Life can be a challenge! Like the disciples, many of us have gone through challenging and painful times. We have wept over recent losses; of loved ones, of our freedom, of social contact and connectedness, of income and purposeful activity, of confidence and a positive outlook. And many of us – again like the disciples – have experienced the pain of mourning.
Over this last month, I’m sure, like me, you have been appalled at the suffering and pain of the citizens of Ukraine, which is presented so immediately and graphically through our media. Here at Prison Fellowship England and Wales, we have been made aware of the struggles and pain of our brothers and sisters caught up in the war. Please keep the leader of PF Ukraine, Viacheslave Kogut, and the leader of PF Romania, Andrei Brie, in your prayers. Together with their supporters, they are coordinating the relief efforts for people in prison, prison officers and their families. They are also supporting citizens to leave Ukraine. Among the amazing solidarity, love and miraculous answers to prayer, they are also experiencing much weeping and mourning.
Having reflected upon our own personal circumstances and the current world situation, many of us will also desire to reflect upon these words of Jesus from John 16 in the context of our prison ministry. Because of Covid-19 restrictions placed upon us, many of us feel more able to understand the challenges faced by those in prison and empathise better with those who have been incarcerated, sometimes for up to 23 hours a day! Through the regular volunteer prayer meetings over Zoom, with excellent guest speakers, and in particular through Prayer Line, we have been given a privileged insight into the heartfelt needs and cries of people in prison.
Indeed, just as the disciples were to endure the pain of separation from the Lord, so too have people in prison had to endure many separations during these Covid times; from their loved ones, from their community, from their previous life, from purposeful activity and rehabilitation and from the joy of corporate worship.
However, let us reflect upon these words of Jesus in their rightful context. Good Friday and its pain and anguish was approaching. But the joy of Resurrection Sunday was to follow!
“Your pain will turn into joy” seems a strange thing to say. Yet those of us who have experienced the depth of loss and separation can often look back and see how the anguish and pain seem dimmed in the context of joy, as with a mother and child after the pain of labour. When we go through the trials of life, it is so important that we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When we see Him again, our hearts will overflow with joy! (Revelation 21: 3-4)
John 16 tells us that no-one will take our joy from us. Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, many of us have also experienced great joy over these past two years. Especially that of being reunited with loved ones. A friend in my local PF group was describing her recent trip to Australia to see her family for the first time in over two years. Her daughter had not pre-warned the young granddaughter who they were meeting at the airport and it was a joy-filled reunion with hugs, kisses and many tears of happiness!
Therefore, as we pray for Prison Fellowship, both here at home in the UK and also in Eastern Europe, let us keep in mind the longing of all people in prison to be reunited with their loved ones. But, more than that, let us also pray that ultimately their hearts’ desires would be fulfilled when they are reunited with the creator, their Father and with His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is the giver of all joy.
Linda Hassall is responsible for the administration of Sycamore Tree courses at HMP Onley. She is also a Letter Link volunteer and part of PF Leamington Spa.
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