There is little we can do to change others, even those close to us. This is especially true for alcoholics. Alcoholics Anonymous’ first step is this: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Those who live with alcoholics need to learn this too.
Of course, our gracious God can do all things, and He promises to work in this world by means of His Word. If there are quiet and peaceful times at home, gently and with love, you might express your faith in Jesus in your spouse’s hearing. Gently and with love, when possible, continue inviting your spouse to join you when you worship. Continue to ask God’s Spirit to work on your spouse’s heart.
It is also important to find a helpful group of like-minded sufferers such as Alcoholics Anonymous (Al-Anon). Alcoholics are masters at avoiding responsibility for the consequences of their drinking. They are masters at blaming those they love. As a consequence, those who live with them struggle with guilt and self-loathing. Members of Al-Anon can help you find your way through all this. Though there is little you can do to affect the behavior of your spouse, there is much you can do to separate yourself from the effects of your spouse’s drinking and behavior.
We are all sinners, but we have a gracious and loving God. Jesus took the sins of alcoholics and suffered the punishment. God loves and forgives alcoholics. He loves and forgives us all. We continue our walk through this valley of sorrow with our eyes on the goal, paradise earned for us by our Savior.Charles Keeler is pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Winter Haven, Florida.