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I thought, I tugged and pulled, and it still wouldn’t come out. Finally, I sat down across the aisle in a different seat.About that time, Johnny came over and started pulling on the table release, and he couldn’t get it out either. That’s when I looked up and noticed right above that window where we had been pulling was a little sign in big bold letters. Emergency exit only.” I said, “Dear God, thank you for not letting me have my way.

This is the first time that I have written about it.

I would love to know if readers have experienced what they felt were similar miracles, small or large, and kept quiet about them for similar reasons.

If events are not happening as quickly as you would like, or if you are not seeing circumstances change in your favor, open your grip on the situation; relax and learn to trust God. Nobody wants you to see your dreams come to pass any more than He does. It says in Proverbs, “If you acknowledge God in all your ways, He will direct your paths.” One translation says, “He’ll crown your efforts with success.” Not long ago, some of our staff members and I were flying to another city aboard a small airplane.

The aircraft had only one seat on each side of the aisle.

And, for a while, I steered clear of pubs and smoking pals, and accepted that my life would temporarily be circumscribed. In the decade since, many people have asked how I gave up smoking.

I have always kept my side of the deal God offered me, and, when asked, said that I prayed and He healed me. I am not particularly holy or good, and, in my metropolitan working world, I fear being thought delusional.

I have twice felt with certainty that God spoke to me. All I had to do to get free from nicotine slavery was surrender and admit I was powerless without His help. But – and here was the catch – in return I had to tell people afterwards that God had helped me. This is the Age of Reason and people who hear voices are classed as crazy. I am aware that a sceptical, scientific type could say that what I experienced as a “miracle” stemmed from my desire for change, or willpower, or even chemical shifts in my brain as I detoxified from a powerful drug.

In our secular world, this risks making me sound a) mad and b) vain. I hated my addiction, yet repeatedly failed at giving up. After Mass one day, someone asked me why I had returned, and I answered: “I realised I couldn’t do it all on my own.” I had an ostensibly glamorous existence, yet was often fearful, stressed and pained by the religion-shaped hole in my life. But it is mostly spiritual: dis-ease, an imbalance in the soul. But the ease with which I gave up, compared to the agonies every other time I tried, still strikes me as remarkable. My recovery from years of nicotine addiction tallies with a new report – announced yesterday by researchers from Oxford University and King’s College London – showing that, contrary to popular perception, smoking does not relieve stress, but giving up does.

I kept a diary – to deal with the sometimes painful feelings bubbling up, now that I no longer suffocated them under smoke – and read anti-smoking guides.

I walked and swam miles, to provide natural endorphins.

Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, listed by several sources as America's largest and fastest-growing congregation, in Houston, Texas.

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