Letters From Prison

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “… just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you …”

I think of the words of Proverbs that had caught my eye earlier this morning as I sipped coffee in the still-quiet house before life began: “when she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. ” (Proverbs 31: 26 The MSG)

My friend whispered of the wounds once covered but never healed, and my heart broke.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

Romans 4 painfully reminds me of that time of asking and waiting.

Go back and read Abraham’s story in Genesis. Abraham was waiting, God was working. Molding his character. Teaching him patience. Building their friendship. It was in those seemingly wasted years that God transformed him. And after decades of waiting, Abraham was ready for the supreme test of his faith, when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. The son he had waited for. Abraham’s faith wasn’t rooted in the promise of descendants. If it was, he never would have taken Isaac to be sacrificed. He wouldn’t have relinquished what God had promised him years earlier. He would have clung tightly to Isaac, feeling entitled to this son. For Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise to Abraham. Abraham wasn’t clinging to his own understanding of the fulfillment of God’s promise. God could fulfill his promise any way he chose, including raising Isaac from the dead if he needed to (Romans 4:17).

Abraham’s faith lay in the trustworthiness of God. Abraham’s faith wasn’t in the promise alone. His faith was rooted in the One who gave him that promise. Because his faith was not in “what God would do for him, but in God himself.” Abraham was willing to risk and do whatever God asked. He wasn’t holding on to a particular outcome. He was holding on to God. Abraham’s waiting strengthened his faith (Romans 4:18).

As I let that promise sink in, I see my waiting differently. Perhaps God is making me—and you—wait for the same reasons that he made Abraham wait: to forge our faith. To make us more attentive to his voice. To deepen our relationship. To solidify our trust.

Hope is my captor: hope for my friend’s healing here (which has already begun), hope for the healing of my own broken places, and hope for our lives eternal with Him. Hope that, as Philippians 1: 6 says, He who began a good work in us is not finished yet and will carry it to completion until the day that He comes. We are prisoners to the hope that He is coming. To be a prisoner of hope is to be the freest of all because we look at our circumstances and expect Jesus to enter in and redeem, renew, restore.

The sun sets over the horizon and dances patterns across the bench where my friend sat. She sees with new eyes, a captive of the hope set fully on the grace given her through Christ. She must live her days as this kind of prisoner because true freedom is found only in being completely captivated by a coming King.