Some of the doors God opens are surprising to me. I regularly visit the men in a maximum-security prison a few hours away from my home, where I am able to share from God’s Word in their chapel meetings. Over the months we’ve developed a friendship as we’ve studied the Word of God together. Recently I told them how hard the last year of my life has been, culminating with the death of my husband, and that one morning I had been talking to the Lord about how, when trial after trial piles up, it is easy for a person to doubt God’s love for them.
I told them that the Lord reminded about the Apostle Paul. He was greatly used by God, but he also suffered much, if you read the list of his troubles found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. But Paul was also the person who said in Romans 8:28 that: “… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” If you think about that Scripture, it doesn’t say that everything on its own is good, but rather together God uses all things for our good!
I gave the men an illustration. Once as a teenager, having no time to make a cup of coffee before rushing out the door, I decided to eat a handful of raw coffee powder instead! It was terrible!!! Coffee by itself is horrible – it’s only when it is mixed together with the water and sugar that it becomes delicious and helpful! The same is true of the life circumstances we face. On their own they may be terrible; but when mixed together with other things God is doing in our lives, they can bring about great good in the end!
I asked the men if they’d seen that in their own lives and one spoke up. He said, “I have three life sentences without the possibility of parole but after being here for 27 years I got the news that the law had changed and I was now eligible for an interview with the parole board!” He had been excited because he had become a Christ-follower in prison and saw this as God’s gift to him. He was sure he would be released; but when he had his interview, though the board praised him for the way his life had changed in prison, they denied his parole, encouraging him to reapply again in four years! He was devastated.
With all hope gone, he couldn’t understand why God had allowed that to happen. At first, he was angry; but then he decided he would pursue God and trust Him. Then a very interesting thing happened. Men began to approach him saying they could see he was a different man to the one they’d known before and that his reaction to his parole denial had made them realize that Jesus is real and that He is able to change lives! Those men began coming to chapel and are now followers of Christ themselves! They have found freedom in the midst of their prison’s bars.
My friend said: “When the board rejected me, I first thought it was all about me and how God couldn’t love me if He let me be disappointed in that way. But then when the men started coming to me one after another, I realized God was saying that it wasn’t just about me! He was working in their lives and stories too, and He was using me to do it. I can praise God I was denied parole because there are now others who have come to faith because of it and I can say that God does work all things together for the good of those who love Him!”
Let me encourage you to trust Him in your circumstances too. They may be hard, but in God’s hand, they can ultimately be used for His glory and your good!
© August 2019