By Rev. Dr. Robert Owens
Rivers of Life, Lithia Springs, GA
As we enter into February, also known as African American History Month, we reflect on the contributions, trials, and triumphs of Black people in America. Once “Negro Week,” then “Black History Month,” and now most commonly called “African American History Month,” this recognition means more now than ever.
We live in a time where people want to only talk about one side of the history of this country. The views and perspective of the enslaved, oppressed, and marginalized are being silenced by the need for comfort, insecurity, and the desire to live unchallenged by varying thoughts. We are also living in a time where we see over and over again authorities unmercifully beating Black people to the point of death. The hopelessness and poverty have caused some to seek stealing, robbing, and murder as a way of life.
It is not uncommon for some to find themselves in a place of doom and gloom because there seems no change in sight. Even in this time when we want to celebrate the contributions of African Americans, there is mourning, sadness, and feelings of dejection. Yes, sometimes in these spaces we can find ourselves in unforgiving and forbidding places. It can feel as though our past blessings are far behind us and God is far ahead.
How do we gain perspective and appreciation during this month? God sent his Son to sacrifice His life and to show us His love. Yes, we weep because of the pain, disappointment, anger, mistakes, and misfortune, but God’s love still stands. The love of God is not just an attribute, it is His virtue. The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103 of His all-consuming love. He reminds us… “from eternity to eternity the LORD’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17). That love that God shows us makes His presence known and reveals His desire for us to commune with Him.
When life deals me severe blows, I think of the song my elders sang in the Baptist church I grew up in when they faced relentless obstacles: There is a Balm in Gilead. What they were saying amid a hopeless situation is that they recognized Jesus was and is the balm that will take away the pain, disappointment, anger, and sorrow. In the lyrics of that Negro Spiritual song, there is a line that particularly caught my attention and which I still cling to, “If you cannot preach like Peter, If you cannot pray like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus, And say, He died for all.” My journey through lent brings comfort because He died for me.
As we celebrate the great heritage of African Americans, let us lean on the same strength that brought them through enslavement, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement… It will comfort us, give us endurance, and give us courage to fight on.
Negro Spiritual: There is a Balm in Gilead
Prayer: Father, Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my works are in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. Thanks merciful Father for sending me your Holy Spirit.
Rev. Dr. Robert L. Owens is a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. Dr. Owens also holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Pepperdine University located in Malibu, California and a Doctorate degree in New Church Development from Columbia Theological Seminary located in Decatur, Georgia. He has over thirty years in church ministry, pastoral care, evangelism, and community involvement, emphasizing building the lives of people, both spiritually and economically.