Max Lucado reveals he relied on alcohol to cope with pressures of life, confessed 'hypocrisy' to elders

Max Lucado
Max Lucado | Thomas Nelson

Pastor and bestselling author Max Lucado has opened up about his previous struggles with alcohol, revealing there was a time when he’d rely on the substance to manage stress and cope with a “world gone crazy.”

In his latest book, God Never Gives Up on You, Lucado, the leader of ​​Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, revealed he would travel to the other side of town and purchase beer secretly as the pressures of his ministry grew.

"The staff needed me. The pulpit required me. The publisher was counting on me. The entire world was looking to me,” he wrote in an excerpt published by Fox News. 

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"So, I did what came naturally. I began to drink. Not publicly. I was the guy you see at the convenience store who buys the big can of beer, hides it in a sack, and presses it against his thigh so no one will see as he hurries out the door. My store of choice was on the other side of the city lest I be seen. I'd sit in the car, pull the can out of the sack, and guzzle the liquid until it took the edge off the sharp demands of the day. That’s how 'America’s Pastor' was coping with his world gone crazy.”

In the midst of his struggles, he heard God speak to his heart one day while in a parking lot: “Really, Max? If you have everything together, if you have a lock on this issue, then why are you hiding in a parking lot, sipping a beer that you’ve concealed in a brown paper bag?”

Like Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32, Lucado said he felt himself wrestling with God in that parking lot.

"I confessed my hypocrisy to our elders, and they did what good pastors do. They covered me with prayer and designed a plan to help me cope with demands. I admitted my struggle to the congregation and in doing so activated a dozen or so conversations with members who battled the same temptation. … God met me there that day. He gave me a new name as well. Not Israel [as Jacob was given]. That one was already taken. But 'forgiven.' And I'm happy to wear it."

In a 2022 interview, Lucado shared with The Christian Post how he relies on the power of the Holy Spirit when faced with stress. 

"We're a worn out people, we're worn out or absolutely exhausted," he said, citing statistics revealing that 84% of Americans feel stressed at least one day in a typical week.

"That means that nearly nine out of 10 people you see walking down the street feel stress. That's not how we're intended to live. So the Spirit gives life; the flesh is of no help at all. That is to say, my pep rallies, my self-motivation talks, that they're not helping me. I need help from outside, help from above," he said.

In 2021, the bestselling author was diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm. He shared that after the diagnosis, he “really spiraled downward” in terms of anxiety. 

A few days after the diagnosis, he said he felt a shift: 

"I really felt, in a supernatural way one morning … I felt it lift," he told CP. "I really did it just lift. And it's not that I was healed, because I'm not, but the fear or the anxiety was lifted. And I attribute that to the Holy Spirit. I sought prayer and I received prayer, and so I can say now honestly, I do not live in fear of that."

The pastor said there’s often the misconception that Christians won't have trials, whether relational, mental or physical. But that's "just not the case in this world," Lucado said, and that's why the Holy Spirit is so desperately needed.

"Jesus didn't say, 'In this world, some people have tribulation.' 'In this world, you will have tribulation,'" Lucado maintains. "But then He said, 'Be of good cheer, because I've overcome the world.' So whatever you're facing, Christ has already overcome it, and He will help you as you move forward."

"Do not buy into that lie that says if you were a better Christian, you wouldn't have these struggles," he stressed. "The fact of the matter is, sometimes, the fact that you are a Christian creates these struggles because the devil sees you as a candidate for his attack."

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