There is Balm

The past week has been filled with empty shelves at the grocery store, canceled classes, emails from every business I have ever given my email to inform me of how they are handling COVID-19, aka coronavirus, and an Instagram feed full of anxiety and solutions on how to mitigate said anxiety. Needless to say, it’s been quite an exciting week. 

Meanwhile, I have had the verse of an old African – American spiritual titled There Is A Balm in Gilead bouncing around in my head:

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin sick soul.

The song derives its inspiration from Jeremiah 8:22 KJV

Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

I did some research, and the “balm of/in Gilead” actually refers to a balm made out of a plant that would heal the sick, and the plant was found in Gilead. You can probably deduce that the songwriter was not referring to a plant, nor did Jeremiah. It’s clearly a metaphor for God’s healing power. However, I think there’s more we can extract. The English major in me could not resist looking into the etymology of the word balm. Bear with me while I geek out a little bit. The word balm comes from the Latin balsamum, which means pedantically restored. When I first read that balm meant pedantically restored, I was confused because I relate balm with lip balm or lotion. But before I bore you with an etymology class, think about what the songwriter is saying. There is a balm: a pedantically (a person who is excessively concerned with formalism, accuracy, and precision) restored. 

In other words, Jesus is excessively concerned with restoring us, formally, accurately, and with precision. He is not only concerned with the big picture, but He is concerned with what affects you directly and immediately. Not only is He involved, but He also wants to restore it with the same obsession. When Jesus hung on a cross on Calvary, He proved that He is the balm that we need. He is the balm that we personally need, the balm Orlando needs, the balm the United States needs, and the balm the world needs. 

The world seems to be changing every five minutes, but one thing does not change. Jesus is obsessed with every detail about us. I hope that when you can’t get ahold of Clorox wipes, or your favorite coffee shop is only serving to-go orders or when you can’t visit your elderly loved ones, you remember there is a balm in Orlando, and His name is Jesus. 

Catherine of Genoa wrote, “Therefore I will not weary myself with seeking beyond what God wants me to know. Instead, I will abide in peace with the understanding God has given me, and I will let this occupy my mind.”

I pray that when you feel anxious or worried about what’s to come, you can find solace in the understanding we have been given. We have the answer, Jesus and his unending love. Plain and simple.  

May his love ground you in peace, and the steadfastness of his grace guide you.  

Stay Safe, Stay Loud. 

Grace T.F. 

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