What should you do if your spouse is a gambling addict? That is the question posed by one Christian wife to Pastor Yuan Sheng. This question is, unfortunately, is not a unique one for many pastors in China, particularly for those in rural areas, as Pastor Yuan points out. How can Christians care well for those with such an addiction?
Pastor Yuan Sheng is a pastor in the Three-Self church and an editor for its journal Tianfeng. This series of “What Should I Do?” posts comes from the book by Yuan Sheng called, Pastor Answers 100 “What Should I Dos.”
What Should I Do? My Husband Has a Gambling Addiction and Struggles to Quit
Xiao Fang, a believer:
My husband and I call ourselves Christians, but my husband has somehow fallen into a bad habit—he’s become addicted to gambling. I’ve told him to stop many times, and quarreled with him about it on countless occasions. Sometimes he feels remorseful, but not long afterwards he will find a way to start gambling again; it’s like he’s bewitched. I am completely miserable—it really is a case of “one person sins and the whole household suffers for it.” What should I do?
Pastor Yuan Sheng:
Hello, Sister Xiao Fang! I sympathize with you, and I understand your bitter experience. Actually, families like yours are not at all uncommon; particularly in many countryside villages. As soon as someone has a moment of free time they’re hemmed in by gambling tables, and calling themselves a “recreational gambler.” But which problem gambler didn’t start from a few little “recreational” bets? Gambling, because it is both an amusement and a thrill of wealth re-assignment, makes the curious and speculators hit it off instantly, and gradually creates an addiction—and addictions are difficult to cure.
A gambler subconsciously believes they will often win but seldom lose—and, even supposing they lose, they believe they can win back the money next time. It is this mistaken belief that makes them perpetuate their gambling addiction, even if their lives and families are being destroyed. Furthermore, from a physiological analysis, gambling is something that creates a mental state of high anxiety. Because of the body’s excitement, complex hormonal excretions then boost mental stimulation, giving the gambler an indescribable thrill and making them unable to stop.
So, your husband has fallen into a gambling addiction—he was influenced by his social environment, and there was also the factor of his own mental processes. Of course, there are also spiritual factors. Because, to speak plainly, this is a type of “bondage.” Since it is a kind of bondage to sin, it is also a kind of satanic attack. The problem now is, how are you going to help your husband get free?
1. Stop giving him money.
Gamblers will usually, because they are powerless to pay back money they have borrowed, come under pressure from moneylenders. At this point, they will plead for help from any quarter. A few kind-hearted family members will feel they have no alternative but to give them money (or they might give them money because otherwise they would lose face). Actually, giving the gambler money not only makes it possible for them to gamble again, it deepens and perpetuates their gambling opportunities. Only if family and friends put the gambler into “economic prison” and tell him that they don’t need his “one more bet and I’ll win it all back” money, will he perhaps be able to stop.
2. Make him accept responsibility.
Sharing the honors and disgraces of one’s family is a national tradition—but being co-annihilated with a gambler is truly terrifying. A gambler who loses himself to gambling will lead to all kinds of evil. Family members should by no means pay the gambler’s debts or raise money on his behalf. Let him face his own mess, including starting afresh with family responsibilities, re-ordering his life, fixing broken relationships, etc.
3. Give him the dignity he ought to have.
Being, to a certain extent, “hands off” towards him, does not mean not caring about him. Instead, you should give him sufficient dignity and hope. Don’t nag or reprimand him every time you see him—give him opportunities for self-criticism, for regret, and to put things right. More than this, you must set down your hatred and learn to accept and forgive him, to be patient and empathetic. At the same time, care for his daily needs.
4. Love never deserts.
Family members should not, in order to “punish” the gambler, give him the silent treatment. On the contrary, because of love, they should refuse to leave him. Giving up gambling is a lonely battle. No-one can enter the field of battle on your husband’s behalf, but his family are his cheerleaders. When he is victorious, encourage him; when he is failing, pump up his morale; when he is despondent, cheer him on. No matter how far onwards he must march to reach success, his family must stand accompanying him on either side, reaching out with helping hands.
5. Seek help and support.
During this period of time you have forgotten one thing: God is the one we rely on. The thing you must reflect on is this: is it possible that getting yourselves into this situation had something to do with you only “calling yourselves Christians”? You should know that people cannot change—indeed, have no way to change—other people. Only the Lord Jesus can do that. His saving grace can rescue people from the devil’s dominion and bondage to sin.
So the best thing to do is to bring your husband to church more often, spend more time with the church body; together, entrust these things to God and intercede for your husband in prayer. This can divert your husband’s attention from gambling and bring him into a new social group, and help him understand that trusting in the Lord will free him from his bondage. It can teach him the doctrines in the Bible that bring people blessing. In this way, his environment is changed, his heart is changed; then, leaving the gambling tables becomes natural.
Sister Xiao Fang, may God give you a strong heart and wisdom, that you may become a channel of blessing to your family.
Original Article: 【怎么办】先生赌瘾难戒by Tiangfeng (WeChat ID: ccctspm_tianfeng)
Image Credit: Jack Zalium via Flickr.
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