The title caught my attention. I don’t think anyone doubts that I am personally and professionally – as a man and as a minister against gambling. In 1996 it is estimated that Americans spent roughly in the neighborhood of $500 billion on legal gambling. However, the money involved is just the beginning of the losses from this blight.

A lady by the name of Maxi Chambers shared her personal story in an article in the Christian Reader: “I pushed the last of my red chips toward the dealer and tried to smile. But as he slowly turned over the cards, I knew I’d lost the last of the I’d borrowed in desperation. “‘Better luck next time’ the dealer shouted, trying to cheer me up. I quickly turned so he wouldn’t see the tears streaming down my face. I was $30,000.00 in debt, my twenty-year marriage was nearly destroyed, and my four children no longer trusted me. I’d hit rock bottom.”

She was a successful woman. She had been elected to her local city council. She owned her own business. She had been an activist in her community, organizing youth groups and volunteering at local schools. And she claimed to be a Christian. In making her mark on her community, she boldly proclaimed Christ in virtually everything she did.

Then she won $500.00 with a single game of bingo. Since the family at that time had been having a few financial problems, the money went to pay off some outstanding debts. It seemed to be a good thing – a blessing even – that she’d won the money. Even as a Christian, she didn’t realize her gambling was wrong. She’d never heard a real sermon preached against it. A former pastor once mentioned “playing too much lottery.” The implication was that a little was okay, you just got in trouble with a lot. Since she considered herself a well-disciplined person, she didn’t think this would be a problem.

Once a week bingo became, over the course of just a few months, a virtually every night event. Since her husband was often at work during evening hours, he didn’t realize at first how much time she was spending away from home. Her children, though, ages 18, 17, 14, and 12 certainly missed their mother.

However, you do “win some, lose some” as the old adage goes. And, the losing became more often than the winning. The debt increased as the playing increased. Mrs. Chambers admitted that she often manipulated her husband to get money from him. He would complain about her gambling, she would blame him for working such long hours–for not “being there” for her. He’d give in and hand her a hundred dollars here–two hundred there. Bills went unpaid. The gambling debt increased.

Soon bingo wasn’t enough and a nearby Indian reservation casino offered the opportunity to “hit it big!” The grocery store where she bought groceries – the gas station where she filled up the family car both offered lottery tickets. So, she’d spend $50.00 on groceries and $45.00 on the lottery.

Her husband became increasingly concerned about the gambling habit. He was ashamed and hurt by her behavior and withdrew almost completely from the home. The loneliness was one more excuse then, for her to gamble. Uncomfortable now borrowing money from her husband, Mrs. Chambers began borrowing from friends and acquaintances–lying to make up reasons for needing it. While they were very accommodating and congenial, her husband was not. Angry, bitter, frightened by her habit, he withdrew into himself even more.

Mrs. Chambers said, “My sisters and parents stepped in to fill the void in my children’s lives. But each of my children showed signs of emotional wounding. Our oldest child became withdrawn, our second child rebellious. Our two youngest children cried often and became severely depressed. Because I often gambled away the money intended for necessities, they went without new shoes, clothes, and even sometimes a warm meal. I delayed each purchase until the bitter end, hoping to win the money to buy whatever they needed.”

Two years into the gambling habit, Mrs. Chambers became depressed and suicidal. She remembers crying constantly, sleeping seldom, and knowing not even a moment of “mental peace.” Her physician treated her with tranquilizers and antidepressant medications but did not address the underlying source of her problem–the gambling addiction.

Finally her family confronted her. “You have a problem. Please get help.” They offered to attend Gamblers Anonymous with her. They were willing to help her in any way they could. However, she didn’t want their help. She had debts that she thought only continuing to gamble would help her pay.

A river boat casino came to a nearby town and Maxi Chambers became a “regular” there. Debts mounted. Thoughts of suicide were more frequent.

She had written checks that totaled over $2,000.00 more than was actually in her account. She knew if she didn’t get some money fast, she could possibly be facing jail. She called a local savings and loan company, convinced them to loan her $ 10,000.00 and allowed her to take the papers to her husband to sign. He never saw them. She forged his signature and used the money to cover what she’d already spent and then some.

Then came the fateful day that the last $10,000.00 was gone. Her choice was simple – life with help or gambling and suicide. She chose life. She knew she would have to confess; she knew she would face her family’s anger, but there came with the decision to come clean “the first inklings of peace since the addiction began.”

She removed anything that even suggested gambling from her home. She sat down with her checkbook and totaled the damages. She actually experienced physical symptoms of withdrawal: anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, nightmares and cold sweats. She sought forgiveness from her family and her friends.

Two weeks after her change of heart here was still one thing she hadn’t confessed. She had to tell her husband about the forgery and the $10,000.00. When she did, they wept together, “for the pain we both had endured, for our children, for turning to our own lusts for money and self-satisfaction instead of to God.”

“God didn’t send thousands of dollars to solve my financial crisis, nor did he wipe away the balance due my creditors. What he did was send some unexpected work my way and give me the assurance that everything would work together for good. Although God forgives, we reap what we sow – and I’ve had to suffer the repercussions of my misconduct.”

Maxi Chambers and her husband attempted to rebuild their marriage, but to no avail. They divorced. Three of their four children chose to live with her husband. She still speaks of her recovery as a “slow, painstaking process.”

“Gambling- and the potential it carries to destroy lives – is all too familiar to me. But there is hope for those who seek it. And, as my children and I continue the healing process, I know God can restore what was destroyed as I totally depend on him.”

It could have gone the other way. Gambling and eventual suicide could have been the end of her tragic story. The headlines have read, “Gambling Blamed for Suicide.”

If you have dabbled in this despicable blight that has come upon our state, I urge you to give yourself back to God, seek help and be delivered. If you know someone who is caught in this web of Satan’s weaving, pray for them diligently. Don’t let gambling claim another life!