Visitation was over. As families said their good-byes and waited in line for the locked steel doors to electronically release, one elderly African-American man broke the silence with soft words. “The hour goes fast, doesn’t it?” His eyes were kind, but sad. “It does.” I replied. I could sense he needed something more, so I ventured a little further. “Life is hard, isn’t it?” “Yes, yes it is,” he echoed. “But, God is good!” I added. A smile came to his face and the door to his heart was opened. He felt safe enough to share a little of his burden.
“Is someone in here that you love?” I asked. “Two of them,” he responded. “I’m so sorry.”, I comforted as best I could and we spoke of the drugs that started this unintended journey. He uttered pleading words. “I asked them when they will listen to what the older generation is telling them. I told them this is the last time. I just can’t do this anymore.”
He was caught between love and weariness; between hope and fear. Everything in him wanted his boys to be free from the bondage of addiction and its accompanying sorrows. He longed for life to be filled with promise ~ as it was a lifetime ago.
My heart ached. We were two of the thousands who walked this agonizing path. To the law, these were simply criminals. To relatives, they were loved ones who had lost their way. Somewhere they were caught in the snare that promised pleasure and delivered pain. Substances they were sure they could control ended up controlling them. The imprisoned were not the only ones held in bondage; unseen shackles gripped the hearts of family.
Vulnerable to seeing life as it is, sorrow can blur the vision of life as God has promised. And that is exactly where the enemy of God wants burdened people to remain. Disheartened, weary from fear, broken by sorrow and troubled with doubt. The questions weighs heavily. How could God possibly work good out of bad circumstances? How is hope embraced when conditions appear hopeless?
Perhaps you’re there. Your struggle may not be with drugs and chances are good you have never spent time in jail. But you have fought some battles with wrong nonetheless. Examples aren’t necessary. If you’re entertaining sin, something has popped into your mind already. Your intentions are to bring it under control, but somehow you just can’t shake the influence. The world may not know about it, but the Lord does. In the presence of Holy God, you have broken His laws. You are guilty and, knowing the consequences, He is grieved.
We are all on equal ground as law breakers before God. But sentencing has been pronounced with an offer of grace and mercy. Jesus has willingly paid our debt with His life; for He didn’t come to eliminate the law, but to fulfill it and He didn’t come to condemn sinners, but to save them. Not because we are worthy, but because His love for us is great. That should mean something. Grace isn’t cheap and we must never forget that the forgiveness of each one of us came at the very same price.
The 3rd Chapter of Galatians says it plainly. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, … But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (NIV)
Amazing. God’s righteousness demanded justice and His mercy sought our redemption. Love grieved ~ but it didn’t stop there. At the cross Christ did for us what we cannot do for ourselves; He offered cleansing from all unrighteousness and restoration of those who put their faith in Him so they could stand forgiven before a Holy God.
Regardless of your past or where you are right now ~ God loves you. He knows the mess you have made of things, yet his offer of forgiveness stands. He longs to restore a relationship with you, to clean you up, lift your head, break the bonds of sin and set you on a new course that is heaven-bound.
It’s a decision away ~ a confession, repentance and faith in the only One who can save you. He is the Righteous Judge. He is Jesus!