In Search Of: Hardworking Prison Cellmate

Where are You, Lord?
What did I do wrong to get here?
Will this ever end?

Anyone else ever have these thoughts while in prison?
Anyone else never actually been to prison?
Please tell me I'm not alone...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a specific area in my life where I’m helpless. And the circumstances that got me here weren’t of my own doing. God put a trial in my life that I have to trust is for my good and while dealing with this I just happened to be reading through Joseph’s testimony in Genesis.

Genesis 39 gives us the account of Joseph who was unsuccessfully seduced, falsely accused, and wrongfully imprisoned; all because the dude was attractive. He was probably rocking the dad-bod, man-bun, or whatever else was the aesthetically pleasing trend at the time. Here he was just minding his business, honoring his God, and obeying his master... and he ends up in prison. What the heck?!

I feel like I’m there. Physically speaking I’m nowhere near where Joseph is, but spiritually speaking I’m most definitely there. There’s a lot happening outside the walls of my life that isn’t necessarily fair; a lot of pain, hurt and sin going on with people I love. But my hands are tied. I’m a sitting duck. I have no control.

So what now? I guess since we’re using the example of Joseph, and because he was a Godly man it’s safe to follow his lead.

Verse 21 says, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Okay, step one: recognize that the Lord is with me and shows me steadfast love and favor even in the midst of my prison. But I don’t feel like He’s with me… So now what? Stand on the truth of the Word instead of how I feel. Tell my feelings they’re stupid and irrational, because they are, (yours probably are true. Yeah, I said it) and press into the truth of God. Alright, let’s see, how about Romans 8:38-39? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. No prison, no circumstance, no powers. Nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus. 

Okay, got it. I’m loved and Jesus is with me no matter how I feel. But I’m still in prison… Soooo now what?

The account of Joseph continues on to tell us what God’s favor did for Joseph in his prison. “And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” What did Joseph do in his prison? The same thing he did outside of it; honored God. Joseph worked hard, proved himself faithful and trustworthy and was given responsibility based on his actions and God’s favor. I especially like that it says the keeper paid no attention to anything in Joseph’s charge. Joseph could have used the keeper's trust to his advantage but instead He used it to glorify God. Joseph probably could have manipulated certain areas, put himself in advantageous situations, or gone to the right areas of the prison to possibly escape. But instead he honored God and worked hard and diligently in the tasks he was given. Would I do the same? 

You know those inmate clean up crews you pass on the highways? If that was your job in your prison would you be filling as many bags as you could? Or would you be trudging along, doing the bare minimum until it was time to leave? I think of their overseers and how much they must appreciate the ones who don't need much direction. They see their task and they do it. I would bet there are highway clean up crew inmate workers with better attitudes than I tend to have in my spiritual prison.

My current prison is being a missionary. Don’t get me wrong, I like the role God has placed me in, but I’m on another continent where circumstances elsewhere with family and friends seem to be crumbling. I could choose to dwell in my prison, and try to escape it OR I can use my prison to glorify God, walk with Him, work hard, and trust that He knows what’s best. Trust that His word is true and His hand is on these situations better than mine could ever be. Besides, contrary to my own pride He really doesn’t need my help.

What’s situation do you find yourself in that feels like a prison? Stay at home mom? The Oregon Coast’s lack of sun? Your own mind; anxiety, depression? Situations you can’t fix with people you love? A sin you were introduced to and you can’t break free from? Less than ideal finances? Sickness? Marriage? Singleness? 

Please know this; your decisions and choices didn’t necessarily land you in your spiritual prison. Sometimes it’s solely because there’s a lesson, or a refining characteristic being woven into you. Sometimes it’s a consequence, and that’s okay too, because God wants your freed as much as you do. And sometimes we go to prison to minister to the other prisoners. God wants to comfort us in all our troubles SO THAT we can comfort others in theirs. God is going to use your prison for good. He promises. 

I wonder if Joseph knew his time, hard work, and authority given to him in the prison was preparing him for something bigger; to have authority over the land of Egypt. I wonder if he doubted the dream he had early on of his family bowing down to him? I wonder if he felt abandoned?

It’s okay to admit you’re in a prison, it’s even okay to admit you don’t like it, but it’s not okay to wallow there. 

You won’t be in prison forever. God specializes in setting captives free.

Hope in Christ.

Luke 4:18//The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives...