Delivered From Despair
The Personal Testimony of Sis. Diane Knack
The college campus is a place often filled with sin and debauchery of every sort. Many students lose control as they dive head-first into the party life - resulting in depression, anxiety, and even addiction. As a young college student, Diane Knack found herself bound by alcohol dependency and a sense of hopelessness while attending Syracuse University. Only after she yielded to Jesus Christ, was she able to be delivered and set free from the despair that had control over her life. The following account is an edited transcription of the testimony she shared with the church.
"It is my desire and intention to tell the truth here. I'm not looking to tell a good story or to embellish things. I've asked God to help me be accurate. I was born and raised in Bethpage, Long Island. My mother was from England, and my father was from Ireland. They both came over here and settled in Long Island. My father died when he was 33 years old from heart disease. I was three years old when he died. My mother was left alone to care for a three year old, and my brother Peter, who was eight years old at that time. My mom (God bless her) worked very hard. She didn't make a lot of money, but we always had a roof over our head, food on the table, good clothes on our backs, went to the dentist and had presents under the Christmas tree. We lived in an apartment over a store near railroad tracks. I was very self-conscious about it as a kid. The rest of my friends, it seemed, lived in houses with backyards and puppies. But we didn't have a lot of money and that's the way it was. I lived there all my life until I went to college.
"My Irish father had had me baptized Catholic. My mother didn't remember her parents going to church. So, she didn't have any real strong denominational ties or opinions. She just thought anything to do with God was good and any church was good. So, when we were young, she started taking my brother and I to a Lutheran church that was around the corner. She put me in Sunday School where we heard stories about Jesus. As a little kid, I was impressed by how kind Jesus was and how He reached out to everybody: lepers, blind people, etc. He was so compassionate and kind. I thought Jesus was so nice! As I got older, I heard how Jesus was so angry with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. I was shocked when Jesus, who always was so kind, got so angry. I thought, 'Whatever I do, I do not want to be a hypocrite because that makes Jesus really mad!' I took that in, even as a little kid.
"Later, I was in Youth Group, Confirmation classes, and I joined the choir. But as I was getting older, I was starting to think, 'I don't know if I believe.' It concerned me. I think I was 13 or 14, and I made an appointment with the pastor. I said to him, 'I don't know if I believe! I want to have faith. How do you have faith? What do I do? How do I do it?' He said, 'Well… faith comes….' That was it. 'Faith comes.' – like you know, hopefully it will happen. As a teenager, I started to lose interest and decided, 'If I don't believe, then I'm being a hypocrite by being here, so I'm going.' And that was it, I left.
"Fast-forwarding to my senior year of high school, I went to see my guidance counselor. I had to bring my financial paperwork, what my mother made, and my grades to sit down with her to figure out where to go to college. She said to me, 'Well, you could go almost anywhere.' My grades were good and my mother made so little, that I was going to get a ton of financial aid. But here's an important part of my testimony. Every year I was going to go to college was going to hang completely on financial aid going off without a hitch. If they gave me a package that was something like, 'Well, we'll give you this loan and this grant, but you have to come up with a $1,000…,' then I wouldn't be able to go. We didn't have a $1,000. So, all the time I was at college, I was acutely aware that I was hanging by a financial aid thread. I applied to Syracuse University, did the paperwork, the finances went through, and there I was at SU.
"As a freshman, I just hit the ground running. It was partying, drinking, and ungodly relationships… excess…excess…excess, at a frenzied pace. I dove right in and just went nuts sin-wise with debauchery. At one point in the first semester, mid-terms and finals came along. I panicked. 'Oh my goodness! AAHH! I can't afford to fail!!' So, I crammed like crazy, pulled all-nighters, and managed to squeak out a 2.8 for that semester. This was amazing with how little I had gone to class and everything else. Well, that was painful, so I decided next semester, I wasn't going to do that again. I got a lot more organized about my studies and never missed class. I still partied like crazy, but just was more organized about doing it. As for the drinking thing, when other people had sort of played out the freshman craziness, I was still drinking. Drinking all the time was just a way to sort of put a 'buzz' into the day. I was drinking everyday; looking for that sort of fun edge to the day. I really wasn't getting much of the fun, but I was getting hooked… and addicted… and bound – quickly!
"By my sophomore year, my friends were starting to notice how much I was drinking. It wasn't just the wild binge weekend thing – it was all the time! I was hooked. Concerned for me, they even did the 'intervention/confrontation' thing, which I did not appreciate. I did not want to stop drinking. Frankly, I just wanted them to leave me alone. But I knew they were seeing how much I was drinking. On top of that, when you are a slave to some sin, it starts to rule you; you start to be at the mercy of the sin. Embarrassing things were happening. I was starting to be ashamed and embarrassed about some of the fallout of this sin. Things like: falling down in the middle of a bar drunk and then seeing people on Marshall Street kind of looking at me the next day. I'd think, 'Oh my gosh! Were they there? Did they see me? What did I do?' Now, I was just getting paranoid and depressed. But, I couldn't stop drinking because I was bound. I started trying to hide it. It was my dirty secret – along with some other dirty secrets. You know, when you have dirty secrets, it's not a happy life. I was getting more and more depressed, and I was very, very unhappy. But I was still keeping my grades up.
"By the second semester, I wasn't in a great state. But, I was going back to school. The financial aid came through. Not only did it come through, but I got an $800 refund! (This was back in 1979, when $800 was probably more like $1800. More money than I was used to having!) So, what did this poor kid do with the money? Put it away and save it? Oh no - I blew it! I bought drinks, I spend it on this and that, and treated people, etc. I must've burned through that money in a couple of weeks.
"Now for some reason, I don't know why, a couple of people in the dorm decided they wanted to go to church. Since the only church we could walk to was Hendricks Chapel on campus, we went there. Afterwards, the Dean who had led the service was talking to us. I don't remember what he was saying, but I looked at him. He had the most radiant countenance I had ever seen. I couldn't explain it. He beamed! I looked at his face more than I heard anything he said; it struck me. But, even so, I wasn't really interested in going back.
"Not too long after, I went down to my mailbox. There was a letter from the Bursar's office. It said they had re-evaluated my financial aid package and due to an adjustment, to please remit $800.00. Oh no! (Now I wasn't very strong emotionally at this point between my drinking and now this.) I started to panic! You might not think it was a big deal, but when you're poor and you don't have money, everything is a big obstacle. It was hard. I didn't have anybody to go to, and my mother didn't have the money. And that was the end of my options. What was I going to do? I started panicking. 'What if I can't finish school? What if they won't let me come back in the fall? How am I going to pay off my loans?'
"Then, I had a thought. I had to go see that man with the radiant face, the Dean at Hendricks Chapel. His radiant, beaming face was in my head, and I had to go talk to him. I found the Dean's office, but he wasn't there! The secretary said he wouldn't be in until tomorrow. I thought, 'Oh no!' She said, 'Well, the Assistant Dean is here, would you like to talk to him?' I was thinking, 'Not really – I want the guy with the radiant face!' But, I was desperate, so I went to talk with the Assistant Dean. I started telling him about how Financial Aid wanted this money back. I didn't tell him how I had blown the money and what I had been doing. I just told him I didn't know what I was going to do, and that I had this big problem.
"He said, 'God will help you.' I remember looking back at him and I said, 'I… do not… deserve… for God to help me!' He put his hand on my shoulder gently and said, 'Yes, but that's the way He is.' I can't explain it, but when he said that, it went down deep into the core of my being. I knew what he was saying was true. How I knew it, I don't know. I sat there and cried because I knew that God knew every dirty secret and everything there was to know about me, but He loved me in spite of it and was willing to help me.
"As I collected myself together, the Assistant Dean said he'd try to write a letter to Financial Aid. He handed me some booklet – I think it was about prayer. I took the booklet and went across the hallway to a room. I sat down and read it from cover to cover. When I finished reading, I turned off the lights and got down on my knees. I said, 'Lord, I have not talked to You, I have not cared about You or thought about You in years. But now that I'm in trouble, here I am. What a hypocrite! But oh, God! If You can hear me, please – have mercy on me!' I knew, as I was in that room, that He heard me – I knew it! I walked out of there knowing God heard me. I don't remember exactly how, but the financial aid thing got resolved. At the end of that semester, I went home to Long Island for the summer.
"So, it was now the summer between my sophomore and junior years. While I was at college, my mother was going through her own struggles. A wonderful Christian woman at her workplace named Mala was reaching out to my mother. She asked my mother to go to church with her. When I came home over the summer, my mother saw what kind of shape I was in. She started putting me on prayer lists and pressuring me to go to church with her. Finally, I went. At the end of the meeting, someone asked me if I would like to pray. I think she had me recite the 'Sinner's Prayer.' Nobody told me about repentance or anything, I just prayed along. So, after I got done praying, she said, 'Well, now you're born again!' I said, 'I am?' (I wasn't born again! – But that's what she told me.)
"Before going back to school, I received another letter from the Bursar's office. This time, there were three issues that had to be resolved before I could register. I was thinking, 'Oh no! Here we go again!' At this point, the drinking and the depression had been getting worse and worse. I was in a worse state now than with the first issue. One of the issues was that I owed the bookstore $34.00. I could deal with that, but I just had this sick feeling about everything working out. When it came time to go back, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was 20 years old and I crawled into bed with my mother and just cried. I was just falling apart. My mother was lying in bed, and she said, 'Diane, the Lord's talking to me! The Lord's telling me I need to give you $100.' I said, 'It's only $34.00, I think I've got it.' But she repeated that the Lord said for her to give me $100. I figured, 'Well, can't hurt, I'll take the $100, right?' But I really didn't see the need.
"The next day, she gave me the $100 and went to work. I had my bags packed and was waiting for my ride back up to SU. I was in such a state, standing there just crying and weeping. I had been crying so much, my eyes were swollen. I grabbed a Bible I had, and as I was crying, I opened it. Guess where it opened! 'My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.' - Psalm 69:3 (NLT) I knew God was talking to me! I knew He saw me right at that minute. I was amazed! I kept reading, 'O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you…'Don't hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble!' - Psalm 69:5,17 (NLT) I was just crying, 'YES! YES! YES!' (I was weeping and I was simultaneously blown away that God was talking to me like this. I knew it was Him!)
"Well, I went to SU, got settled and then went to registration. I actually took that Bible with me and clutched it as I went to register. I went off to deal with two of the problems and got those resolved. The final hurdle was the bookstore. I brought the letter that said I owed $34.00 and started to write the check. The lady said, 'Wait one minute…' as she calculated the amount and said something about it being past due. She said, 'It's going to be an additional $100.' I was blown away! I didn't think I needed that extra $100. I had no clue! If I hadn't had it, I couldn't have gone forward. So, I had my money plus the $100 the Lord told my mother to give me. I took care of the bill, and walked away, all set to register for classes. Now to me, this was a sign the Lord was giving me! I was completely convinced God was real.
"At this point, it started to dawn on me that I couldn't keep having God always bailing me out and helping me while I was doing NOTHING right obedience-wise. I realized how one-way this was. I couldn't pray that great, but I was really trying with my heart to pray. I prayed that I wanted to get to know Him better. I knew Hendricks Chapel wasn't it. I didn't know Syracuse, I was from Long Island, and I never had a car. I basically never went off of campus. But I prayed, 'Oh God! Please bring me somewhere where I can know You better. Please, oh God!'
"Shortly after that, I was in Kimmel Dining Hall and I ran into a Christian man named Tom. We had worked together at the dining hall. He never officially witnessed to me, but he was wholesome, hard-working, and clean cut. I respected the way he carried himself. I saw he had a Bible under his arm, so I asked, 'Hey, Tom! What are you doing with that Bible? You takin' a religion course or something?' He turned to me and he said, 'No, Diane. I'm born again.' And I said, 'REALLY?! ME TOO!' (Because of what I had been told back on Long Island.) He very graciously said, 'Oh! That's…great!' So, he said, 'Why don't you come to church?' I said, 'I'd LOVE to come to church!' (He didn't know how I had been praying. Only God knew that.)
"I came to church at the Living Word. I remember coming in and seeing all the congregation worshipping. They had their heads up and their eyes open and their hands raised and they were talking and singing to God! I looked at them and I thought, 'I don't know Him like they know Him. I don't know Him like that!' I could tell at THIS church, they were really doing what the Bible said here. They weren't just talking about it. After the meeting, Tom introduced me to a bunch of SU students. It was so encouraging for me to meet believers who also went to SU.
"The message had something to do with the Cross. The rest of the week, the Cross was on my mind. I never really got how much it hurt Jesus. When I was a kid, I don't know - I thought because He was God, maybe it didn't hurt. But I started to get the agony and the suffering. I started to realize that if you really believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you, then didn't you have to do something with that? I mean, how can you say you believe and then just live your life? You either believe and give your life to Him… or you don't believe. To say you believe, and not give your life to Him would be total hypocrisy. This was what was going through my mind. I didn't get saved that first night; I went back another night. Bro. Bob had a sister from Canada come up. She greeted the church and she said, 'There's a faith you have in your head, and there's a faith you have in your heart.' I thought, 'That's it. Mine is in my head, theirs is in their heart. That's the difference.'
"But, I also experienced a big bombshell that night. I learned that Christians are NOT supposed to drink. Oh no! Now, when you're addicted to something and you can't sleep or function without it, the idea of putting it aside, it doesn't compute. I couldn't drink?! Oh no! I could understand not at wild parties, but not even privately… alone? I thought, 'I don't know if I can do this!' I was really wrestling with this, so I opened my Bible in my dorm room. It opened to, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.' (John 14:15) I closed the book!! 'I'm not going to look at THAT for a while!' I thought, 'If I open that book, it's going to tell me something I need to do again!' But, I opened it again, and it said, 'He who loves this life will lose it. But he who loses his life for my sake will gain it.' (See Matthew 10:39) I got it immediately. I knew it wasn't talking about being martyred necessarily. I got it. If I didn't give up my life to Christ, I was going to lose everything. I was thinking, 'How am I going to do this?' Then I had a thought. I said, 'I know, I'm going to settle this drinking thing. I'm going to call Ruth.' (Ruth was a wonderful Christian woman on Long Island.)
"So, I called up Ruth, who was so sweet and so kind. I was hoping she was going to say, 'Oh, God understands.' So I said, 'Ruth, I went to this church, and they said Christians aren't supposed to drink. Is that true?' And she said, 'THAT'S RIGHT!!! Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and you should NOT be polluting it with alcohol!!' (Now I knew I was done for! I couldn't drink anymore.) I was a mess. I felt like I was in a tug-of-war. Should I? Can I? I can't! I HAVE TO!! I was weeping and crying, thinking, 'What am I going to do? God help me!!' I also knew that when I drank, terrible ungodly thoughts would come into my mind. Alcohol just opened the door for those thoughts. I prayed, 'Lord, after all You've done for me… for me to drink and open up my mind to those ungodly thoughts is like spitting in Your face while You hung on the cross for me. And I am NOT gonna spit in Your face anymore!! I don't know how I'm going to do this, Lord, but I'm not drinking anymore!'
"I'm telling you, that in that moment (a complete surprise to me), the Holy Ghost came in that room and He filled me and He changed me and He just… delivered me!!! And somehow I knew that I was completely changed. I knew it was the Lord, I knew I was set free; I knew drinking would NEVER be an issue again in my life! I just knew! I was crying, and I was blessed, and then… I had to go to work!
"So, I went to work. I went down to Kimmel dining hall, and I looked in there, and there was Tom. 'TOM!!!' I screamed, 'I'M CHANGED!! I'M CHANGED!!' (I didn't care who was listening.) Tom shouted back in his Boston accent, 'Praise the Lord!! Praise the Lord!!' (All the college kids were just staring at us.) And from that moment, I was delivered. Since that time in 1980, drinking has never been an issue. It's gone, it's dead, it was gone from that moment FOREVER.
"I want to say to you that God didn't love me more than anybody else. The compassion He poured out on me, He wants to pour out on you. He wants to give you the help you need. You don't have to wonder if He wants to give you help – He's eager to help you! He desires to pour out His mercy on you. Maybe you need some mercy and help from God. You can have what happened to me happen to you, too. Maybe in spite of you, you need God to reach down and help you, because… that's the way He is!"