The clergyman opened the door to his office. “Come in. Come in. It’s good to see you. Have a seat and relax.”
Bill and Sarah removed their coats and sat in the chairs in front of his desk.
“Thanks for seeing us, Pastor. We really need to talk with you. Things aren’t going very well with us right now.”
“That’s what I’m here for, Sarah. Let’s open in prayer before we go any further.” Pastor Mark thanked God for his faithfulness and asked for wisdom and understanding to meet their needs.
“Now, tell me what’s going on.”
Bill looked at Sarah, then down at his tightly folded hands. “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. We’re in debt to the point of bankruptcy and it’s because we’ve both got a gambling problem. A serious gambling problem. We don’t know what to do to stop, and we just can’t go on trying to keep it a secret and pretending like everything’s okay.”
Pastor Mark gave Sarah a box of tissues when he saw the tears in her eyes. “What’s been happening Sarah? How did this situation get so out of hand?”
“Well, believe it or not, I think it started with playing Bingo at church on Friday nights. It seemed like we won a lot, so we started going to different bingo games. We kept winning and eventually decided to try out luck at the casinos. It was fun and when we won big, we got excited to play more.”
Bill interrupted, “My brother, Jim, told me last spring that he thought we were doing too much gambling and that maybe we needed to do other things, but I told him he just didn’t understand. I told him we weren’t doing anything wrong and that we had everything under control.” He looked at Pastor Mark for a minute without speaking, then he said, “I told him we could stop anytime we wanted to. But I was wrong.”
Mark nodded his head in understanding. “Go on,” he said, “tell me the rest.”
“Well,” said Sarah, “at first our luck held out and we continued to win. Once we won a jackpot for $3,000.00 and bought a new plasma TV, and that seemed to be the turning point because after that we went wild. We started going to the casinos on work nights as well as weekends, missing church to get an early start on Sundays, and using our credit cards for cash. We simply lost track of how much time we were spending away from home and our family, and how much money we were losing. All we cared about was our winnings.”
“We actually stopped gambling for about a month when we maxed out our credit cards, and I even talked about getting a second job.” Bill added. “But we were hooked. We couldn’t stay away. We wrote checks and borrowed from our savings until we were broke. We literally couldn’t buy groceries and all of our bills were overdue or in collection.” He swallowed and licked his dry lips. “Then I did the unthinkable. I borrowed $10,000 from a friend at work which I can’t pay back. We need help, Pastor Mark. We’re scared to death that we’re going to end up in jail for fraud because of the bad checks we’ve written. We just don’t know what to do or where to turn.”
Their pastor looked with compassion at the young couple. “Well, that’s quite a story. It’s not going to be an easy fix by any means. But, you’ve taken the first step by admitting your problem and seeking godly help.” He smiled and continued. “There’s no point in lecturing or blaming yourselves any longer. God tells us in scripture that He wants us to be wise - not just knowledgeable. I’ll give you the names of a couple of groups that offer counseling for gamblers, and put you in touch with a financial guy who will work with you on paying your bills.” He saw a look of relief on their faces.
“Thank you Pastor Mark. We feel better already.”
“Remember, God IS sufficient for our needs no matter how great they may seem to be. Let‘s end in prayer together.”
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