Afraid of Your Child

I met several new guys from the lower tier of maximum-security at the county jail. One man dropped by for a copy of Our Daily Bread, the devotional that we hand out.

I exchanged greetings with “I” who I’d met previously.

“S” dropped by for a brief chat. I asked him how he was doing. His reply was, “this place has the cure for wellness.” I asked if I could use that line. He said, “sure”. After a bit more talking “S” decided he didn’t want to stay for the study.

This place has the cure for wellness

Initially “D” was somewhat shy about coming in. An older man, he said he was just a child the last time he’d been at a Bible Study or attended church. He’s already completed 5 stretches in prison, and the weight of the world was heavy on his shoulders with the prospect of a 6th sentence.

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We looked at Psalm 30 and stopped for discussion every few verses.

Psalm 30 (NKJV)

30 I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.

A word rarely used in jail is “extol”. If someone had made a great play in the game the fans might extol the abilities of the player saying how great he was.

Foes: “D” absolutely understood this word and had no trouble naming his foes.

Another way of saying verse 2 was, “I was all busted up, but God, You made me better.”

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O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

We talked about times of depression where all the life has been drained out of us.

The “pit” that the men could relate to was being sent to the Hole, Solitary, the SHU (special housing unit). There was also discussion about people going down into the pit even when they were out of the streets. Addiction and violence has taken these men to some very dark places.

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Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.
 

We discussed football and basketball games where a team may have been trailing for much of the game but suddenly comes back and wins in the final minutes.

This gave him hope, that God hadn’t given up. God wasn’t looking at the scoreboard of “D’s” life and throwing in the towel. God delights in the sudden upset.

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“D” pondered the deeper meaning of His favor is for life;

A surprise for “D” was that God still had hope for him. God hadn’t given up. A transformed life was still possible.

The group concluded these next verses sounded prideful.

Now in my prosperity I said, “I shall never be moved.”
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;

One man talked about when things were going well thinking, “It’s all good. I don’t need anybody else. I’ve got this under control.” But then it all fell apart.

You hid Your face, and I was troubled. I cried out to You, O Lord;

For one man one of the most troubling times was seeing his sons getting caught up in the gang life. He had been absent most of the time the boys were growing up, and the mother had addiction issues. He had come home after release from prison. He and the mother wanted the youngest son, aged 11, to finish his dinner, but the boy wanted to go off and play his video games. When the man pressed the issue the boy reached under a sofa cushion and pulled out a pistol and pointed it in his father’s face. The man feared for his life at the hands of his 11 year-old child.

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One man talked about when things were going well thinking, “It’s all good. I don’t need anybody else. I’ve got this under control.” But then it all fell apart.

And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?

One man thought about times of mental illness as “the pit”.

10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!”

The hope here is that God is more interested in seeking life for us rather than seeking our death or destruction.

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

“D” found this study surprisingly encouraging. He was concerned that it was too late for him, or that all God had for him was anger and punishment. Instead he learned:

His favor is for life

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