Certain events stay fresh in our memories forever, like the birth of a child and taking them home for the first time. Even now, I can vividly recall the sleeper my youngest son, Brett, wore when I brought him home from the hospital—his “froggie.” I loved to cuddle him in that soft outfit. Memories like that are precious.
But then there are the memories I wish I could forget, like the day I learned that same son was going to jail. That life-changing phone call came four days before Christmas in 2015. I remember every detail.
I was heading out the door to finish some last-minute holiday shopping when my phone rang. I wasn’t going to answer it, but then I noticed it was Brett calling. We hadn’t spoken in months, and our previous call had ended in an argument. Sadly, that was the norm between us.
But this call would be different. I answered and immediately heard sobs on the other end of the line. It was a crying that came from a place of absolute fear and panic.
My son attempted to catch his breath as he told me a warrant was out for his arrest. He was on his way to turn himself in to the police.
Trust me—no parent is prepared for that conversation.
As his mom, I searched frantically for the right words to comfort him, to assure him that everything would be okay. But all I could do was cry with him and say, “I love you.” I was terrified and alone as I hung up the phone.
The days and weeks that followed are a blur. My mother’s heart attempted to reconcile terms like “suicide watch” and “no release on bail.” I was drowning in an overwhelming mix of emotions: fear, sadness, shame, guilt, and helplessness. I cried a lifetime of tears.
I sat alone in my closet and rifled through my Bible, desperately seeking a way to escape my sorrow. I didn’t understand the depth of God’s love for my son and me then, so I was scared to death.
One day as I was begging God to take away my pain, He led me to the story of Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9). Like me, Paul had begged the Lord to take some hardship from his life. But the Lord answered, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (NLT).
I couldn’t move past this verse. I read it again. And again. Each time, a different part of it jumped out at me.
“His power is made perfect in my weakness.”
“His power is made perfect in my weakness.”
“His power is made perfect in my weakness.”
God illuminated my heart and mind as I meditated on this verse, and I noticed the contrast between my weakness and God’s power. Being in that weakened state positioned me to experience the fullness of God’s power. It allowed me to witness God’s power in action, and I realized that hardship wasn’t my enemy. It wasn’t something to pray away immediately.
Still, I didn’t appreciate feeling helpless or weak. I’ve always been a take-control person, as self-reliant as they come. And yet…I never seemed to achieve the desired outcome. Honestly, I often made things worse. And that led to feelings of self-pity and bitterness.
I was a living example of God’s Word in Jeremiah 17:5, “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord” (NLT).
The Lord showed me that self-reliance had prevented me from having a deep personal relationship with Him. I was a spiritually dead Christian who foolishly believed I was in control.
My son’s arrest presented a situation over which I had zero control. My child was facing serious prison time, and there was no amount of action or self-reliance that would change the outcome. For the first time in my life, I was desperate for God. Without His intervention and help, I would have drowned in my sea of troubles.
And that’s when I started to discern God’s presence in my life. He kept nudging me and asking, “Do you trust Me?”
I wish I could say I immediately surrendered and said yes, but it wasn’t that easy. After all, this was my son. How could I trust anyone else to care for and love him more than I did?
I wrestled with God for months, until my brother sent me a copy of an article about a desperate mother with a prodigal son.
This woman talked about a dream where she’d recited a prayer for her son, touched him with the blood of Jesus, and then asked God, “What now?” God told her to leave her son with Him. She then shared how she laid her son at the foot of the cross and trusted the love of God.
By the time I finished reading the article, I was sobbing, overcome by tears of joy and relief as God spoke to my heart. He invited me to leave my son with Him and trust His love. No, I couldn’t be with Brett. I couldn’t help him.
But God could, and He would.
I surrendered my son that day into my heavenly Father’s loving arms. I found immediate relief as He lifted that heavy burden from my shoulders.
After that, my prayers became more confident. I began coming boldly to God’s throne of grace to find the help I needed (Hebrews 4:16). I asked God to send the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen my son (John 14:16) and to place Christians in his path to guide him and share the love of Jesus with him. God’s Spirit comforted me too.
A few years into Brett’s prison sentence, I learned of a prison ministry called Kairos. I attended an orientation meeting for a local group of volunteers who hosted weekends inside a women’s prison with the intent of building a Christian community there.
I felt drawn to the ministry as I heard stories of how lives were being transformed. God had led me to this place and prepared me for this moment.
I thought back to when I’d asked God to place believers in Brett’s path in his prison. Now the Lord was calling me to step into the path of someone else’s child behind bars and be a living example of Christ’s love.
Those Kairos weekends were a blessing for me; I felt so at home! I had come full circle from wallowing as the cursed one in Jeremiah 17:5 to being a living testimony of Romans 8:28. Because I loved the Lord and was living out His purposes, He was working the most challenging trial of my life for my good and the good of others.
The greatest blessing on this journey has been reconciling with my son and growing in our faith together. Quite frankly, it’s more than a blessing; it’s a miracle.
Before Brett’s arrest, our relationship was defined by conflict and separation. With every year that passed, I lost more of him. The thread that bound us was steadily unraveling in my grasp. But I had been praying that God would save my son, and He heard my prayers (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
While Brett’s story is his to share, he would freely tell you that he was walking down a dark path of destruction until Christ intervened. The Lord has done a mighty work in his life. Of course, his transformation didn’t happen overnight; no one’s does. But God never gave up on him, and neither did I.
In 2019, I attended a family day at the prison, where my son gave his testimony. Toward the end of his talk, he turned and thanked me for refusing to give up on him. He apologized for the pain he had caused, and then he shared the foundation of faith that I had instilled in him. I cannot describe the joy I experienced that day.
I never thought I would say this, but I am grateful for my son’s incarceration. We both needed to get to the end of ourselves so we could see that Jesus had been sitting beside us the whole time.
Jesus is the only One who could free us from the grip of the enemy. Only He could show us the path to redemption and love us enough to forgive our past mistakes. And then He taught us how to forgive ourselves and each other, so we could love one another as He loves us.
I won’t lie; Brett and I still have difficult days. It’s been a long and arduous journey with many challenges. In seven years, he has been housed in seven different prisons and moved farther away from home each time. We’ve survived a pandemic that resulted in our inability to see each other for more than a year. And I can’t even begin to tell you the injustices he has endured to survive.
God’s Word consistently encourages and uplifts us. Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NLT). I recall this verse whenever I need to be reminded that God is with me.
While I am grateful for all God has done for us over the past several years, I look forward to concluding this chapter of our lives. Brett will be released in a few months, and I’m eagerly awaiting his homecoming and being able to embrace him. No longer will I have to leave him behind. I look forward to long walks and enjoying our favorite meals together.
At the same time, I’m well aware that adjusting to life outside of prison will be a challenge on its own. Brett will have to deal with the collateral consequences of his felony conviction. I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the reality of the challenges he’ll be facing. I’ve even asked God, “How much more can we endure?”
But God was prompt with His answer and led me to Matthew 16:9: “Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up?” (NLT).
Jesus had to remind His disciples about the miracles of the past, and now, God was reminding me too. I must never forget His mercies and all He has done for my son and for me; doing so would allow the enemy to sneak in and overwhelm me with his lies.
No situation is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17). In fact, the bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity for us to experience God’s power. We can face anything with Christ (Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13). There is no darkness that we will encounter that the light of Jesus has not already conquered (John 1:5).
Maybe you’re fighting doubts and what-if scenarios too. It’s hard to face the unknown. Let me encourage you to remember God’s faithfulness and His promise found in Joshua 1:9. You are not facing the darkness alone. God is with you. Always.
He will show up and work in your situation in amazing ways. Will you trust Him?
I hope my story helps you answer with a resounding yes and amen.
PAULA FOX loves the Lord and serving His children behind bars. She volunteers her time at Kairos Prison Ministry and Victorious Living.