One that I have helped some told me a sad but pointed story today as I visited him. I will call him Joe (not his real name).
Joe has already spent approximately 31 years in prison. He wrote me a letter back almost a year ago as he was anticipating getting out of prison from his last sentence of some 11 years. We corresponded several times by mail before he got out of the state prison system, and then finally he was out. He called me, and we met for the first time.
He sat in my office telling me his story. He had numerous issues that I won't detail, but his last sentence was over anonymous abusive and threatening phone calls. While in prison, he turned his life over to God and became a believer. As we talked, I could sense his fears and concerns as he was approaching building a new life out of prison. He knew it wouldn't be easy, but I assured him that God had forgiven him and that he had paid his debt to society. I told him that he could make it and that God and we would help him.
He agreed to a set of parameters to protect him and "little ones" from any issue as he began to attend church. He attended faithfully for several months and then missed. I had talked with him and prayed with him as he was struggling to find work. It seemed impossible to him, but I assured him that if he would continue to make right choices that God would open a door for him.
Sadly, he did what a lot of christians do and gave up just before his answer came. He began to make many, many more abusive phone calls and was arrested again. He is facing more time, maybe many more years in prison.
Joe told me today that the very day on a Friday that he had made some of those calls that he had gotten a call that afternoon to go to a new job. God had heard and answered, but he had gotten discouraged just before the answer came. His discouragement led to poor choices and now years in prison.
As I sat across the glass barrier and talked over a phone to Joe, my heart broke. How sad, and then I thought of how so many of us give up just before the answer comes.
I asked Joe to write down what he had told me. I told him that he needed to let this be a reminder that God does answer prayers and that he should not give up too soon before the answer comes. I told him that God would give him new opportunities and that God loved him. I told him to remember that God had answered his and our prayers and to hold on to God when times are tough.
I pray that Joe listened. I pray that you listen too. I pray that I will learn from this story.