by Johnny Allen
After giving my life to Jesus in prison my hours were disproportionately split between a cautious hope and (more often) staring exhaustedly into nowhere, wondering if God really did care about the anxiety, the uncertainty, the confusion that I created, and the realness of my struggles. Excited to be part of a new life in Christ, yet struggling with how it all worked together for good and wondering – did God really care?
In your moments of struggle, maybe you’ve felt the same – an unexpected doctor’s report, loss of a job, a crumbling marriage, feeling distant from a child/children. In those situations and mine, it’s one thing to know God and that He cares. But my struggle was not knowing if He only cared from a distance or if He actually was moved by my pain and uncertainty – my situation.
As I searched the Word of God, God answered my question. So many times we read where Jesus had compassion on the person, the people, the Johnnys. Like the leper, when he begged Jesus to heal him, Jesus saw his great physical and emotional suffering that he had been enduring and Mark writes that Jesus was “moved with compassion”. I believe this was more than Jesus just feeling bad for him, I believe it was a gut-wrenching – feeling it in your gut kind of compassion that Jesus saw and felt and then responded and healed the man. Like the crowd of people He saw in Matthew 9 – milling about aimlessly and distressed. Jesus once again moved by this gut-wrenching scenario, responds to their spiritual exhaustion with compassionate love.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
That’s me, that’s some of us and most likely it’s the condition of lots of men and women in prison – confused, wandering aimlessly, spiritually bankrupt, pained and serving the consequences of our lostness and sin. And then Jesus is revealed and His compassion takes root and hope becomes alive. God sees our pain and like any good father, He chooses to respond. And on February 24, 2007 from a maximum security prison, my Father responded to my need, He responded by opening my blind eyes to see His Son, Jesus and the works of the cross. When we feel like God is distant, indifferent or uncaring toward us in our suffering, the cross stands as compelling evidence that He is not.
When we feel like God is distant, indifferent or uncaring toward us in our suffering, the cross stands as compelling evidence that He is not.
The cross is God’s ultimate response to the brokenness of our lives and that includes your pain and suffering. He walks through every season of life with you, seeing that exhaustion, frustration and uncertainty that life brings or that we cause, reminding us that He compassion led to a response as He put His Son on a cross for you. But the ultimate experience of God’s response is coming soon when He will wipe every tear from our eyes, when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
But for now, what a great scene as we watch men in prison each week respond to the cross – the compassion of Jesus.