This week’s episode features two women who have grappled with the hard questions we all ask of God. Lysa TerKeurst is an author and speaker and Dorothy Ruelas works in prison ministry in Texas. Lysa candidly shares her journey to realizing that she was “good enough” when she stopped letting her circumstances define her and began believing in who God says she is.
Lysa TerKeurst Asks “Why, God?” & Then Trusts His Plan – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode #87
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. Our guests today are author and speaker Lysa TerKeurst and Prison Ministry volunteer Dorothy Ruelas. Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times best-selling author of Uninvited, The Best Yes, Unglued, Made to Crave, and 16 other books. Lysa candidly shares her journey to realizing that she was “good enough” when she stopped letting her circumstances define her and began believing in who God says she is.
Making a Deal with God
Lysa: I’m Lisa TerKeurst, and I’m an author and speaker and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. What I’m really passionate about and what I love that I get to do is I love to teach the truth, and in teaching the truth, I help women know the truth so they can live the truth because I know, in doing that, it will change everything. Originally, I’m from Florida, which is kind of a funny fact about me because I’ve lived in North Carolina my whole adult life.
I remember as a child we would go to church every now and then. My mom would take us. My dad, I think I have one or two memories of him ever going to church. After they got a divorce, my mom announced that we would be adding a little more church going to our life’s equation.
I think she was just desperate to help my sister and I deal with so much loss that we’d experienced. I remember we grabbed the big family Bible that no one ever read, but I think just maybe having it in our house made us feel better about ourselves. I don’t know, but we headed off to this large, white steeple building. I liked the idea when we went to church those few times. I liked the idea of having a set of rules to follow so that I could sort of know how to play this Christian game. So I started viewing God kind of like a vending machine. Like, “Okay, God, if I follow your rules, and I give you what is required, then you are supposed to give me back a great life. And as long as I keep up with my end of the deal, God, you need to keep up with your end of the deal.” So at that point in my life I kind of became Lysa the good girl and tried to reinvent myself in that way.
I’m Never “Good Enough”
I’m not sure when the first moment was that I felt “not good enough,” but it was very early on, and I remember thinking of my life as different circumstances that would happen to me. I had several very difficult circumstances in my childhood.
When I was 8 years old, a very close family friend started to sexually abuse me, and that was a very confusing time in my life because he basically said if I ever told anyone that he would harm my mom. So I took all of that hurt and all that pain and all of that shame from the encounters with him, and I just stuffed it down in my heart. I started learning how to smile on the outside even when I was crying and screaming on the inside. Then, when my dad left our family, I was about 11 when he walked out on my mom and my sister and me. I felt completely abandoned. They wound up divorcing, and my mom was forced to work several jobs to make ends meet. That really left me feeling, not only abandoned, but really lost. I remember, again, for the sake of keeping some sort of peace in my family, I felt the need to encourage my mom who was heartbroken and help her with my younger sister. So I put a smile on my face on the outside and stuffed all the hard feelings down.
“I started learning how to smile on the outside even when I was crying and screaming on the inside. – Lysa TerKeurst
I think that followed me for a long time. I even had that kind of deal with God. It was like, “Okay, God, I’ll just do all the right things externally. I’ll put on a smile. I won’t cuss. I’ll be nice. I’ll listen to good music.” I had all of that exterior stuff, but never having that kind of relationship where I let God inside to those places in me that were so hurting and were so desperate to be loved.
Then I went through the middle school years, which I don’t know how your middle school years were, but middle school was not the best time in the world for me. It was a time of comparison. That was the first time I realized some kids were in a popular group and some kids were deemed “beautiful” by their peers. Some girls were interesting to the boys. Other girls were not. I remember taking the rejection of my father, and the rejection of my peers, and kind of adding those circumstances up, and looking at myself in the mirror. When I was in middle school, I had really frizzy hair. I had buck teeth. So I almost even rejected myself because I didn’t look like what other people were calling beautiful. When I added all those circumstances up, I determined that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough to be anything that I wanted to be.
It led me to this place of: “I don’t think I’m ever going to feel good enough when I’m comparing myself to other people.” I have to answer the most fundamental question that there is, and that question is: “Who am I?” Am I going to define myself by my circumstances? “I’m Lysa the loser with buck teeth and frizzy hair like the kids in middle school said I was,” or “Lysa the unwanted child,” like my dad said I was, or “Lysa the one who — even pursuing excellence in academics — compared herself to people who were smarter than her,” or “Lysa the one who never quite caught up.” Is that how I’m going to define myself? Is that how I’m going to answer that question: “Who am I?” Or am I going to get a different answer to that question by the One who really created me and designed me for a purpose?
“I don’t think I’m ever going to feel good enough when I’m comparing myself to other people.” – Lysa TerKurst
Now, my mom always was incredibly encouraging to me. She didn’t have the money nor the vision to help me with my frizzy hair and my buck teeth, although eventually I did get braces. I just remember my mom was very encouraging, and she would always say, “Lisa, you can be anything that you want to be when you grow up.”
I always dreamed of being a writer because I was always fascinated with writing little songs and poems when I was a little girl. I even — for Christmas one year — made my mom a book of all my poems, and my favorite part of giving her that gift was putting it together but then making her sit there while I read the entire book of poetry to her. So while other kids were doing sporting events and cartwheels and gymnastics and all of this and saying, “Look, Mom. Look at me,” I was standing in front of my mom reading what I had written. That should have been a pretty good clue that I had dreams to be a writer, but I didn’t know you could actually grow up and make that your job.
I went to college, and I didn’t really know that you could do that as a job. So I pretty much decided to try all kinds of other creative pursuits. I majored in the equivalent of a marketing degree in college and thought I would just work in the business world, but my creative side kept emerging as what I really wanted to do.
Letting God Heal the Things That Hurt Most
When my sister died when I was in college that sent me into a tailspin because I felt like I’d made a deal with God that if I followed the rules then he would surely give me this wonderful life that I dreamed of. And when my sister got sick, the deal with God that I made is, “Okay, God, I’m going to continue to follow the rules, but you need to save my sister.” And when my sister passed away, that’s when I shook my fist at God and said, “I want nothing to do with you.”
You know, I think honestly we all hit a spot in our life where we have to make the decision: are we going to continue on in religious activities that fall apart when life falls apart or are we going to enter into a real relationship with God where even when life falls apart, we don’t have to because we have a truth that transcends all the circumstances of our life. A truth that will lift our head fill our heart and give us a purpose for continuing on.
”…we all hit a spot in our life where we have to make the decision: are we going to continue on in religious activities that fall apart when life falls apart or are we going to enter into a real relationship with God where even when life falls apart,..” – Lysa TerKeurst
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned how to have a more intimate relationship with God where the Lord could really reach in and help me with those parts of my heart that were messy and untidy and hurting so desperately.
The thing that really brought me to my knees and finally forced me to really have a “coming to Jesus” moment in my life was in my early 20s. I found out I was pregnant, and I was alone. I felt completely desperate. I was terrified. I didn’t know what else to do. I went to an abortion clinic just asking for them to help me because they advertise they had counselors there. In reality, what really happened is they gave me a pregnancy test, and the supposed counselor came back and said, “Your test is positive, but you really shouldn’t consider yourself pregnant because it’s just cells dividing. We can take care of this problem quick and easy, and you’ll never think about it again.” And so I bought their lie, and I had an abortion. I can tell you… it was as if when they took my baby, they they took part of my heart as well. After that I just felt so dead inside. I had, at that time in my life, this woman that I not so affectionately called “My Bible friend.”
”…when they took my baby, they they took part of my heart as well.” – Lysa TerKeurst
Honestly, she got on my nerves because she was always giving me Bible verses. She had no idea the turmoil that I was feeling inside because I always put on a happy face on the outside, but she was a woman who listened to God. She kept giving me Bible verses. Then one day she sent me a card, and the day I received her card in the mail was around the time where I knew my baby would have been due. She had on the very front of the card Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope.” I didn’t understand the full context of that verse.
I didn’t even know where to find that verse in the Bible, but that verse stood in such stark contrast to what I believed about myself my whole life… that I was unwanted, unloved, and now possibly even rejected by God because of making the decision to have the abortion. And yet that verse spoke that the Lord had plans for me; that He had a purpose for me; that He loved me; and He had plans not to harm me and reject me and abandoned me, but He had plans with good in mind. So I remember that was a real crossroads moment for me. Was I going to continue to struggle with all the events and circumstances in my life and let all of those things continue to harm me and let my abuser continue to harm me in never being able to heal from that and the rejection of my father continued to harm me and never being able to heal from that and the abortion and all the other circumstances.? Or… could I take all of those circumstances and give them to God and finally open up that inside part of me that I never made vulnerable to anyone and just say, “Okay, God, if you have good in store for me, then I give you all the bad, and I’m asking you to show me how to do this.”
I just knelt down beside my couch, and I just said, “Yes, Lord. Yes. I give you all of this, and I’m asking you just to help me. Help me find my way. Help me find this good that is true in Your promise here.” And I’ve been saying “Yes” to God ever since.
I still don’t understand why my sister had to pass away, you know? Why did God take her and not other people that I’ve seen get sick? So those “Why” questions are still very much there. But I had to make the decision to take those “Why” questions and just place them in God’s hand and say, “God, I don’t have to understand it. I don’t have to like it, but trying to resist it the rest of my life is just going to compound my heartbreak, so instead of that, I’m going to trust that you can bring good even from this.
Saying “Yes” to God
I’ll probably never know on this side of eternity all the good that God has brought, but I will say that I see fruit from even that devastating situation. I can look back over my life and in so many of the devastating situations, I do see how God a lot of times used those to bring eventual good or He used those events to shape my character to help develop my character really to match my calling.
It was stringing words together that could have a deep impact on other people. So I started reading a ton of books. I read fiction books and nonfiction books trying to figure out how do you actually write a book. I went to conferences. I talked to other authors. And slowly — I didn’t set out to write a book; that wasn’t the first thing I wrote — slowly what happened is I started writing articles for very small little publications. Then, eventually, as I honed the craft of writing, many years later, I decided I wanted to try writing a book, and that became the right direction for me.
So many years later, in my early 20s, I finally found the answer to that question “Who am I” in a way that gave me peace and helped me see that in His eyes, I’m more than good enough. And that was finally my identity in Christ: You are Lysa, the holy and dearly loved child of the Almighty God, Who has an incredible purpose, Who has a plan for me. And then, as I got into my 30s and 40s, I started really hitting my stride in ministry, and I started to see the fruition believing my identity in Christ. I think where people sometimes get tripped up is when they discover their identity in Christ — they are a holy and dearly loved child of the Almighty God — they don’t really see the fruition of the dreams they have come to be until many years later. But you have to stand in that identity; otherwise, you’ll slip back into letting circumstances define you. Even now, I’m 48 years old, and I think just now — as I look at that question: “Am I good enough?” — I think now I’ve hit the place where I can now answer that question with: “Whoever wanted to be just good enough?”
I don’t want to be just good enough, you know? So that’s really the wrong question. Who am I? I am Lysa, the holy and dearly loved child of the Almighty God who is more than enough.
So I have this prayer that I wrote out many years ago in my journal, and I still pray it quite often. The prayer is this: “Lord, I want to see You. Lord, I want to hear You. Lord, I want to know you, so I can follow hard after You today. And before my feet even hit the floor, Lord, I say ‘Yes’ to You. I don’t even know what I’m saying ‘Yes’ to today, but I say “Yes”to You so that I can live in great expectation of experiencing You today. “
Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” And I don’t think that verse “pure in heart” means “Blessed it is the perfect person, for they’ll be able to see God or experience God.” I don’t think it means “Blessed is that person who never has a hormonal moment OR Blessed is the person who never, ever yells the people that they love or anything like that.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:6
I think it is: “Blessed is that person whose heart is pure in seeking God; not perfect in their actions but pure in their desire to want to experience God, and then they will. So when I position my heart expecting to experience God — to see God, hear God, know God, follow hard after him have an invitation from God. When I position my prayers in that way, and I position my heart in that way first thing, I do experience God because I’m expecting to, and I think that’s a wonderful way to live.
Lysa’s Favorite Jesus Calling Passage
My personal devotions are really important because a lot of times when I’m reading the Bible to study it to teach other people, I’m not necessarily asking God to really pierce my heart on what the lesson is because usually I’m writing lessons that I’ve learned.
But in my personal devotion time, it’s often, “Lord, teach me, not so that I can teach other people, necessarily, but teach me because you see where my heart is going astray. You see where my decisions maybe are getting a little selfish. You see where I need to be righted back on the right path… like course corrected almost.”
I love that you just asked me about my favorite passage and Jesus Calling because I marked it.
I had been praying for something very, very specific that I needed the Lord to speak to me on. I wanted to build a space where I could really use it to invite other people in and teach them truth. I had a very specific word from the Lord for that year, and it was “beautiful.” And I was just really, really praying through that: “Lord, am I supposed to create a beautiful space to use for You to invite others in and to draw their hearts closer to You? Am I supposed to do that? So, on April 4th, this is a section of that day’s entry:
“Stillness of soul is increasingly rare in this world addicted to noise and speed. I am pleased with your desire to create a quiet space for You and I can meet.” – Jesus Calling, April 4th
Ahh! I’m serious. I read it like 15 times. I’m taking screenshots of this and sending it to my friends. I’m just feeling so invigorated because the way that Jesus Calling is written it’s as if the Scriptures are translated in a way that God himself is just speaking to you. And it was just such a beautiful thing that the passage that day ends with this: “Don’t be discouraged by the difficulty of achieving this goal. I monitor all your efforts, and I’m blessed by each of your attempts to seek My face.” And then there were several scriptures listed at the bottom of that page. There is Zechariah 2:13, 2 Chronicles 16:9, and Psalm 23:2-3. What I loved about it is it was a way to ease me into those scriptures that I may not have found on my own. And the way it was written was so specific it really was as if God was speaking straight to me. I think it’s a lovely thing. I think one of my favorite things about Jesus Calling is it doesn’t take people away from the Scriptures. It’s almost like a front door to get them into the Scriptures.
“Jesus Calling is written it’s as if the Scriptures are translated in a way that God himself is just speaking to you.” – Lysa TerKeurst
I’ve really been challenged by what Amos 8:11-13 says. It says, “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land.. not a famine of food or a thirst for water but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”
It goes on to say that people will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it in that day. The lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst. As I read these words, I know it wasn’t written about the day that we’re living in, but it sounds like the perfect word for this day that we’re living in. I look around, and I see, while people have more physical access to the Scriptures than ever before, we lack personal access to the Bible. In other words, we sometimes feel intimidated when we open up the word of God, and we swallow the lie that we can’t possibly understand. I think the enemy would want us to believe two lies about God’s word. Number one: it’s too difficult for us to understand. Number two: it’s too hard to live out. I think if he can make us feel like it’s too difficult to understand and too hard to live out, then we’ll start shying away from the truth. But when we push truth out of our life, then we will start to live just like this verse. We’ll live in a famine of the soul. The soul has to be fed with the truth of God’s Word just like our stomachs need to be fed with physical food. And if we go too long without physical access to to God’s Word and too long without personal access to really get into His Word and live it out, it’ll starve us.
But how do we make sure that people don’t just have physical access to God’s Word but personal access to God’s Word? I think a devotional is a beautiful way.
Created for Intimacy with God
So this devotional that I’ve written, Embraced, is a wonderful way to — in a non-threatening way — get people introduced to God’s Word or revitalized in studying God’s Word. And the way that the devotions are written, they’re going to meet people right in the midst of their everyday experiences. I talk about things that you’ll face in the midst of your every day. And oftentimes, I’m either making fun of myself or I’m pouring my heart out about my struggle over some issue, and then I lead people to a place where, they don’t have to have the same circumstances as me, but the answers in God’s Word can apply to whatever issue they’re facing that day. I’m very vulnerable about my struggles. I’m very real about the issues that I’m facing because I know people will only trust the teaching that I give to the extent that they know I can identify with where they really live and the hurt that they really feel. So I’m very very honest in in the devotion about my own struggles. Then, I pull people into the Scriptures and allow them to experience God and the truth of God’s Word for themselves.
This is probably one of my most favorite parts of the book because we were created for intimacy with God. I mean, God had intimacy and close relationship with us. He had that in mind, but so many times either busyness or fear or anxiety gets in the way. So I think what Embraced will do for people is bring them back to that core reason God created us and that was intimacy with him. If we can believe that God is with us, then we truly will feel a closeness with Him, and the fears will dim in the light of His presence. Our anxiety will dim in the light of His presence. There are so many scriptures that talk about this. One of my favorite scriptures is in Philippians chapter 4. Starting in verse 6, it says, “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything present your requests to God.” Right? But I love what Philippians chapter 4 verse 5 says right before that. It says, “The Lord is near.” You see, it’s in that intimacy that we — in the presence of God — can start to get our perspective shifted by God. Because the Lord is near, then we don’t have to be anxious for anything because we know that the Lord is near.
“…we were created for intimacy with God.” – Lysa TerKeurst
I think helping people put verses in context, being reminded of the presence of God, being reminded of the closeness of God, and most importantly, drawing them into intimacy with God will help a lot of the struggles that they’re having. They’ll have a better perspective in the midst of it all.
Because there are so many things that demand our attention every day… just like I read in Jesus Calling… I love this one line where it says that we live in a time that we are addicted to noise. We’re addicted to noise and speed, and I think that’s so true. We want everything fast, and we’re sort of addicted to the chaos in our life which can make us add a lot of clutter and a lot of distraction to our lives. So what Embraced will do is it will help us for just a minute to set those things aside.
If we start our day letting Jesus set the tone of our day rather than initially coming out of the gate of every single day comparing ourselves to other people and looking at social media… if we can really focus on God’s word first, then I think you’ll have a much better chance at fighting some of those competing voices and some of that comparison and some of that feeling that I’m not good enough.
Narrator: Find out more about Lysa TerKeurst at her website, LysaTerKeurst.com and find her new devotional, Embraced: 100 Devotions to Know God is Holding You Close anywhere books are sold.
Narrator: We’ll continue with the Jesus Calling podcast after this brief message about a free offer from Jesus Calling.
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Dorothy Ruelas Ministers to Men on Death Row
Narrator: Dorothy Ruelas is a volunteer who acts as a spiritual advisor within the Texas Department of Corrections. Dorothy works closely with death row inmates to bring them hope, encouragement, and the promise that no matter their past mistakes, they can find forgiveness and restoration through Christ. She shares stories of her encounters with these men awaiting death row, and how they find comfort and healing through the pages of Jesus Calling.
My name is Dorothy Ruelas. I’m the daughter of missionaries to Mexico. They were missionaries for 36 years in Mexico, and I’m a passionate person in relationship to serving my God and the ministry He put in my path, and this is a ministry to death-row inmates in Texas.
My parents were called to serve as Southern Baptist missionaries in Mexico. They were stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico. They served there for 36 years, and I was fortunate to be one of the ones that was born down there. I have two older sisters and one younger brother. My brother was also born in Mexico. I grew up in Guadalajara. I studied there. I married there. I had my children there. But then I moved to the United States about 11 years ago thinking that I was following my kids to the United States.
But I soon found out that God is the one that brought me here for the ministry that He has put in my path. Giving God’s love and encouraging death row inmates with the Word of God is what I have been called to.
A Legacy of Ministry
I was born in Mexico, and I lived there all of my life until about 11 years ago. I love Mexico. I mean, Mexicans are my people. Even though my parents both of them were Americans, I considered myself a Mexican. There are many commodities here in the United States that in my childhood time and even now, we did not have in Mexico. But still my memories of Mexico are so wonderful: the people there; the love of the people; the openness. You know, I really never believe that I would come live to the United States.
In Mexico, I studied nursing school. I have a bachelor’s of science, but here in the United States I’m not recognized as a nurse because I don’t have my license from the United States. When I was in Mexico, I began working as a research nurse with a doctor that actually is from University of Texas here in Houston. And when I moved to the United States, I continued working for him. I worked about 28 years as a research nurse for this doctor, and I continued going to Mexico to do the research down there.
Both of my parents did prison ministry. My mother started a Bible study in the men’s penitentiary in Guadalajara when they were still missionaries down there, and I would go with her to the Bible studies. My father, when they retired, did prison ministry among Hispanics in the town where they were living, and he ministered to Hispanics there. So I had been introduced to prison ministry from years back… ever since I was a young younger person. I’m still young, but I guess you can say that I inherited my parents’ prison ministry, and it has become my passion. I wish I could dedicate 100% of my time to that.
Helping Condemned Men Find Christ
I begin my ministry on death row with a young man who came from a Christian family, but he actually masterminded his family to be killed. He was finally caught after quite a good amount of months because he fled to Mexico. Once his dad found out that his own son was the one that had his family killed — because his dad did not die — he forgave his son, and he stood by his son all of these years. Amazingly, after about 11 years of being on death row, my friend’s sentence was commuted because of his dad’s testimony and his plea to forgive his son and not not send him to death.
I started writing Thomas, and after a while my husband and I started visiting him. Even though I was not, per se, a spiritual adviser at that time or recognized as one by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, my involvement with them was to lead them to Christ and to strengthen their faith. Thomas, my friend, led me to many other inmates, mostly Hispanics. God led me to minister to these young men. This year, after about four years of trying to actually be recognized as a spiritual adviser by a Texas Department of Criminal Justice, I finally have been recognized as a spiritual adviser. The difference is before being recognized and now that I have, as you could say, a license to minister is I can visit anybody that I call out. I don’t have to be on the visiting list.
“…my involvement with them was to lead them to Christ and to strengthen their faith.” – Dorothy Ruelas
The other thing is I can carry my own Bible into the prison. You know how it is about your own Bible. You find things easier when you have your own Bible. I am very blessed that now I can actually just call whoever I want to do a spiritual advisor visit with, and I can visit with them.
Giving Death Row Inmates Hope Through Jesus Calling
One of my spiritual adopted sons on death row — I have two that actually asked me if I would be their mom — is Miguel Angel Pereres. He drew a picture for the son of the Executive Director, and she was so touched that she sent Miguel Angel a Jesus Calling devotional book. When she told me about this book and I told her I had never heard about it, she could not believe it because she loves the book. They actually have Jesus Calling books and devotionals at each one of the houses that they have there.
My spiritual son already had an execution date by that time, and he was close to another friend of mine which is Arnold, who at the time called himself an atheist. But my son had been witnessing to him. And remember when I say “my son” I’m talking about Miguel Angel, my spiritually adopted son. And he would share the readings from the Jesus Calling book to him. When he was executed, I sent Arnold a Jesus Calling book. And when he was executed, he inherited the book to his mother. As I saw the blessing that this book was for my friends, I started sending each one of my friends and brothers in Christ on death row a Jesus Calling book, and then God led me to send this encouraging devotional book to several of the other inmates that had an execution date even when I didn’t personally know them.
Just recently, I sent a Jesus Calling devotional book to Arnold’s brother who is also in prison. He’s not in death row, but he is on general population. I also sent one to another one of my new friends and brothers in Christ who is on death row. I’m always amazed at the way God works to fulfill his purpose in our lives. All of this began with one death row prisoner’s piece of art to touching the heart of a woman of God who in turn shared Jesus Calling with this inmate. From there, many others have been blessed by having this wonderful book of daily Bible meditations in their hands
“I’m always amazed at the way God works to fulfill his purpose in our lives.” – Dorothy Ruelas
Putting a Jesus Calling book in their hands helps my ministry and constantly encouraging them in their struggles and walk with Christ in that very, very dark place. Three of my friends do not speak English, so when I started looking around to see if, by any chance, you had Jesus Calling in Spanish, I was thrilled when I found out that you did. The English version that I always send my friends is the tenth edition version which is beautifully, beautifully presented, and I think some people say, “Oh, that’s the most expensive one,” or whatever. But my friends are worth it. My friends are worth it. One of the things that I really like about the 10th edition is it actually has the Bible verses written out at the bottom and not just the reference of it.
I’ve also said some of the evening and morning devotional book, and to many of them, I send Bibles. But secondary to the Bible, this Jesus Calling devotional book really, really blesses them. A few weeks back I sent a Bible to one of my brothers in Christ and a Jesus Calling 10th anniversary version. He’s a young man who has been on death row only about four years, and he’s really, really struggling in adapting to that place. He struggles with a lot of depression due to the crime that he committed.
I received a letter from him just recently, and he says, “The Bible and the Jesus Calling book you sent me are really magnificent to me. They open another realm for me. They are revealing the kingdom right before my own eyes, my dear friend. My heart is really happy today.”
“The Bible and the Jesus Calling book you sent me are really magnificent to me. They open another realm for me. They are revealing the kingdom right before my own eyes, my dear friend. My heart is really happy today.” – Death Row Inmate
The passages that I share with the men very frequently is the one from Joshua 1:9 where it says, “Do not be afraid.” I’m saying it in my own in my own words, but it says for them not to be afraid and that He is with them and just stay close to Him at all times, and He’ll help them walk through this dark experience in their life that they’re going through.
One young man whom I did not visit or write to is a young man who had an execution date who I sent this wonderful devotional book to. The day of his last visit, I was visiting another inmate. When he saw me come in, from afar, he puts his hands together, and he bent forward like thanking me. I knew who he was, but I was not aware that he knew who I was. I knew that he was thanking me for that Jesus Calling book. His minister shared with me afterwards that this young man excited, very excited shared with him the Jesus Calling devotional that he had read just this morning or that moment. It was from August 12, 2015 that he read:
“Come to me when you are weak and weary, rest snugly in my everlasting arms. I do not despise your weakness my child. Actually, it draws me closer to you because weakness stirs my compassion, my yearning to help. Accept yourself in your wariness, knowing that I understand how difficult your journey has been. Do not compare yourself with others who seem to skip along their life paths with ease. Their journeys have been very different from yours, and I have gifted them with abundant energy. I have gifted you with fragility providing opportunities for your spirit to blossom in my presence. Accept this gift as a sacred treasure. Delicate yet glowing with brilliant light rather than struggling to disguise or denying your weakness. Allow me to bless you richly through it.” – Jesus Calling
Men Change by God’s Love
This is just one of the many many testimonies of how God spoke to each my friends that are now in the presence of the Lord on their day of the execution. These men — criminals despised and discarded by society as men who have no redemption — have been amazingly redeemed and changed by the Lord and are now sharing the good news on death row with other men. When my son Miguel Angel was sent to heaven by the state of Texas, he left praising the Lord. He said he came to death row as a lion and was leaving as a lamb. 43:40
“These men — criminals despised and discarded by society as men who have no redemption — have been amazingly redeemed and changed by the Lord and are now sharing the good news on death row with other men.” – Dorothy Ruelas
The guards, the chaplains, the wardens all shared with me how amazingly he had changed and how they had seen this in Miguel Angel as he arrived as a hardened and dangerous gang member and a criminal to one that shared God and Christ with whoever he could. I was not able to hug my son here on earth, but I will give him many, many hugs in heaven as well as my other brothers in Christ who have already preceded me there.
I know each one as a Christian has a calling from God. All of us have a calling. Not one of us is exempt, but when people hear about my calling on death row to minister to these men on death row — which is a very difficult and painful painful one, but one that is so full of blessings — they say that not everyone would be able to fulfill this calling. It’s just that we are willing to follow wherever God takes us. And if He says death row? Even if somebody might be fearful, God will qualify you to minister, and I can never, never stop stressing what a blessing it is to see what God is doing in these men’s lives.
I send them Christian books. I send them Bibles. I send them the Jesus Calling book because they have a lot of time on their hands. All of these things also encourage them in their walk with Jesus Christ. Many times, they’ll come back to me in times they are needing more encouragement or they’re feeling depressed or sad. I mean, they’re human beings, so they do have their struggles. But us being able to encourage them in the Lord is something that they really, really appreciate.
Every Man Has Story
Each inmate has his story behind his crime. Many people say, “I went through that, and I didn’t kill anybody. But each person is different. Each one of the inmates that I’ve talked to or that I’ve known about their stories have had abuse as children, and some of them are really, really terrible stories: abuse as children; neglect; the absence of a father. Many of them never even knew who their father was. They got into drugs. They got into alcohol. But one thing we need to consider is even if they did commit a crime, they’re human beings, and they’re human beings that God also loves just as He loves us. They are redeemable. Society always judges them. They discard them. They even kill them like in the situation of death row.
God has given me the blessing of ministering to approximately twenty men and one woman. Of these, in the past about 10 or 11 years I’ve been ministering to death row inmates, five have already been sent home to heaven by the state of Texas. I just praise God because I know I will see them again, and I will be able to hug them because, right now, I can’t even touch them because we do our visits through pane, a glass pane and telephone.
All of them just need someone to love them, and through our love we show them that God loves them. The change that this causes in their lives is really, really and truly impacting. Not one of these men is too hard or too hardened to say that it is impossible that God can change them.
Narrator: To find out how you can send copies of Jesus Calling to prisoners in yourarea, please visit TheNextDoor.org/jesus-calling.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with grammy nominated musician and singer Bart Millard, whose new movie “I Can Only Imagine” made its theatrical debut and will also be available on DVD. Bart walks through his story of faith, which is detailed in the movie and the story behind the blockbuster mega-hit “I Can Only Imagine,” a beloved song that has captured a view of heaven that has inspired millions.
Bart: We were approached about making the movie eight years ago. A production company, a lady out of California, saw me sharing part of my story on stage one night. She approached me and said, “I think there might be a movie in this.” Then, about three years ago when the Irwin Brothers got involved and the script started taking shape, I was like, “Oh, man. This may actually happen.” I didn’t even think about the impact the movie might have on other people who have gone through similar stuff. It wasn’t until the first screening with an audience where these men started coming up saying, “Man, I’ve had a similar experience, and it’s unresolved” or “I’m that dad” or whatever. I was like, “Oh, my Gosh.” It’s bringing something up to where hopefully some things that have been unresolved can be taken care of.
Narrator: Do you love hearing great stories of faith each week via the Jesus Calling podcast? We want to hear from you. If you haven’t already subscribed to the Jesus Calling Podcast, visit the Jesus Calling page at itunes.com and hit the subscribe button. While you’re there, we’d love for you to leave us a review and tell us how you feel about the show and what future guests you’d love to see. Your reviews and subscription help us share these stories of faith to more people who need the hope and encouragement of Jesus Calling. If you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit www.jesuscalling.com to share your story today.