I’m waiting for a package in the mail. It’s a batch of fancy body lotion — a gift to myself. Sure, I could use grocery store lotion or even Vaseline in a jar. (Some of you know what I mean.) But during a recent stay at a city hotel, the courtesy kit on the sink included a creamy smell-good lotion. So back at home, I ordered some, and I’m excited for it to arrive.
It’s the soothing factor — isn’t that what we so desire? When life turns hard, we need comfort. Thus, the smell-good lotion is on its way. I long to slather it on and feel pampered — wrap myself in a terry robe, curl up on the couch, and breathe in that sweet smell, letting the indulgence soothe my soul.
But what if there were a better balm? Soul care, but from on high — especially in times of sorrow.
I’ve been reflecting on that during the long, cold days of this, our shortest of months. February started with a shock, of course. Late in January, Kobe Bryant’s helicopter fell from the sky. Then came the impeachment fallout, the coronavirus outbreak, a Super Bowl with uproar (J-Lo and more), political clashing and brawling (par for the course). Add on your drama – and my drama .
As a friend recently lamented, we can hardly watch the news, scroll down our phones, turn on a podcast, or read a blog without facing an outpouring of pain. As I write this, a police siren is screeching down a street near my house, and I live in a quiet, boring, slow-going neighborhood. Well, usually quiet, boring, and slow-going.
The prophet Jeremiah understood times like ours. His call was to preach to God’s people, but they rejected God’s message. So, what came next? False gods, deceitful prophets, dishonest living. Yes, uproars and fall outs, sinning and sorrows.
As the Lord Himself lamented: “When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return?” (Jeremiah 8:4) Then, turning poetic, the Lord mourned:
“Even the stork in the sky
knows her appointed seasons,
and the dove, the swift and the thrush
observe the time of their migration.
But my people do not know
the requirements of the Lord.”
Jeremiah 8:7 (NIV)
On a snowy day in Colorado, I ponder these things, too. Looking out on gray gloom – a winter sky unyielding even to sun – I hear Jeremiah’s frustrated plea:
“Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?”
Jeremiah 8:22 (NIV)
The words stop me.
They’re rhetorical, of course. But the question shouldn’t come from a servant of faith. He should know who soothes our sorrows. God does. Instead, by asking of balm, the prophet points to Gilead, an area east of the Jordan River that was known for spices and healing salves. Call it the Bath and Body Works of its day. When we’re in sorrow, however, who heals our soul’s sorrows? Our Healer Christ.
He is our peace, says Ephesians 2:14. In this way, say theologians, He overcomes our “dis-eases” with life, restoring to us what no balm of Gilead ever could. And, no, that’s not to dismiss life hurt, clinical depression, anxiety and worry, and other towering mountains. They are real. But looking to Him and abiding in Him can give our hearts joy – even on a cloudy day. Isn’t that still true?
Simply, Christ as Healer “restores meaning in our lives,” as one scholar (John Pilch of Baylor University’s Center for Christian Ethics) put it. Healing Peter’s fevered mother-in-law, the Lord enabled her to return to serving her guests. Do our lives become so perfect in Him, however? No.
But to seek Him is to know He is our balm. As the old spiritual song answered, “There is a balm in Gilead – to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead – to heal the sin-sick soul.”
If you’re sorrowing today, may you allow time to sit with Christ — not looking for anything more but time with Him. In Him, wrote the nineteenth century British preacher J.C. Philpot, “There is more in the balm to heal than there is in guilt to wound; for there is more in grace to save than there is in sin to destroy.”
Will we apply His salve, more than our fancy hotel body lotions? Will we curl up on the couch and reflect, more than on our woes, on His power and willingness to help and heal them? For an answer, another servant of God, Charles Spurgeon, wrote this prescription: “We trust him, and sin dies; we love him, and grace lives.” Added Spurgeon: “We wait for him and grace is strengthened; we see him as he is, and grace is perfected forever.”
As I type those rampart words, my eyes are drawn to a window where I see this – finally, sunshine. It breaks through, indeed. The Son always rises, blue skies and all. May we run to Him for the soothing of our souls. Then, in Him, let’s again just do this: rejoice.
If you’re sorrowing today, may you allow time to sit with Christ -- not looking for anything more but time with Him. -@PatriciaRaybon: Click To Tweet