“I was the lowest of the low!” How God’s amazing grace turned Stuart’s life around.
My name is Stuart* and I have been in jail now for just a bit over 5 years. I was arrested in 2017 and I will serve a total of 8 years.
Before coming to jail I had let sin take over my life completely. Drugs, alcohol, lust, and greed were my downfall. I had broken just about every rule in the book – even worse, I had broken almost every one of God’s commandments.
In my eyes, and everyone else’s eyes I was a complete failure. My life was a disaster and I had let my family, friends, and community down in a huge way. I hung my head in shame, and lived a life of regret. I was disowned by everyone I had ever loved, everyone except my older sister and her husband who still cared for me, God bless them.
Early on, I remember sitting in my jail cell, thinking bad thoughts. At that point I denied everything I had done and I was going to fight the charges. I was angry, wild, scared, worried, broken-hearted, and sorry, and another thousand emotions. Thoughts ran through my head – I knew no one, had no one, I wished my life would just end there and then. So, I withdrew into myself, put on a brave face and stayed out of trouble when I could. But the tension kept rising and I felt that I was soon going to snap.
“I was angry, wild, scared, worried, broken-hearted, and sorry, and another thousand emotions.”
Then one day a man came to our sector and into our pod. A lot of the other guys seemed to like him and showed him respect. I asked one of my fellow inmates, “Who’s that?” He replied, “He’s the chaplain.”
I watched on with interest as he spoke to a few of the guys and they had a word of prayer. I couldn’t hear anything as they were in the interview room, but I could see their facial expressions as they poured out their hearts. They smiled, they laughed, they had a deep connection with this chaplain.
I turned away to look outside through the window, lost in my own thoughts. I didn’t hear him at first. Then one of the guys yelled, ”Oi! Stuart, you’re wanted!” I looked up to see the door open at the interview room and the chaplain waiting to see me. I was confused. I felt nervous, thinking, “What’s this about, what have I done?” But he smiled at me and said, “Hello, I was just wondering if we could have a word – come in please.”
I walked in and sat down. The door closed, and he introduced himself. He mentioned that he always tries to connect with the new inmates, when time allows. He also said if I needed to talk about anything I could fill out a request form and he would come back when he could. He also said I could request a Bible if I wanted.
Then he asked if I would like him to pray for my family and friends. I thought to myself, “I suppose it couldn’t hurt,” so I agreed.
When he had finished I thanked him and turned to leave. Just as I got to the door he said, “Stuart, God loves you.” I was taken back for a second. I didn’t know what to do. I gave an awkward smile and walked out.
I returned to my seat lost in thought again, thinking about what he had said. I wondered how anybody could love me, let alone God. I was the lowest of the low!
Strangely, over the next few weeks I kept thinking about my meeting with the chaplain and what he said to me. “Stuart, God loves you.”
“I wondered how anybody could love me, let alone God. I was the lowest of the low!”
About a month later I had the worst week ever. I had been copping torment, ridicule, and threats of violence and hate from some inmates, which led to mental stress and anxiety. Then one week it was so hot and humid that you slept in your own sweat. There was no breeze and to top it off my fan had broken and the TV had also packed it in too. I was so bored I was going out of my mind! With mixed feelings and thoughts going through my head I was doing it hard, and it didn’t help that one of the guys was getting out soon. I felt trapped in endless torment with no fan, no TV, and no hope!
The next day I filled out a request form to the chaplain asking for a Bible, just so I had something to read! That night was the first time in a long time that I had prayed to God. I asked for help, even if it was only a working fan. I pleaded for something to change in my life, then I went to bed hot and irritated. Later that night it began to rain, and I fell asleep in the cool night air.
Strangely, the next day, one of the other inmates asked me if I wanted to change cells and double up with him, as his old cellie had just gotten out.He said he preferred to have someone he knew than someone he didn’t. He had a working TV and fan in the cell, so it didn’t take me much convincing to move.
There was one rule, however – he watched church on TV every Sunday morning. Everything else was negotiable. That night I was watching TV as the fan blew cold air around the cell and I felt that things had definitely changed.
The next morning I was called to the guard post, I had mail. It was a Bible from the chaplain!
“The next morning I was called to the guard post, I had mail. It was a Bible from the chaplain!”
During the day you are locked out of your sleeping cell into the common room with everybody else. I laid down on the floor near the vents under the fan and I opened the Bible for the first time in over 30 years. The last time I remember opening a Bible was at Sunday school back when I was just a kid.
I flicked through the Bible and ended up in the New Testament in the book of Matthew. I started to read about Jesus and his followers. Then I got to Mathew 5:21-26, which is titled, Jesus Teaches About Anger. Verse 25 said, “And the judge will hand you over to a guard, who will throw you into jail. I assure you that you will not leave there until you have paid everything you owe.” This hit home.
I got down to Matthew 5:43-48 where Jesus teaches about loving your enemies. By now I was confused, shook up, and worried, but I couldn’t put it down! Before I knew it I was reading about repenting, confessing, Jesus dying on the cross for my sin, and how they crucified Him on the cross. Then I read about how He rose again. I remember thinking there was so much more in the Bible than I remembered as a kid – I didn’t remember half of what I was reading!
But I could remember all the stuff I had done wrong in my life, all the sin and crime, all the pain and hurt I had caused – and it cut me to the bone! I felt pain so deep in my chest I thought I was having an anxiety attack, possibly even a heart attack. I couldn’t blame this feeling on alcohol or drugs as I hadn’t had anything for over 8 months now, and I was thinking clearly for the first time in a long while.
I asked myself why I felt so empty. I knew then that there was something missing in my life. It wasn’t freedom, or family, or friends – this ran deeper and it cut me to the bone. At that moment I realized I was lost. But then those words that the chaplain said came back to me “Stuart, God loves you!”
I think that was the first time I was convicted by the Holy Spirit, I knew right then that I had to confess and repent to Jesus for all my sins, and ask Him to come into my heart.
So as I lay on the floor, I placed the Bible on my chest and closed my eyes. I silently prayed to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me of all my sins and to save me. To anyone else looking at me, they would have thought I had fallen asleep with a book on my chest, they had no idea I was in deep prayer with Jesus.
“I silently prayed to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me of all my sins and to save me.”
I pleaded to be saved and asked forgiveness, while forgiving all those who had hurt me. I prayed for my family, that they would forgive me, and asked that Jesus would protect them and watch over them. I asked for God’s help in asking for forgiveness from all those I had hurt.
I had lost everything I loved, but in doing so, I found the one who loves me unconditionally. I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart, to lead me forevermore and to change me, heart and mind. So now I follow Jesus, He is my saviour.
Jesus has changed me in so many ways, I am no longer that angry man I was. My fear and worry has all but gone, and I am growing in strength, belief, and faith daily.
In Romans 4:7-8 it says, “It is a great blessing when people are forgiven for the wrongs they have done, when their sins are erased! It’s a blessing when the Lord accepts people as if they are without sin.” Also in Romans 5:1 it says, “We have been made right with God because of our faith, so we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I pleaded guilty to my crime and got 8 years or 6 and a half years with parole. I have now given my life over to Christ and I am on a journey with Jesus leading the way. My prayer life has exploded! I pray to the Lord everyday and I now do Bible study courses and go to church meetings in my sector each week.
I recently got invited to do a program called The Prisoner’s Journey. It’s a study on the Gospel of Mark and it explains how Mark wrote this Good News about Jesus and his life. It gave me a much deeper understanding about Jesus and what he has done for me, for all those willing to listen.
Jesus came to save humanity and to pay the price for sin, to make us able to pray to God directly through Him. Through The Prisoner’s Journey I learnt about Jesus, why he came to Earth, what I must do now I’ve heard the good news. I learnt about grace, faith, love, and forgiveness. I also learnt about His resurrection and how Jesus will come again soon. I now understand about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I am not sure what will happen tomorrow or the next day, I just take one day at a time, with Jesus in my heart. I trust my future to Him and accept what may come my way.
I have put my past behind me as I know I can’t change it, but with Jesus’ help I will change my future. In Philippians 3:13-14 it says, “Brother and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go, but there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me – I keep on running hard towards the finish line to get the prize that is mine, because God has called me through Jesus Christ to life up there in Heaven.”
“I am not sure what will happen tomorrow or the next day, I just take one day at a time, with Jesus in my heart. I trust my future to Him and accept what may come my way.”
In the Gospel of Mark I learnt that only Jesus could heal the sick and forgive sin and remove evil from people’s lives. I learnt about the Sabbath day (God’s holy day of rest) and how Jesus has changed people’s way of thinking including mine. It now also has changed the way I act – I have left my old self behind. I have accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour, and my belief and knowledge has been strengthened by what I learnt by in The Prisoner’s Journey.
My faith has grown through scriptural revelation, I now have a strong conviction that the bible is indeed the word of God. I am so grateful that “jail-time” gave me the opportunity to learn from God’s truth. I now place my trust and faith in Jesus Christ my Saviour.
My rehabilitation started with Jesus as he placed a new heart in me. The word of God strengthens me and gives me a positive attitude for the future. Whatever may come my way I know that Jesus is with me, on my journey to everlasting life. The forgiveness of my sins and the salvation I now have comes from God – it is a free gift of grace. Through the work Jesus has done on the cross, I now know he died for all of us, so we could be forgiven of our sins, and through Him be made right with God!
Through God’s word I learnt that eternal life is more than living forever – it’s being with God so we can praise and worship Him first-hand. I am now experiencing God’s love and fellowship first-hand. I feel joy and happiness, and most of each time I pray I feel God’s presence through His Holy Spirit.
I am so happy that Jesus came into my life to save a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. God has given me His amazing grace and I now sing about it whenever I can. All glory and praise belongs to God!
Amen. Thank you Jesus.
*Name has been changed
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