Q: Can I be forgiven for what I’ve done?
A: Not only can you be forgiven, Jesus is eager to forgive you. That is what the cross is all about. He didn’t die on the cross for the people who were just slightly sinful. He died for sin, no matter how awful. In fact, God sees any blemish, any sin, from small to large, as worthy of death—but Jesus, who led a perfect, sinless life, was given the death sentence for us—and now His righteousness has been given to you—if only you will receive it. Romans 3:23 says, “’For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ John 1:12 says, ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.’”
Q: Are people really capable of change?
A: The number of people who have lead unfathomably destructive lives, but who have also experienced complete transformations is staggering. It happens everyday. Some of the most hardened, wayward, criminal-minded people become the ones who do the most good, who make the most significant difference in society. In a New York Times article, James Gilligan, a professor of psychiatry and law, states, “The only rational purpose for a prison is to restrain those who are violent, while we help them to change their behavior and return to the community.”
And there is no more certain path to that life than to give your heart to Jesus. He can take your life, family history, habits, addictions, and past, and change you completely around. Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” In fact, He even has a plan for you, specifically you. In Jeremiah 29:11, it says, “’For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’”
Take a look at Saul of the Bible. He was the brilliant young Jew. His job was to persecute Christians. See the account of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7: 57-59: “Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Ultimately, however, Saul became one of the most influential men in history, giving his life to Christ, taking a new name, Paul, and then writing as many as thirteen books of the Bible.
Q: How can I find freedom while in prison?
A: Your body may be incarcerated, but your soul doesn’t have to be. There are thousands of inmates who, through Prison Ministry and bible study programs, find joy and peace in the Bible and in a relationship with Jesus. The forgiveness that Jesus offers you is the only thing that can truly set you free. In fact, Paul, as mentioned above, full of joy and excitement, wrote four books of the Bible from inside a prison cell. You can read them for yourself: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Q: I’ve hurt so many people that I love. How can I get them to trust me again?
A: You have heard it said that actions speak louder than words. It’s all in how you love people, how you sacrifice your desires for theirs. Once you spend time doing that, you will begin to change some minds. But it’s far more than trying to summon up good will. It has to be a change of heart.
Renewing trust is not just a decision—it’s a lifestyle change. Keeping a relationship clear and open is a valuable process. When we lie, cheat, steal and do bad things to ourselves or others, we pay the ultimate price, and we lose what is most precious to us. If you need help, get it. If you need a change, then make it. Creating trust is a big deal, so treat it that way.
Here are a few ways to try and rebuild trust in any relationship:
1. Coming clean does work—but not completely clean. Denial only leads to more distrust, so the truth has to come out along with the willingness to take responsibility for your actions. However, detailed truth can sometimes make the hurt even worse and compound the pain, and therefore the healing process. People can spend tons of time on details while losing the thread of what needs to be done to correct the misconduct. Working with a professional Marriage and/or family counselor can prove helpful in this situation.
2. Being defensive, righteous or casual about the problem never works. There must be a sincere effort to work out the issues, or the wall will never come down. The angrier you are, the less you are able to hear what the aggrieved one has to say, and the worse what they feel will get.
3. Talk about what made you do it. Opening up about your own struggle, the need to get help, and the awareness of what got you there in the first place will help to prevent further infractions. If there is an addiction problem, you must be willing to attend group meetings(i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexual Addicts Anonymous, Teen Challenge, etc.) or do what is necessary to make it better. Talking about your feelings of alienation is the best way to connect again. Again, a trained counselor can be beneficial.
4. Be an open book. That means open your cell phone, email, and appointment book for a period of time. This is usually the hardest part, because any person who has lived that clandestine underground life of secrecy likes it that way. They feel entitled to privacy, and they become righteous and indignant. At this point, you will need to take a moment and ask yourself what is really important: your relationship, family, or your privacy? It really comes down to that.
5. Renew your vows or make commitments. Whether married or not, there is a need to discuss values about living life and what that entails. This may be the most important part of the process. Take time to talk about what you want, what got you into this mess, and what needs to happen moving forward. Write it all down and make a ceremony out of it. Invite your friends, family, and those that will support you. Tell the world what you are going to do and mean it.
There are many facets and turns in this very delicate and daunting process of trust. If it’s not dealt with properly, then it will torch your relationship until what remains are ashes and regret. If you can look at the restoring of trust as a learning process that will hopefully bring with it greater intimacy and love, then go ahead on. If not, then make other plans.
Please take advantage of the many prison ministries that exist solely to bring Jesus to the incarcerated. Also, there is most likely a chapel service that is held at the prison you now reside. Attend one with an open heart and mind and introduce yourself to the pastor, chaplain, or priest.
 James Gilligan, “Punishment Fails. Rehabilitation Works.” New York Times, December 19, 2012, nyti.ms/1xy6avu. (Accessed March 24, 2015).
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Psalm 69:33 For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
Isaiah 49:16 See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
Hebrews 13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
Matthew 25: 34-40 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.