UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON
Depression/Negative Feelings - Emotions and feelings can run one’s life while in jail or prison. Inmates are around people that look at everything in a very negative, narrow and judgmental way. Emotions run high. Sometimes it is impossible to get away from these attitudes that fester constantly. In county jails, an inmate is locked down in his cell for most of the day. So, if he is in a cell with another person who complains about everything or is very angry or negative, it can easily begin to rub off on him. Negative feelings must be stopped. A Christian inmate must fight hard against having negative feelings. He will not always be able to stop all negative feelings, but he can help keep them at a minimum by reading the Bible and lots of prayer. As soon as a negative thought comes, the best thing to do is give it to God and ask for His peace in your heart. Everyone has to work on this for himself. It is a choice and by making that choice consistently, a Christian will develop a discipline on how to handle negative feelings and thoughts. Family and friends can help with consistent prayer, letters, visits, and phone calls. If your friend or relative in jail or prison starts sounding consistently negative, acknowledge it and lovingly make him aware of it, so he can quickly stop these feelings before they start to overwhelm him.
Loneliness - This is a hard one in every way. Jails and prisons are some of the loneliest places in all the earth. An inmate is separated from friends and family and comfortable familiar surroundings like home. Our Lord Jesus can take away that loneliness if a Christian inmate gives it to Him in prayer. I have prayed many times for God to “help, comfort me”. He will always be there for those who seek Him and He will never forsake them.
Luke 11:9-10 says, “So I say to you ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” Christian inmates need to learn to rely on and trust in God for answered prayer. Again, this takes time. It is a process, but as with all processes, it must have a starting point! As the new Christian inmate experiments and experiences answered prayer, he will feel less and less lonely. He will come to feel God’s presence and know he is truly loved by the Creator of the universe!
Helplessness - People out in the world have many responsibilities and choices that they make through the normal course of every day life. In jail or prison, an inmate loses many options and choices and responsibilities. It leaves one with a feeling of helplessness. Sometimes friends and family will tell an inmate of their problems and normally the prisoner could have helped a friend or loved one with that problem, but being in prison prevents that. This produces a feeling of helplessness. This does not mean you shouldn’t talk about your problems, but this is to just make you aware of an inmate’s feelings concerning such matters. A Christian doing time may feel helpless, but he must remember he is not helpless. He can offer advice according to the Word of God and pray for friends and family. A Christian prisoner, who will use his time wisely by focusing on God, will be amazed at the working of the Holy Spirit within him and how He will use him to help others.
So, family and friends, when you think someone in prison is feeling helpless, share a thought about a situation and ask for his advice. This in turn will give him a sense of usefulness and his advice may just change someone’s life on the outside which would be very encouraging to him as well.
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