God in Jail

God in Jail

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” Exodus 8:8

In jail, I’ll often meet those who resist turning to God while incarcerated, insisting that they don’t want to have a fake jail faith. They’ve seen what we’ve all seen. They’ve witnessed those charlatans who, when their lives are in crisis, turn to God, begging for his help. In jail, they swear to heaven and Earth that they’ll change their ways. As soon as they’re released however, they go right back to the old life, never stepping foot in church or giving another thought to God . . . until the next crisis. To any observer, this jail-only faith is an obvious sham.

I’ve been there. When first confronted with my addiction, I swore to God and my wife that I was going to stop using. When life returned to normal however, I went right back to my old ways. Eventually though, when the painful consequences grew severe enough, I became desperate for transformation. Painful consequences finally forced me to choose between one life or the other. God used my misery to transform me. Not all crisis transformations are fake. God often uses pain to shape his people.

This appeared to be the case in today’s passage. In it, God struck Egypt with a second plague – an inundation of frogs. It sounds a little comical, but it was no joke to Pharaoh or the Egyptians, who were overwhelmed by the amphibians. In desperation for deliverance from the plague, Pharaoh begged Moses to remove the frogs, promising that he’d let the Israelites go. At this point, it seemed that Pharaoh’s heart was being softened by painful consequences.

I understand why some of those in crisis resist a fake jail faith, but I also know that God uses pain to get our attention. So, I always counsel those who’re resisting God to use the pain. I ask them if they like jail. No. Of course not. Then, I ask what it would take to avoid coming back. I need to change my life. So, I encourage them to use the pain. It’s a profound tragedy when someone goes through self-inflicted misery but refuses to learn the lesson from it. Don’t be so stubborn and proud that you won’t allow God to use the misery to shape you. Use that pain. It’s not wrong or weak to find God in jail. Often, that’s exactly the kind of agonizing stimulus it takes to get us to the point where God can shape us into what he wants us to be.

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