My hopes were high! Following more than two decades of incarceration, we were praying for a favorable response to Jason’s application for a commutation of his sentence to a set number of years. That might have been a sentence of 35 or 40 years, instead of life without the possibility of parole, but since he had just turned 25 at the time of his arrest, it meant he might walk in freedom before the end of his life.
We had the best advocates—godly people of wisdom and influence with a passion for helping our son to receive mercy. Months of work had been done. Multiple notebooks filled with letters of support had been compiled and sent to key people in the Florida cabinet. ZOOM meetings with high level employees of state officers had been held. Intensive fasting and prayer had been done in preparation for the review of Jason’s case.
But God said “No.”
A letter was sent to Jason telling him that no inmates with his conviction would be considered this year. The end of the correspondence said, “But remember, you can reapply in five years.”
It was a slap in the face—like a flashing neon sign reminding us of a broken system in the Department of Corrections—as if an influential person said, “These are the guidelines for applying for a reduction in your sentence, but after your immeasurable hours of work in preparing the paperwork, we’re not going to read it. But try again in five years!”
It was a crushing blow. I wept. Then creeping cynicism entered my thought process. I was sick at heart.
Slowly, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my earlier prayer: “Lord, have mercy; Thy will be done.” And God said “No.”
During this time of the year, let’s remember this important advice from God’s Word:
“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG
Here’s what we’re learning:
- A “no” can be an answer to prayer. God often answers our prayers in a different way than we want. Will we be angry, or will we say, “Thy will be done?”
- A thankful heart brings healing. Gene and I started to list the good things that have happened. Jason teaches in the re-entry program. He’s taken over 800 inmates through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. He’s led Bible studies; he mentors and advocates for prisoners. He’s in leadership in several of the organizations on the compound. He shares his faith and encourages men to accept Jesus and to live out their faith. We thank God for that.
- A giving spirit spreads hope and joy. We launched the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, for the purpose of helping inmates and their families and for training people in global evangelism and Bible teaching. There is no way to describe the delight I experience when I watch Gene and Jason brainstorm about how to use funds that God’s people have provided for books, Bible studies, needed equipment, care packages for inmates, games for the visitation area, fans for the meeting rooms, and so much more.
“God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks—not because of the situation, but because of the One who directs and rules over it.” Kay Arthur
As you count your blessings during the holiday season, please consider a gift to Speak Up for Hope. You can give on-line. If you’d prefer to call in a credit card donation, contact Gene at 586-481-7661. Or, you can send a check made out to Speak Up for Hope to:
Speak Up for Hope
P.O. Box 6262
Lakeland, FL 33807
Question: What is the hard thing you need to be thankful for this year?