Teaching God’s Word to women in jail has been one of the biggest challenges in my life, and one of the biggest blessings of my life.
Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” For a long time I misunderstood that verse to mean that God would give me things I desire. That isn’t it at all. He gives us THE DESIRES – He fills our heart with a desire to do what He has purposed us to do. Much to my surprise, God has filled my heart with a burning desire to share His truth with women in jail. That wasn’t something I ever sought. God had to drag me to jail, and I’m so thankful He did.
I realize now that I was primarily a consumer of God’s Word before I started going to jail. I wasn’t exercising nearly enough, and the ways that I did serve God were well within my comfort zone. I was spiritually “obese”! Paul says we are to “work out our salvation” (Phil. 2:12), but I was focused primarily on feeding myself and meeting my own needs. I wasn’t “working out” nearly enough.
Going to jail has deepened my walk with God in more ways that I could possibly count. He has used jail to begin to build up some of my spiritual “muscle”. There is no joy that compares to knowing you are right where God wants you to be, doing exactly what He has called you and prepared you to do.
There is one difference between the women in jail and me. Their sins were illegal according to man’s laws, and they got caught. But before God, we are equal. Their sins are no better, and no worse than mine. Or yours. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The ground at the foot of the cross is level. They are God’s creation, and they are precious to Him.
In the spiritual battle, we should never mistake the prisoners of war with the enemy!
We have all made bad decisions and suffered the consequences. I realize now that I could easily be in their place if I had lived the life they have lived. Many of our bad decisions are made because we believe the lies of the world and Satan. We are all imprisoned by our sin until we reach out to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Hosea 4:6 is God speaking to His people through the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Our ignorance of God’s ways and Satan’s schemes can destroy us.
God will use our past failures and mistakes to give us compassion for others, and He can use us as an encouragement to others. So many of the difficult things in my past make so much more sense to me now. God never wastes a hurt, a past mistake, a failure. He redeems them!
But one thing I definitely didn’t expect was that God would use the women I minister to in jail to minister to me. I am so encouraged by the faith of some of these women, in such difficult circumstances and a difficult environment. I’m amazed at their gratitude for things I have often taken for granted. I love watching them cling to Jesus when He is, literally in some cases, all they have. They inspire and challenge me to “work out” the incredible gift of salvation that I have been given.