Waiting Behind Bars

There were 12 guys from the upper tier of the maximum security unit at tonight’s Bible study. Just as I’ve noticed in the lower tier, about half of the guys attending tonight were new. Many of the guys are waiting for their trial date to come up, a few may be serving their sentence at this facility, and others have been waiting a long time for their trial date to come up. I’ve heard of some of the guys waiting years for their case to finally get settled.

Tonight’s discussion opener was about waiting. Is there waiting that is good, and is there waiting that is bad? In the maximum security unit there is a LOT of time spent waiting. Most of that is bad waiting. Waiting for court dates, waiting to meet with their lawyer, waiting for visits – especially when the person never shows up. Waiting for meals, waiting for rec time, waiting for programming – through there aren’t many programs available in this unit.


There is good waiting in life. Waiting for the pizza to cool so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth, waiting for a game to start — some of the guys are avid football and basketball fans. The thought that brought a smile to everyone’s face was: waiting to get released.


I asked what they did to pass the time while they were waiting: sleep, read, pray, talk to their celly. One guy made a crude comment about another activity individuals do to pass the time. These topics sometimes come up when you have a Bible study behind bars. Time to transition to the scripture.

Isaiah 40:27-31

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
28 Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

For verse 27 I asked about if they had ever seem people who were convinced that even God had forgotten about them. One of the guys said he had been struggling with that this past week. It seemed like so many people had lost faith in him: his family, his parole officer, his lawyer. He began to wonder if even God had given up on him. I asked what he had done about it. He shared some of the scriptures that he had been reading this week about God’s patience and forgiveness. He also talked about a book he was reading about a man who had committed crimes almost identical to his, and how God was using that man. It encouraged him to know that his situation wasn’t hopeless, and that God hadn’t given up on him.

In verse 28 we talked about how God isn’t limited by visiting hours. God has 24/7 access and doesn’t turn them away because He is too tired. He also understands our situation. They can cry out to God.


In verse 29 the guys talked about their own feelings of powerlessness while they are incarcerated. They have no control over when meals come, when medicine gets taken.
29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.
They took great comfort and encouragement in those words. So I asked some of the guys how they had seen this happen already. Several of the men talked about God giving them the ability to choose how they respond to their circumstances – they can choose peace and gratitude for what they do have rather than being bitter about what they have lost. They can choose to focus on forgiveness rather than revenge.

We spent most of our time discussing:

31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

The sports fans talked about how during the first half of a game team may not be doing well. At half -time they take a break. They wait. They listen to the coach. They think about what they will do, not only if the play goes well, but even how to recover if the play doesn’t go well. They take the time to get their strength back.


I shared a little bit about eagles. They have large, heavy wings. They are among the highest flying birds, but they don’t get to those heights by just flapping their wings. They wait for the thermals to lift them up. They have learned how to soar by learning how to wait for the up drafts. We wait on God and learn how to deal with life according to His plan rather than by our own flapping.



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