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Divine Intervention Helped Him Quit Smoking

This heaven-sent dream motivated him to beat his nicotine addiction.

Man breaking a cigarette in half; Getty Images
Credit: Marc Bruxelle

“We’re starting a fundraising campaign to help with the cost of the new Family Life Center. And to make some renovations to the church,” my pastor announced after his Sunday sermon. “Please consider donating—no amount is too small. Anything would be a help.”

I didn’t have a lot of extra cash to burn, but I was dropping more than $30 a week on cigarettes. If I quit smoking, I could donate that money. After church ended, I left with that thought still on my mind.

At that point, I’d been a smoker for most of my life. I had picked up the habit when I was 15 years old. I was 55. I’d tried to quit many times. But inevitably, a few hours after my “last” cigarette, I’d start itching for another hit of nicotine. I always gave in.

Years ago, I’d ripped a photo of a blackened pair of smoker’s lungs out of a magazine at my doctor’s office. I’d kept it, to motivate myself. It was tucked away in my desk drawer, along with a list I’d written of reasons to quit. It numbered more than 20. But it hadn’t stopped me from smoking. More recently, my father, a lifelong smoker, had died after a long battle with lung cancer. That hadn’t stopped me either. So what made me think this time would be any different?

My wife, Jackie, was supportive when I told her my idea to donate the money I would have usually spent on cigarettes. I didn’t tell anyone else, though. Just in case it didn’t work out.

I made several earnest attempts over the next few weeks, but I just couldn’t stop smoking. One night, I stepped out onto the back deck (no smoking in the house) for a cigarette. I shook it out of the carton, rolled it around in my fingers and then lit up. I looked at the burning cigarette in my hand and hung my head. I was so frustrated. So disappointed with myself.

During my life, I’d prayed to God for many things. But I’d never once asked him for help conquering my addiction to nicotine. It never felt right to bother God with it. Smoking was my problem, something I needed to deal with on my own. But right now, I was at my breaking point.

“Lord, please, take this cup from me,” I whispered.

Immediately, I felt a rush of guilt for using Jesus’ words to pray about smoking. But, at the same time, it was the most heartfelt prayer I’d ever made. It took a while for me to gather the courage to try yet again, but finally I started the day without a cigarette. By the afternoon I realized that I wasn’t feeling that insistent urge to light up. I could smoke…but I didn’t have to.

I used nicotine patches, but even with them, I should’ve been experiencing withdrawal symptoms. I wasn’t. Soon I didn’t even need the patch. It was incredible. I donated my cigarette money to the church’s fundraiser, just as I’d planned.

Jackie was so proud. Family and friends congratulated me as well. I had trouble accepting the praise, because I didn’t feel as if I’d done anything. But I’d nod and smile anyway because I couldn’t even explain exactly what had happened. Had I experienced a miracle? Had God healed me of my addiction? Or would I disappoint myself once again?

I wasn’t sure until one night, when I had the most incredible dream. It felt acutely important. Heaven-sent. I dreamed I was in an auditorium packed with people. There was a stage, set up with a podium and a microphone. We were waiting for someone to speak.

“Joe!” a voice called out. There was a man on stage, wearing a suit. I couldn’t really see his face. “Joe Hester, get up here!” I was suddenly transported to the stage. “Tell me, Joe,” said the man, who somehow looked like everyone and no one I’d ever met, all at once. “Tell me, are you a smoker?”

No, I thought. Deep in my soul I knew it was true. I’m not a smoker. Not anymore.

When I woke up, my pillow was wet with tears. If I wasn’t sure before, now I was. On Sunday I gave my donation, confident I would do the same the following week. I’d actually quit smoking. As the pastor spoke, I looked down at the weekly bulletin grasped in my hand. Printed on the back, plain as anything, were the words: Lose your shyness, find your voice and tell them what God has done.

It was as if I’d been bopped upside the head. I knew exactly how I’d been able to beat my addiction and would tell anyone who asked. Jackie was first. I told her everything— about my desperate prayer, the dream, even the bulletin.

All this happened 16 years ago, and to this day, I haven’t had a single cigarette. Now, when people ask me how I quit, I tell them that I didn’t do it on my own. I finally bothered the One who could give me the help I needed.

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