At today’s status conference, a trial date for Jahar was set for November 3, 2014. Judge O’Toole called it a “a realistic and fair date,” but the defense believes otherwise. On Monday, Jahar’s lawyers had filed a motion pushing for a September 2015 date, so if the trial happens as scheduled, it’s almost a year earlier than the defense wanted. His lawyers believe the November date will be impossible, as they are still waiting to review almost 2,000 items of evidence.
I can’t help but think how incredibly unfair that seems. It seems like time and time again decisions are being made in Jahar’s case that are unfair and that make our mission of leading Jahar to Christ even harder.
It’s only fitting that I just finished the book You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times by Max Lucado. Throughout the book, Lucado uses the story of Joseph from Genesis to get across his main point: “In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good” (p. 7).
Joseph’s life was filled with moments when man did unfair things to him. His brothers decided to leave him for dead because they were jealous of him. When a caravan of traders came by, his brothers instead decided to take advantage of the situation and sell him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt where he was put in charge of the entire household of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguards. All was well until Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of raping her, and he was thrown into prison. While in prison, he correctly interpreted the dream of the chief cupbearer, saying the cupbearer would be released from prison in three days. He asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him to Pharaoh and to help secure his release also. The cupbearer didn’t until a full two years later when Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted, and the cupbearer remembered what Joseph had done for him.
Joseph’s life should have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. God had favor on Joseph, and he became the most powerful person in Egypt after Pharaoh. And not only that, God used Joseph to save his family from starvation and thus save the line through which ultimate salvation would come in the person of Jesus. The circumstances in Joseph’s life that were unfair were the very circumstances God used to bring about incredible good.
I realize the comparison I’m about to make isn’t perfect, as Joseph was a man who faithfully followed God and didn’t even remotely deserve any of the things that were done to him, whereas Jahar, well, I don’t think I even need to go there. Nonetheless, in the midst of dealing with another piece of bad news about Jahar, I find that I can look to the story of Joseph to help me trust God’s hand in this situation.
A few months back, special administrative measures were placed on Jahar, and thus he can’t receive letters anymore. The reasoning given for these SAMs hardly seems fair. The government announced that it is seeking the death penalty in his case. If you share my anti-death penalty stance, you’ll possibly agree that the death penalty isn’t exactly fair. Today the judge has set what seems to be a completely unreasonable trial date. With all the discovery that’s been denied the defense, that certainly doesn’t seem fair.
But could it be that somehow all these seemingly unfair and terrible circumstances will be integral pieces of the beautiful masterpiece that God is weaving together? After all, that’s what God did in Joseph’s life.
The following quote from Lucado’s book particularly resonated with me for obvious reasons:
This season in which you find yourself may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God. He can and will use it for his purpose.
Case in point: Joseph in prison. From an earthly viewpoint the Egyptian jail was the tragic conclusion of Joseph’s life. Satan could chalk up a victory for the dark side. All plans to use Joseph ended with the slamming of the jail door. The devil had Joseph just where he wanted him.
So did God. (p. 47)
Couldn’t one just as well replace the word “Egyptian jail” with “federal prison” and Joseph’s name with Jahar’s? The first half of John 10:10 says that “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” By the looks of it, Jahar’s life is on the road to total destruction, and the death penalty is a real possibility. Satan has Jahar right where he wants him to complete that destruction.
But what if everything—from the biggest picture to the smallest detail—in Jahar’s situation is going to be used by God to lead Jahar to Christ? Perhaps God has Jahar right where He wants him to bring about his salvation and to bring him new life in Christ. After all, the last half of John 10:10 says that Jesus “came that [we] may have life and have it abundantly.”
Brothers and sisters, take heart. Don’t despair at today’s news. Trust in God as the one who can weave circumstances together for our good even when it seems unlikely or even impossible. And use all the bad news we receive about Jahar—past, present, and future—simply as more fuel for the fire to inspire you to go even harder in intercessory prayer to our God who can take even the evilest of situations and work beauty out of them.