I was reading the biblical Book of Proverbs the other day and got thinking about Proverbs 31:6: Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. NIV
It started me thinking (warning: rambling thoughts ahead) that if the instruction is to give someone who is suffering (see also 1 Timothy 5:23) beer or wine or some other kind of strong drink, it implies that the consumption of such is to be initiated by those who see someone else's need for coping assistance and not by the person struggling to cope.
To me it implies that the struggling person consuming the strong drink is part of a caring community who are taking care of the struggling person, offering solace during an extremely difficult time, not leaving her or him alone to try to drink away the misery, but keeping a close eye on that person to be sure there is no falling into the excess mentioned in, for example, Ephesians 5: 18: Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.....KJV
How terribly sad to feel so alone in times of grief or fear that a person would find herself trying to drink away the unhappiness with no one there to care enough to help control the intake of alcohol and deal with the problems in a more constructive way.
Every city and town we have ever lived in has had a plethora of people who are emotionally and socially alone. They have consumed alcohol in such large, or at least regular daily amounts they are addicted to it and have either not had a community to help them prevent the addiction or have turned their backs on the community that offered assistance.
I have been blessed in my life to have many caring friends and family, some in the church and some not, who have been able to sit down with me in my most unhappy times and minister life to me. Occasionally a glass of wine has accompanied our times together, enough to relax the tension, enough to honestly share the problems but insufficient to lead to a drunken disaster.
The Bible is quite explicit about the use of wine and other strong drink. It recognizes its proper use and warns often of the dangers of excess. To me the key to any consumption, when under the stresses of life, is the involvement of a loving and trustworthy community, one where trust is well established so that an admonition about not abusing alcohol is understood, appreciated and obeyed, where there is sufficient mutual love that support can be gained without the need for over indulgence in drink, while being able to enjoy its better properties.
I bless the Lord particularly for dear friends who are wine importers and are part of that community for me. This past weekend when they visited, they knew in a very short time that I was not myself and needed some comforting. A glass of wine and a good visit where honesty in conversation was allowed and encouraged was helpful. We relaxed and prayed together and I felt cared for and able to take a better look at what is bothering me and start taking more concrete steps to deal with it.
So, some rambling thoughts. (PLEASE NOTE: I am not encouraging anyone to drink alcohol. Such things are private decisions between people and God and their own consciences.)
Lots of thoughts to be gleaned from a simple sounding Bible verse that actually has a lot of depth.
PS I grew up in a household of mature adults who occasionally served wine with dinner, have watched the destructive toll alcohol had on some other family members and friends, all ready been through the years of anti-alcohol church life and community and come back around to my parents' way of thinking. I have participated in every side of the pro and con alcohol consumption debate, so no need to post either pro- or anti-alcohol sermon links for me in the comments section of the blog. Thank you.