There is a saying in churches that is almost cliche: “God is good.” I cringe sometimes hearing it, not because it isn’t true, but because it is often linked only with events in our lives that are pleasant. I credit Wes McAdmas for pointing this out.

“Getting to spend time with my family. God is good.”

“Just got a good report from the doctor. God is good.”

“Just found out I’m getting a a big tax return. God is good.”

“Looks like I got the job. God is good.”

So, when Andrew begins his letter from prison with these words, I take notice. Here’s a guy who gets that God is good, not only when life is good, but when life is bad. It’s who He is.

Shortly after Andrew went to prison, the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas suffered a horrific mass shooting. Twenty-six people were killed, and twenty more injured. It’s true tragic like that which gives perspective on life…

Ironically, Andrew’s letter begins, “God is good.” In his incarceration he was aware of the events in Texas and wondered, “if churches should have armed deacons. Back home my first sponsor, Ron, carried (a weapon) every Sunday.”

In the almost two years Andrew has served, he has never lost sight of the world outside of the walls, a mindset that has kept him sane and looking outward rather than inward. “I talked with God and he told me, ‘Just pray for the sick,’ (probably a reference to the gunman).

His consciousness of sin is a frequent subject of his letters. The Texas tragedy leads him to ponder the consequences of sin. “When I finished reading in Numbers the other night I was shocked how God told Moses that a man should be stoned to death for his sins. That makes me real thankful for Jes

us…” God freed the people of Israel from slavery sin in Egypt, then complained about the lack of food and water in the desert. Andrew concludes, “Odd how people and God get along, huh?”

Buried near the end of his letter is a prayer that the pending charges will be dropped. They could carry a seven year sentence. His habit of deny, deny, deny seems to be fading as reality sets in. “I’ve come to realize that until I get a hold of my temper, life will be real hard.”

But even when life is hard, God is good.

“I think everything will be OK, just miss church and the choir singing and being free.”

My letters to Andrew include pictures of my grandchildren and news from the church. His fractured family history is an open wound and these touches of family life help to soothe if not erase his loneliness.

With a court date looming, Andrew works hard to repair relationships with guards and prove himself to be on a new path. But as the holidays approach, he would face another challenge that would test his resolve and set his thoughts to home and family.

(Read Andrew’s story on Wednesdays and Fridays here)