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I recently had the opportunity to interview Shonda Whitworth on “Your Hope-Filled Perspective,” episode Hope for Parents of Incarcerated Children – Episode 48. Shonda shared about a life experience that no parent expects to find themselves in, but when they do, they are left trying to figure out how to cope and how to hold onto hope. Her story is compelling and encouraging, so I hope you’ll take the time to listen to encourage your own heart, especially if you have felt bound by your life situations. I invited Shonda to share a bit more with us here.
Read to the end for a book giveaway!
Life as a Mother of a Convicted Felon: From Shattered Hope to Confident Hope
by Shonda Whitworth
Many of us desire to have pleasant lives with little difficulties or challenges. We may even create movies in our minds of how we imagine our lives unfolding. Having dreams and visions for our lives is scriptural.
But what do we do when aspirations fail and our hope shatters?
I never imagined I would be the mother of a convicted felon. My husband and I dedicated our sons to the Lord at an early age and we taught them to live in relationship with the Lord.
Raised in a loving, Christian home
As a young mother, I signed up for all the parenting courses our church offered. I gleaned from parents who were a few stages ahead of me and watched their children do well in school, proceed to earn college degrees, find gainful employment, marry godly spouses, and start their own families.
Following the examples modeled for me, I made my “raise up successful children” checklist, such as:
- Christian education
- Regular church attendance
- Sports activities
- Family vacations
I anticipated the same outcome I witnessed over and over again. After all, I stood on the promise of God that as a parent if I train them up in His ways, then they will never depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
Yet, after my older son, Stephen, graduated from high school, he went to work and moved into his own apartment. His circle of friends caused concern. When I shared this with godly parents, they encouraged me not to worry as young adults go through a phase. “It will be alright,” they said. So, my vision for my son’s future started veering off its course.
The call that changed our lives
Then one night we received the call that shattered my hopes for my son’s future. He was arrested and charged with serious crimes. I could not comprehend how my son could go from being raised in a loving Christian home to being accused of such heinous acts.
Because I had been walking with the Lord for some time and attended church on a regular basis, one particular Scripture came immediately to my thoughts at the time of the call …
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV).
I wrote the Scripture on a piece of paper and turned it into my prayer. With such a daunting circumstance, only God could take my shattered hope and somehow turn it around.
Longing for hope
In the darkness that enveloped my life after my son’s conviction and sentencing to prison, I longed for a ray of hope. So, every day I read the Bible determined to receive an encouraging word from the Lord. In my seeking, familiar passages became alive to my situation.
I noticed the Bible is filled with testimony of people our present society would label as thugs and outcasts. Many biblical heroes started out as scoundrels. But the Lord took the messed-up lives of liars, cheaters, adulterers, thieves, murderers, womanizers, prostitutes, and prisoners who humbled themselves and redeemed their lives.
Finding confident hope
Hope in God and what He can do filled the broken places in my heart. With a renewed sense of hope sparked inside of me for my son’s future, my confidence in God’s Word increased.
Not only is the Bible full of testimony of the redeemed, but it contains judicial themes. With a renewed sense of hope, I started making appeals to the courtroom of heaven to plead for mercy. How do we find mercy in the courtroom of heaven? We admit our guilt and ask for mercy.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (NLT).
Through searching Scriptures and making my appeals into the courtroom of heaven, God’s mercy manifested by taking my shattered dreams for my son’s life and filling me with confident hope for his future.
If the life you imagined has been demolished by unexpected circumstances, take your shattered hope to God, the source of hope, and receive confident hope for your future.
How do you maintain your hope during life’s most difficult and surprising circumstances?
Recommended Resources for Parents of Incarcerated Loved Ones:
- Appeal to the Courtroom of Heaven by Shonda Whitworth
- A free downloadable PDF of 8 Prayers to Pray for Your Incarcerated Loved One is available at FortressofHopeMinistries.com
About Shonda Whitworth:
Shonda Whitworth writes, teaches, and speaks at conferences and retreats to share the hope of healing and restoration we have in Jesus. After her son landed in state prison, she realized the hardships families of prisoners encounter. She and her husband, Eldon, founded Fortress of Hope Ministries, a nonprofit organization that offers hope to families affected by incarceration. Shonda transparently shares her testimony of living with a son in prison at ShondaWhitworth.com and FortressofHopeMinistries.com.
Connect with Shonda Whitworth: Website / Facebook Shonda / Twitter / LinkedIn Shonda / Facebook Fortress / LinkedIn Fortress / Twitter Fortress
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, Hope for Parents of Incarcerated Children – Episode 48, Shonda Whitworth is giving away a free copy of her book, Appeal to the Courtroom of Heaven: Petitions for Prisoners and Prison Families.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you’ve learned about finding confident hope when facing the most difficult and surprising circumstances.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, March 23, 2019. Continental United States only.
Great post. I have learned in difficult circumstances, God truly does work all things for our good (and sometimes those around us or those we may never know) and for His glory. My sister has a son who has been in and out of prison most of his life. It’s heartbreaking. But God knew before he was born this would be the case. He has so much head knowledge of the Lord but I’m not sure if it’s transformed his heart. This sounds like a book I could give my sister for hope for herself and her incarcerated son.
Hi Donna, thank you for sharing about your sister and nephew. I’m definitely saying a prayer for them. We all need hope and we find it in God’s Word. I believe the book will help your sister find hope. Be sure to visit the website link above as there’s lots of encouraging posts on the ministry blog. God bless you.
I too have a son who struggled and it was ONLY through God’s grace that I got through some horrible times. I never doubted or questioned Him but only leaned on His love to bring hope for my family.
Sandy, I’m so glad to read that you leaned on HIM to see you through those tough times. Blessings!
I have experienced heartaches with my adult children, things I never thought I would encounter in our sheltered Christian family. God is hope and help
People, even godly people will disappoint us. I learned that from walking through trying times too and learned how to keep my eyes on Jesus who never disappoints me, but always gives me hope. Blessings!
Thank you, Shonda, for this important message!!! I’ve never read anything like it. This is going to help so many people!
Pinned to a couple boards one of which is our Books You Will Love group board.
Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
Patsy, thank you for sharing about this message of hope by pinning it to a couple of boards. Blessings to you!
We have a close family member facing some similar things and I think I need this book. My ONLY hope is in Him right now. laurensparks.net
Yes, we ONLY find hope in HIM. Everyone and other circumstances will disappoint us. Saying a prayer for your family member. Hugs.
So very thankful, Shonda, for you sharing this message. I shared the podcast with a mom whose son is in prison now and she was so blessed. I learned so much through how you handled this whole situation. Romans 8:28 has much more meaning for me because it was your go to scripture when all this happened. Thank you for being so transparent and vulnerable to share your heart and your pain with us. Seeing how the Lord met you and your family in such a tragic situation has definitely added depth and HOPE to my faith. God bless your work. I shared this blog on Facebook.
Thank you for sharing the podcast with the mom whose son is in prison and I’m thankful to know she was blessed. And thank you for letting me know my transparency and vulnerability added depth and hope to your faith. I pray my message of hope encourages others to turn to God, our only source of hope. I am grateful that you shared it with others. May the Lord bless all you do.
Face to the floor, I cried out to Jesus! My husband had been arrested and it was the hardest thing I had ever been through in my life. False accusations were at the heart of this circumstance and anyone that knew my husband well, stood by him with confidence and in prayer. God stretched our faith. We had grown very complacent in our faith, not going in the direction we knew we should…so even though it was a very hard time, God grew us both through it and I wouldn’t take it back. It was through God’s mercy, grace and love that got me through it. It was if I was in spiritual boot camp of my heart and mind. The strength God poured out is how I learned the way the Holy Spirit operates and hallelujah, He most certainly moves and is near! Leaning in to Him will absolutely get us through!
I’m so sorry for all that you’re going through with your husband. And I’m thankful to read you’re leaning on God to see you through this. I’m praying you both keep your eyes on Jesus as I know in this storm that He will put you in the boat and safely deliver you to the shore. Hugs.