Getting involved in jail and prison ministry has given me a new perspective. I think, what can I possibly say to these men that will be of help to them? What is their perspective about being in there?
I have spent a couple of days in jail, although I never faced more than a fine or loss of driver’s license. Some of the men I am talking about have committed murder, burglary, drug charges etc. They are looking at some serious time behind bars and some are never going to get out. Although they probably didn’t think they would ever be where they are, they now have to come to grips with it and learn how to live with it.
My wife has also gotten involved with jail and prison ministry. We always pray together on the nights she goes. We pray that God would reveal himself to the ladies and that they will respond. She goes every Thursday night and recently we were both going on the same night. As we prayed God revealed something to me about the story of Jonah that I had never seen before. Sometimes when praying for others we are the ones that are enlightened.
Jonah was running from God. He was on a ship in the middle of a storm, so Jonah told the men to throw him overboard and the storm would stop. They threw him overboard and sure enough the storm calmed down. The bible says that the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Being in the belly of a fish (whale) can’t be a very pleasant place to be. I would say it was pretty tight quarters to be in, not to mention smelly and dark. God showed me that this was his way of saving Jonah and instead of it being bad; it was actually a good thing. If it wasn’t for the whale Jonah would have drowned. After three nights in the whale’s belly Jonah was spit out on to land. Since he had been given another opportunity; Jonah did what God had told him to do.
There have been plenty of men who have said that jail saved their life. They say “if it wasn’t for getting locked up I would probably be dead.” I shared with them that jail was like the whale’s belly and it was God’s way of rescuing them. Several of them said they would have drowned out there if it hadn’t been for getting put in jail. Maybe when they get out they, like Jonah, will do what God tells them to.
Sometimes we can’t see the benefit of the tight place we find ourselves in but perhaps it’s God’s way of getting us where he wants us to go. If it wasn’t for the discomfort most of us would tend to continue the same way day after day. God loves us too much to leave us the way we are, so he may prepare a difficult situation in order to get us where we need to be.