My life had always been peaceful, as I dedicated myself to my work and to my studies. Nevertheless, in 2001 a colleague invited me to visit a casino with him. Since I had never been in a casino with slot machines before…, he suggested that I just put a coin into a slot, so I did, and by the second coin I won the grand prize…. That was enough to get me hooked on gambling.

I have lost absolutely everything that I worked so hard to get, including my house, and now I am in deep debt that has brought serious problems to my life. It is so bad that I have yet to measure all the consequences, and I am overtaken with shame to think that my four children now don’t even have enough to eat.

I have stopped gambling, and now reflect on the great harm it has done to me, though maybe too late. But I’m trying to get back on track. I say that I’m trying, because with my wages I can only manage to pay debts, pay the rent and buy food. The many times that I come up short I have a guilty conscience, and I take refuge in praying and asking God to forgive me. I beg for a job that will help my family get ahead.

Please give me some advice. I need help! I really need to find God.

Dear Friend,

How wonderful that you have already been able to stop gambling! We congratulate you. However, since gambling is like most other bad habits, we suggest that you get involved in a support group where other people are also resisting this temptation and recovering from this addiction. Those people will also support you in all your efforts to put your life back together.

Your story gives evidence as to why it is extremely dangerous to gamble. Some people believe that it is entertaining to gamble small amounts, but they don’t realize that it is like playing with fire. It is impossible to know who will get addicted and cause great harm to themselves and those they love. We encourage you to share your story with others, both privately and publicly, so that something good will have come out of your great loss.

People who get addicted to destructive habits and substances dig themselves into a deep hole. There is no magic formula to get out of that hole. There is no easy way to get out. They must just admit that they need help and climb higher each day, working hard and never giving up. It sounds like this is what you are doing. Keep it up and don’t get discouraged.

You say that you have a guilty conscience for what you have done to your family. And you say that you have asked God to forgive you. Many people who feel guilty beg God to forgive them and promise Him that they will do better in the future. So why do they still have a guilty conscience? You answered that question yourself when you said, “I really need to find God.”

Finding God is very different from shouting out to him from far away. Finding Him involves a personal contact in which you get to know Him and you come to realize that He already knows you. Many people shout out to God when they need something, when they’re hurt, or when they feel guilty. But they don’t really have plans to get to know Him or to have a relationship with Him. John the apostle makes it clear that we can claim to be friends of God, but unless we actually develop a personal relationship with Him, it’s not true. And it is in the context of that personal relationship that God will gladly forgive us and take away the guilt. (1)

So, yes, ask for His forgiveness. But then read the Bible to see what He says back to you. Find a church where there is good Bible teaching so you can learn more about what He wants from you. As you reach out to Him in sincerity, not just because you need something, He will walk beside you and help you as you are digging out of the hole. He will give you strength and hope for the future.

We wish you well,

1 1 Jo 1:6‑9