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Regret: to feel sad or disappointed over something

I have plenty of regrets.

Words said and unsaid. Deeds done and undone. 

Some of my regrets affected several people. People that I love(d). Other regrets were more limited in their scope, impacting perhaps only myself.

One of my biggest regrets is over a newsletter I wrote several years ago entitled “Disease, Disorder, Decision?” I discussed how drug and alcohol addiction have disease and disorder components but is ultimately a decision—an individual’s freely made choice. 

I deeply regret writing that piece.

I should have known better. After all, my life-long ministry has centered around helping those bound by mind-mood altering substances find freedom in Christ. For over twenty-five years—while I understood that addiction has many contributing factors—I held firmly to the conviction that addiction rests finally in a man or woman’s personal choice.

I received some flack for my expressed opinions but considered it “persecution for righteousness’ sake.”

How I came to this notion is not surprising. I’ve always been a good moralist—one who has divided the world into neat categories of right and wrong, good and bad. I’ve always prided myself in taking ownership, being a responsible person. I’m a recovering Pharisee. It all comes with the turf.

Truth be told, addicts can’t help themselves . . . literally. That’s why it’s called “addiction.” Dependence. Compulsion. Enslavement. Where a person may have some level of control and power of choice in the beginning or in the middle or in the final stages of their addiction, one can never know. Culpability is something only God can assess. And we’re not him.  

Johnny was a young man who recently completed our program. He tragically lost his life to his arch enemy heroin last week. It had been a long road full of ups and downs for this wonderful, vibrant man so full of affection and joy.

I have no doubt that Johnny loved Jesus. Was he perfect? No. Did he have some obvious weaknesses? Who doesn’t!?

But he tried. He fought like a champion. Entered therapy. Went to groups. Did our program. Did other programs. Read his Bible. Participated in church. Prayed. Worshipped God.

Johnny died of a disease.

I don’t write this to condone addiction, to give some excuse or permission slip for people to use. Nor do I write this to discourage addicts or their families, suggesting that there is no way out for the user.

I write this as a call to compassion. Addiction is complex. It is moral, medical, mental. Psychological, sociological, spiritual. Bio-chemical, neurological, and systemic.

It is sin. And it is sickness.

We don’t know how much it is one thing versus another thing. Our role is to simply come alongside those beleaguered by this awful curse and lend whatever assistance we can . . . judgment free.

I also write this as a call to realism. I believe in miracles, but I also know that everyone’s journey is unique, and not every story this side of heaven ends as we wish. Some addicts seem to have minimal struggle in their quest for recovery. (They are a relatively small tribe of “lucky” ones.) For many others, the battle rages an entire lifetime. To that end, we may need to adjust our expectations of ourselves and others. I remember one of my professors in seminary saying, “Hope can be a dangerous thing.” Too much too soon can cause irreparable damage. Modesty in all things, and this includes hope.

I still believe that conversion to Christ makes a real and profound (and eternal!) difference in a person’s life. I have not veered from my confidence that the gospel is still the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

What has changed is my understanding of God’s deliverance. It doesn’t always look like what we had imagined or desired. That I can’t explain.

All I can do is trust that God knows what he is doing and somehow, someway, it all works out for good in the end.

I have to believe that.

P.S. Johnny, we will miss you. We do not say, “Good-bye” but, rather, “See you later.”

According to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention, an estimated 93,331 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2020 compared to 72,151 overdose deaths in 2019 (nearly a thirty percent increase). This is the highest number ever recorded.


  • Daralyn Witowski says:

    My Spiritual Roots Began At Western Michigan Teen Challenge in 1999. I not only learned how to live as a Women of God. I was shown by everyday experiences through the MC Claim family daily. Years after graduating things will come up in my life & the Holy Spirit will bring back to rememberance the things I have learned over the years @ Teen Challenge. I will forever be grateful that the Lord pulled me out of darkness into HIS marvelous light! Part of my❤️ will be with my forever family @ Western Michigan Teen Challenge.

  • Brenda Hardnett-Bullock says:

    Thank you so much for this eye opening truth! I, like so many others have lost someone very dear to me as a result of addiction. The painful reality of watching my brother struggling every day was at times overwhelming and I felt utterly helpless. I knew that God was able to deliver him and I also knew that I just needed to love him where he was, support and reassure him that he was worth never giving up on. Since my brother passed I have been on a mission of educating myself, which has allowed me to look at it from a totally different angle. Thank you for sharing, I am always reminded that but by the grace of God… there go I.

  • Christina Morgan says:

    Thank you, Pastor. Jeff.

    My beautiful niece Rachel (wife and mother of four – all Believers) .. suddenly, shockingly to us… is finally free of addiction peacefully and at home with Jesus.

    Rest In Peace Johnny, Rachel Tyree, Mom, Dad, …………..

  • Caitlin White says:

    Thank you for all of the help you gave me when I stayed there years ago. I wasn’t fully ready to submit then but I still use what I learned from Teen Challenge to this day. I’m thankful that I had a chance to get saved while I was there even though I backslid when I left and came home. I was thankful to have a relationship with the Lord that eventually pulled me back. I have been sober now for 6 years, thank GOD. You’re a great person and you have a great facility. This article will help a lot of people who struggle and feel like they aren’t saved because of issues with addiction. All of us fall short of the glory of God but thankfully that’s when grace comes in.

  • Russ Banush says:

    How true this is. Losing my daughter to alcohol reinforced my belief these addictionas are a disease. Unfortunately, there is no apparent cure for so many folks that are addicted.
    Life Challenge is the closest treatment/cure I know of, and it is why we have been a student supporter for many years. However, not all diseases are cured in spite of treatment. That is just the way it is in this world.

  • Paul McCann says:

    With a heavy heart I read this as I can see you wrote it with one, says the recovering Philistine to the recovering Pharisee.
    My heart mourns for the loss of another to the dreadful scourge of addiction. And I’m faced again with the reality that after all my years of studying addiction I’m at a complete loss. I know nothing.
    God’s deliverance “doesn’t always look like what we had imagined or desired”. And I cannot explain that either.

  • Niki says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Anyone open to understanding what you wrote, has already shown great compassion to those who are addicts or have other disorders.

  • Sherry Stemmler says:

    I saw you at Victory church on Sunday. Pastor Jeff I can truly say I noticed a change in you. And it was for the best. I believe you did have an encounter with God. God bless you and keep up the good work

  • Teresa (Ford) Claiborne says:

    Thank you Jeff for this article. It definitely was a comfort to me, having lost my beloved nephew Scott this past May to drug addiction. Like your friend Johnny, he also struggled with his arch enemy….apparently not gaining full victory, but NOT for the lack of praying and trying! He was much like the man in Pilgrim’s Progress who couldn’t quite lay down his backpack…..always carrying around his sin & shame….. It was difficult to watch his journey, but I have peace that Scott has finally received his deliverance and we will see him again! I will be sharing this newsletter with my sister. God bless you for the continued work that you do in leading those who are bound by sin, to the One who can truly set them free!


  • Ron Sack says:

    Very well said. I see some of my thinking, in your comments

  • Steve Davis says:

    Thank you for say this. That was extremely powerful.
    This is a Blog I will be sharing with others.

  • Cathy Hill says:

    Thanks Jeff

  • Teresa (Ford) Claiborne says:

    Thank you brother Jeff for this article. It brings comfort and peace to my heart as you expressed what I felt, but did not know how to say. I lost my beloved nephew to drug addiction in May 2021. He lost the battle to his arch enemy, methamphetamine (not for the lack of prayer or trying), but I believe he is with the One who has truly set him free. May God continue to bless you as you minister to those who are bound by the sin of addiction.



  • Beth Holko says:

    Pastor Jeff
    What a wonderful message that truly shows your humility. Yes, the addicts we love are still in God’s hand and once they are saved no one, not Satan himself, or heroin or any other drug can pluck them from our Savior’s hands. You give addicts hope, the cross, salvation, and heaven. I am so very thankful for Life Challenge and that I will see my husband again in heaven! God bless you and the work of your hands!
    Beth Holko

  • Kimberly Burns says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Your pure heart reveals your humilty and transparency. I am believing your article will be healing for many.

    Thanks, Jeff!

    May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

  • Cathy H. says:

    Jeff: Thank you for the insightful transparency you have shared about your own regret. Thank you for admitting your error and using that to help others better understand the stronghold of addiction. I have walked along side a family member for many years with this struggle and you have laid bare the reality of the inner battle of the addict. I am so sad for Johnny, who lost his life. May all who knew and loved him be comforted. Thank God for Life Challenge Ministries. It has made a HUGE difference in my Loved Ones life and our family as a whole. We continue to pray for him and cover him with the understanding that God will help us all navigate whatever comes. God bless.

  • Stephen D Handley says:

    Very profound revelation, my friend. It is really all in God’s hands and God’s will. Praying for you and still looking to get back into addiction counseling …. God-centered addiction counseling. I am a CAADC in Michigan through 2024, and a true believer. 810-339-1590 if you’d like to talk about this.

    God bless.

    Stephen Handley

  • Melba Drew says:

    Thanks, Jeff, for your honesty and transparency. Life has so many questions, and every question doesn’t necessarily have a nice neat answer. But God . . . we lean hard into His grace and mercy!

  • Bonnie Dobie says:

    Rev Jeff, Thank you for your insight. The addict and those close to the addict need to be reminded of this for a lifetime.

    God bless you,
    Bonnie Dobie

    PS. Matt is doing well

  • Lori Lykens says:

    Thank you for this! Thank you for all you do!! Johnny is going to be so missed! He had such an amazing spirit! We never know why we have to fight these battles but I do know God works all things for His good. Sometimes it is so hard to see or understand this side of heaven!! My family again can’t thank you enough for all you do!!! I wish I could do more at Flint! I need to move to MI.

  • Karrie Barnes says:

    Thank you, Pastor Jeff.

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