Thankful for Jail?
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. Philippians 1:12-13
Over the years, I’ve met a lot of men who felt they didn’t deserve jail. They were framed, cheated by the system, or they had a lousy lawyer. Occasionally though, I’ve met those who’ve said something really odd, “I’m thankful for my incarceration. God used it to change me. Without it, I wouldn’t be sober or following him.” Those who said such things didn’t spend much time trying to figure out how to beat their upcoming charges. They just knew they needed to turn their lives around and, with their newfound attitude, they stood a much better chance at doing so than the average inmate.
It’s not the exact same, but I’ve felt similarly about my addiction. I once saw it as a curse from God. Through recovery though, as I returned to my faith and grew into something very different, I began to be thankful for my addiction. I’m not thankful for the pain I caused others, but I now have a new life that I never would have had without my addiction. Scott from 15 years ago never would have chosen to voluntarily enter jails and treatment centers, working with the addicted. I like my life now and I never would have gotten here without my struggle. In my life, God has used something terrible to make something wonderful.
This was Paul’s message in today’s passage. In it, he encouraged the Philippians that his incarceration had been used for good. Though he sat in prison for spreading the gospel, because of Paul’s obedience, God was able to use something evil as an opportunity to further his good purpose.
I’ll not tell you that your trial has been caused by God to bring about some amazing outcome. I don’t know that, and I don’t know the end of your story. I do know that God can and does take terrible things and is somehow able to use them for profound good.
In the incarcerated man’s life, in Paul’s life, and in my life though, that outcome has depended largely on our response to the trial. In our pain and misery, we must go to God, asking him what he would have us do. We may not get what we think we want, but if we follow God, he will turn evil to good and one day, we may just be able to say we were thankful for what we once thought was the hardest trial of our lives.