A Letter to “COVID Prisoners” Everywhere
As many of you know, for the past decade, I’ve been working with a Christ Awakening movement inside one of America’s best-known prisons, East Jersey State Prison.
During this pandemic, nearly two thousand men there have been totally quarantined inside their cells. No recreation. No family visits. No worship services. No sources of comfort.
Already seven of them have died of COVID, including three of my brothers in Christ. That’s why I had to write the Christians there this letter of encouragement—to help give them a fresh perspective on their situation.
However, as I was writing it, I thought about YOU too. The fact is, ALL of us right now are “prisoners” to this virus, mostly staying inside on lockdown as it stalks its victims. (There are now over 60,000 Americans dead.) I’ll bet you also could use some fresh, encouraging words right about now, right?
If you are a “COVID prisoner” anywhere, this letter is as much for you as our fellow Jesus followers inside the high walls of a correctional institution. Read the letter here:
Dear ESJP Brothers,
I just read the chaplain’s troubling report this morning about all that you men are facing—and about the tragic deaths too. Of course, things also are pretty rough on the “outside,” but nothing like what you all are braving on the inside. I am praying for you every day.
All of us feel like we are in a tunnel, looking for the exit. For all of us, in times like these, our ONLY choice is to “keep looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12). HE is the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how Jesus FULFILLS both halves of the stirring words of Psalm 22 (see below). The first half is all about his cross (he even recited it as he hung there!). The second half foreshadows his resurrection and ascension and reign. Because we belong to him, WE are included in every facet of that fulfillment.
Or, take the very next Psalm, Psalm 23: I know many of us are walking through what seems like the “valley of the shadow of death,” day after day, in ways we would have never imagined possible. But remember the “through” part of verse 4. He does not intend for us to camp out in the shadowlands. He intends to keep us moving forward and outward into the wide, open spaces of freedom and fullness in Christ.
In Psalm 23, we are promised that ultimately a day is coming when we WILL emerge out of the dark shadows of death to be seated at a table spread for us. All of us believers are invited to partake of the unending feast he’s preparing for us—a feast that begins with his anointing of our broken lives with the oil of everlasting healing and wholeness.
This is our destiny, no matter how difficult the current moment has become.
For us, and for all who belong to Christ, our destiny is decided: We will come out at the other end of both Psalm 22 and 23—just as Jesus did. That’s because, in the first place, our Savior experienced all of it—the trials and the triumphs—for us, in our place. We might even say he went through the whole experience before us, so now we can travel it without fear.
Today our living, reigning Savior is ready to walk through the same experience with us victoriously! He plans to accompany us into the front end AND THEN out the back end of Psalm 22 and Psalm 23. It’s all familiar territory for him.
On that day, when the concluding highpoint of Psalm 22—which also is the glorious outcome of Psalm 23—is consummated due to our union with our Redeemer, we will see every verse come alive for us because we will see HIM with our own eyes.
And in that hour, these dispiriting days of fear and frustration and sorrow because of COVID-19 will be over and gone, replaced by the joys of living in the thick of Jesus’ resurrection glory—forever.
What a great salvation this is! What a great Savior we have, in whom we live and move and have our being, even in the age of plague.
A portion of Psalm 22
(from The Message)
God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain,
I call to God, all the day long.
No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.
And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?…
While here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash…
If you don’t show up soon,
I’m done for….
Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends
when they come to worship.
I’ll punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening….
From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to GOD.
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word!
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
who has redeemed us!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.
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