Why won’t God make me quit?

Q: My mom wants me to stop a bad habit. I prayed, but God hasn’t made me stop doing it. Help.

A: Oh, I hear you! When I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t stop. I was newly studying Christian Science, and I’d learned that God can help us with anything. So I kept expecting God to stop me from smoking by taking away the craving. But that didn’t happen.

Here’s how I finally got help. I was on tour with a ballet company, and the director walked into my hotel room and was engulfed in a haze of cigarette smoke. 

I walked out knowing I didn’t want or need to smoke again.

“When are you going to stop smoking?” she asked me. 

My response was a snarky “Right now!” 

Annoyed, I took all the cigarettes out of the pack, broke them in half, and threw them in the trash.

The next morning found me on the floor going frantically through the wastebasket, trying to find something that I could smoke. No luck. The craving was intense. But it was time to leave for the local Christian Science church service. I sat in a pew praying, “God, help me get through the service without a cigarette.”

Something happened during that service. I walked out knowing I didn’t want or need to smoke again. I was healed. It wasn’t a certain passage read, or a hymn we sang; it was simply the tender touch of God’s care. It freed me. Completely. To be honest, I was surprised.

What did I learn from this experience? That sometimes we have to do our part if we want to see healing happen. You might call it taking a stand. At first glance, that could seem like simple willpower—forcing ourselves to do something. But it really just means putting our weight—our mental commitment—on the side of what is right. I knew smoking was not right, but simply wanting to quit wasn’t enough. As soon as I took a decisive step in the right direction, though, God was there, as He always is. It’s just that then I was receptive to His divine power.

There’s a story about a man in the Bible named Moses standing in front of the Red Sea with the enemy fast approaching. Talk about a huge obstacle. But Moses couldn’t just stand there and wish he could be on the other side. He had to start walking, maybe even getting his feet wet, before the Red Sea parted, opening the way to safety. But it did part, and I did quit smoking.

And then there’s Jesus. He often requested that people do what they didn’t think they could do. The man with the paralyzed hand was told to stretch it out. The guy who was bedridden was asked to get up and go home, taking his bed with him. They were obedient and were healed. In a similar way, sometimes we have to make an effort to do what seems impossible. As we take a step forward, that opens the door for us to experience God’s goodness, which is already there for us.

Sometimes we have to make an effort to do what seems impossible. As we take a step forward, that opens the door for us to experience all of God’s goodness.

So what if we know we should do something but don’t really want to? Then what? We can start by wanting to want to do it. That points our thinking in the right direction. I did want to be free of smoking. I just didn’t want to quit. 

One really helpful thing about Christian Science is that it shows us that desire is a type of prayer (see page 1 of Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). We can check our desires, and if they are good ones, on the right side of things, we can trust that God will help us find the way to freedom. 

No matter what we need to be free from—a bad habit or an addiction—help is here. If we’re willing to do our part, God’ll do God’s part.

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