Hope for the Hopeless:
Prison Inmate’s Amazing Testimony
[Editor’s Note: This article was written in early November 2015 by a prison inmate currently incarcerated in the United States and awaiting trial, and it is his account of his spiral into darkness and the amazing redemption he experienced after his imprisonment. Because his trial is pending, he is writing under a pen name and has omitted details from the incident surrounding his arrest.]
The first thing I become aware of is a hazy stillness — like light and sound in the far distance of a long hallway. Unusual shapes begin to take form as my focus is drawn to the most peculiar object: a shotgun (12 gauge pump). “What’s that doing here? I don’t own any weapons.” As I reach out toward the unfamiliar, a voice whispers clearly in my ear: “IF YOU DO, YOU’LL BE KILLED.”
There isn’t anyone around, but the message of the voice cannot be mistaken, “Touch it and die.”
When I draw in my first deep breath of air I feel a heavy tremor as if the wind has been knocked out of me. I’m not registering any pain at the moment but nonetheless my mouth is flooded with the warm taste of copper and salt. There are vague shadows at the edge of my vision that are dark and unnerving. This new world is totally silent as time seems to stretch on and on, without meaning or purpose. The questions in my head are persistent and demanding: “What’s going on? Where am I?”
In my lap and strewn all around are large piles of $100 dollar bills — most appear to be drenched in blood. “Something is terribly wrong here. I need to leave as soon as possible.”
Both my legs feel like rubber bands, however, and commands to move them are ignored. My right hand doesn’t want to open or close for some reason either, and the left is gashed deep into the wrist, exposing a small amount of bone.
I know what this is. I’m dreaming. I know this is a dream because I’m sitting behind the wheel of a police cruiser, and I’m not the police. There is a man in uniform standing on the crumpled hood of his car pressing the gaping maw of a 9mm pistol in my face.
He does not look happy.
The one thought I vividly remember: “Let’s just do it. Any future you may have from this point forward is hopeless anyway. You’re better off dead and you know it.”
But I didn’t do it.
The next thing I knew I was lying face-down on the street. And then things got stranger. It felt as if my soul was beginning to leave my severely wounded body.
At the time, it seemed perfectly natural that I would be floating above my broken body that was lying in the street. It’s hard to explain why I was having what some people call an “out-of-body experience” — maybe I was close to death. But I remember being able to hear and see all of the emergency personnel in different locations from my heightened position. At that moment, I have the peculiar sensation of simultaneously tasting the asphalt in my mouth yet still watching everything unfold from above.
Of the many conversations I can hear from my soul’s perch above my body, these are the words I will remember for the rest of my life: “There are four victims. One minor, two serious, and one critical; she’s not expected to make it.”
“OH GOD, PLEASE, NOT THAT!” A poorly worded prayer to be sure, but one I meant with all my heart.
A Door Into the Demonic: We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood, But Against Spiritual Principalities
It wouldn’t become important until later on, but just one week before the incident described above — which was essentially a violent car accident (that’s all I can disclose about it) — I was sitting in my truck outside of work with a final paycheck in my hand. At the time, severe substance abuse had been chipping away at my life from every direction, eating away by attrition, slowly but surely, like the rotting flesh of a corpse over its bones: friends, family, jobs, money, finally ending in psychosis.
I was descending deeper and deeper into the abyss as time wore on. Then one day I started to see and hear things others couldn’t. It was the small things I began to notice at first — little pranks, visions of future events — then very quickly it deteriorated into the control of my thoughts and movement. With my downward spiral almost complete, demonic spirits began to show themselves to me. It was made perfectly clear by these spirits at the onset that if I ever spoke of these events I would be ridiculed and shunned, never to be believed. The exact words of these demons were, “We reveal ourselves to you because you have no credibility.”
As I prepared to leave work for the last time ever, a large dust devil — a wild whirlwind — seemed to descend from out of nowhere and hover directly over me for an unusual length of time. The center of the vortex was quite massive as the thought occurred to me, “Wouldn’t this be the ending of a perfect day if I were lifted off into the stratosphere.”
I never suspected it then, but that odd glimpse of a whirlwind would later become one of the most significant events of my life. The memory of it would become a tool used by God.
After the collision and my arrest, the ensuing three weeks of hospitalization would be the new low point of my life. In recovery circles, I believe the term is called “hitting bottom.” Doctors and nurses were completely unaware that I wasn’t merely depressed but highly suicidal. C.T. scans would reveal the extent of my physical injuries: a fractured arm, two shattered legs requiring extensive surgical implants and moderate brain trauma.
I was haunted not so much by my vague recollection of what happened, but more importantly, by what happened to the woman who was in critical condition. Sheriff personnel made it abundantly clear that they were in no mood to talk about it — one of them going so far as to punch me in the face when the nurse stepped out. I never said anything, and I didn’t blame him.
I would learn later that only a few rooms away from my room, the woman I prayed for was still fighting for her life.
Prayers in the Dark
In a desperate act of pure selfishness, I began to tuck away many of the morphine tablets I was given for pain management. This was a very dark period in my life, and one that still makes me uncomfortable to talk about. I was determined that if the woman didn’t make it, neither would I.
After nearly a month being in a coma, a woman I had never met nor seen in my life opened her eyes for the first time. I’ve heard it called by others as the ripple effect. There’s a bit of irony to be found in the fact that we are able to bring about such change in people we have never known. Her survival sent a ripple of grace into my life.
“DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER; LORD, I THANK YOU, NOT FOR MY SAKE, FATHER GOD, BUT FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THOSE I PUT IN HARM’S WAY.”
A Light in the Dungeon: The One with the Two-Edged Sword Makes His Move
Living in a county jail, awaiting trial on serious felony charges can be a tough experience. Living in here and being confined to a wheelchair was extra tough. The last thing I wanted was to be taken advantage of, and my pride demanded that I not appear weak or vulnerable. In most prison settings, violence is respected above all else. I would soon become the most explosive and volatile person in a housing block comprised of almost 50 men.
In the beginning, a sense of hopelessness helped justify my rage. Those feelings were bolstered by the very real possibility that I would spend the rest of my natural life in prison. At one point, I was involved in a brawl almost every day for two solid months! I was prone to
fight at the drop of a hat, many times jumping out of my wheelchair to punch someone in the head. Win, lose, or draw, I did not care anymore.
The crimes I’m accused of are the “high profile” variety — considered even by other inmates to be “hard core.” One afternoon in July, after over a year of incarceration, a group of young men approached me. They said, “We heard about what you did and just wanted to shake your hand.” I had, at some point, not become famous like a modern day Jesse James, but certainly infamous in my own right. My actions were being aspired to and looked up as heroic. And there I stood before the group of young men: struck completely mute and convicted in my shame. I was then, and remain to this day, horrified by the display of gratitude from those three young men.
After being banished from society, ostracized by many family members and completely disowned by every friend I’ve ever had, being praised for my depravity turned out to be the final straw. On July 2, 2013, with a Bible in hand, I took to my bunk and asked God to reveal Himself in my life. “Oh Lord, please hear my prayer. I’m an empty shell of a man who has lost all hope. If you’re truly there, show me You’re real.” I opened my Bible at random and God immediately stunned my heart and cleared the path of every doubt with one stroke:
I had randomly flipped to Ephesians Chapter 2:1-10 (NKJV), which says this:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
I don’t even have the words to tell you how astonished I was by those first 10 verses! God directed my reading and spoke to my heart in ways I never could have imagined. This passage floored me because it described, in perfect order, what had just happened in my life:
- One week preceding the collision and my arrest, I fulfilled the desires of my flesh and mind and walked with the prince of the power of the air. On that day, on my final day of employment, I even saw a whirlwind in the sky. And then later in prison — at the moment when I would cry out to God to reveal Himself to me — I would turn randomly to a verse that both mentions the “power of the air” and a perfect description of my flesh-filled state of mind that day.
- And then on the day of the collision and my arrest, while floating above my body — in a moment when I seemed so close to death — God spared my life. Although this is a more literal application of that verse, it occurred to me: when I was lying on the ground with a crumpled body and my soul was ready to depart, He made me physically alive again, even as I was dead in my trespass and sin — though He still was working on making spiritually alive again.
- Just as the verse says, I turned into a child of wrath, as I became one of the most violent men in county jail.
- But then, for the glory of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, I was saved by faith and His grace. In Him only shall I boast. Psalm 44:6-8 teaches us this: “For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. In God we boast all day long. And praise Your name forever” (NKJV).
Whirlwinds and the Word of God
My life has been drastically and forever altered by the Word of God. Metaphorically speaking, the prison doors were thrown open and my chains were loosed from my soul. In Hebrews 4:12 we see: “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (NKJV).
To this day, years later, I’m constantly amazed how Scripture can speak in a personal way to our very hearts. It happened for me in a prison cell when God reminded me of the whirlwind. As it turns out, whirlwinds play a significant role in many events throughout Biblical history. We can read in Job 38:1: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” Job was overwhelmed and humbled as God restored him to be His servant. Further study in Jeremiah 23:19 and Isaiah 29:6 show that the whirlwind was used as a symbol of God’s judgment. I’m not about to make God tell me twice; the correlation between Biblical teaching and the events of my life makes things perfectly clear.
And that’s what is so powerful about God’s Word. It can speak to each one of us on a personal level. No matter what kind of trials or hardships you face, God’s waiting to speak with you too!
So what are the “whirlwinds” in your life?
Never in a million years could I have predicted all the twists and turns my life has taken. Today God has thrown me a lifeline, restored my hope, and given me a future in His Son. He’s given all who seek Him that same future. In Him I’m not some faceless number in a prison no one has ever heard of; I’m a warrior for our Lord Jesus Christ! I’ve been put in a unique position. Now, when young men impressed with my criminal resume come to shake my hand, I have the opportunity to tell them about the Lord instead.
Let’s look at 2 Cor. 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors of Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
Think about your own unique position. Has the Lord given you an opportunity to serve as an ambassador to Him?
I’m not certain how my story of near tragedy can help all of you who live in a free world. I will tell any one of you who struggle with adversity that no matter how bad you think things are, even the most hopeless cause has hope in Jesus Christ. Psalm 31:24 says: “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All of you who hope in the Lord.”
DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER, OPEN OUR HEARTS TO THE BEAUTY OF YOUR WORD, O GOD. GIVE REST TO THOSE WHO ARE WEARY AND SUFFER GREAT TRIALS. TEACH US TO HEED THE DIRECTION OF YOUR HOLY SPIRIT. BRING YOUR SCRIPTURE TO LIFE IN OUR HEARTS, FATHER GOD, AND SEND US YOUR SAVING GRACE. PLEASE GIVE US STRENGTH IN HOPE, PROTECT US FROM HARM, AND BRING US INTO YOUR PRESENCE. WE ASK THESE THINGS IN JESUS’ NAME, AMEN.