Like many of you, my heart is heavy with grief. The images of the bodies of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile bleeding out are etched into my memory. Like so many others, their lives were taken without any due process of law. Philando Castile breathed his last breath just inches away from his girlfriend and young daughter in the vehicle as the police officer kept his service weapon intently aimed at his lifeless body.
These were men, human beings created in the image of God. They were taken away from family and loved ones who are now left with many questions, anger, frustration, and pain. We’re hurting. We’re discouraged. We’re even afraid. We’re even tempted to feel alone and isolated as we are forced to add two more names to a list that’s already too long.
When I am Weak, Then I am Strong
In times of pain, we must remember that it’s okay to fall apart. It’s okay to weep. It’s okay to be angry. Let’s fall apart in God’s presence, weep at the throne of grace, and vent our anger to our loving Father. Let’s connect with one another and do nothing, but just sit together in silence if we have to.
Now is not the time to be strong, and I know that sounds counter-intuitive. It’s okay to be weak and vulnerable. It’s okay because it’s in our weakness and vulnerability that we are sustained by the grace of God. I’m reminded of the words of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church. He said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God’s Grace and MLK
We must also guard our hearts. During times of pain, we are more susceptible to lies and deception. We are prone to self-medicate. We are tempted to look for an escape from reality. Family, we can’t check out. We must pray and stay grounded in the Word. We must process our pain through redemption and truth. Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds much more.
Processing our pain doesn’t mean that we are to be inactive and silent. It helps to ensure that our hearts do not become bitter. Wounds that are not properly cared for become infected and deadly. Our hearts are wounded. The wounds are deep. The wounds are old, but there is a balm in Gilead.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s words during his famous speech in Washington, D.C. are still applicable today.
“But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
God will mend our broken hearts and enable us to continue to engage with his nature and character as salt and light. Brothers and sisters, as we process our pain, remember to be prayerful, be gracious, be tactful, be strategic, be bold, and be relentless.
I’m sorry this keeps happening.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me…
to comfort all who MOURN,
and provide for those who GRIEVE in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of BEAUTY
instead of ASHES,
the oil of JOY
instead of MOURNING,
and a garment of PRAISE
instead of a spirit of DESPAIR.
They will be called oaks of RIGHTEOUSNESS,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his SPLENDOR…
Instead of your SHAME
you will receive a double PORTION,
and instead of DISGRACE
you will rejoice in your INHERITANCE.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting JOY will be yours.
“For I, the Lord, LOVE JUSTICE;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”