There is a Balm in Gilead: A Devotional by Paul Yeun
The Rev. Dr. Paul L. Yeun is a retired United Methodist minister. He is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and Asbury Theological Seminary. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Lexington Theological Seminary majoring in Pastoral care and counseling. He Served 10 years in parishes, 20 years in the US Air Force chaplaincy and 18 years as the Director of Pastoral Services at WellSpan Health formerly Summit Health in Pennsylvania. He has served as an adjunct professor at Pittsburgh, Palmer and Winebrenner Theological Seminaries.
He wrote a devotional on dealing with the current pandemic based on the hymn, There is a Balm in Gilead:
A Timely Question
I’m currently leading a study online on the Christian faith and healing at the Tucker First United Methodist church. We usually start our study with the singing of hymns related to healing. One of our favorites is “There is a Balm in Gilead,” a well-known African American spiritual written by John Wesley Work II. It seems to be an answer to the questions expressed by the Prophet Jeremiah in Chapter 8:22 when he was among the Israelites who were in exile in Babylon for 70 years. He lamented that there was no balm in Gilead and physicians to heal the sickness of the people. The balm of Gilead is known to has curative properties for healing. Jeremiah seemed hopeless, discouraged and depressed at the time.
The lamentation of the prophet Jeremiah may reflect the similar sentiment with the Hebrew people who were in Egypt for over 400 year under the harsh task masters. They were praying and crying for deliverance. In Exodus 2:23, God told them that he has heard their cries and noticed their suffering. Deliverance is coming. The hymn writer may has reflected the similar conditions during the slavery in the south. It was harsh and oppressive. People were praying and longing for freedom and deliverance.
“Is there a balm in Gilead?” “Are there physicians to heal the people in exile?” Jeremiah asked. “Yes” the hymn writer answered, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. Don’t ever feel discouraged for Jesus is your friend.” He continued. It is certainly a message of hope over despair.
We in these days are dealing with the dreadful situation of Coronavirus. We often wonder, where is God? When will this ordeal end? Is there a balm in Gilead or vaccine to prevent it from infecting us and a drug to heal those who are afflicted? Is there antidote for our fears and worries? Yes, we can trust the God, who answered the prayers and heard the cries of his children in the past, to do the same for us today. He has done it before. He will do it again. I like the prayer voiced by the Rev. Max Lucado just recently:
Dear Lord, we’re still hoping we’ll wake up. We’re still hoping we’ll open a sleepy eye and think, “What a horrible dream. How could this have happened?” Just a moment ago moms were packing school lunches. Just a moment ago chefs were planning the day’s menu. Just a moment ago arenas were noisy, brides were walking down the aisle and neighbors were discussing the weather. In just a moment, everything changed. A phantom disease invaded our peace, our plans and our security. In a heartbeat, our language and behaviors were upended. Even young children understand the term “social distancing.” “quarantine,” and “Covid-19”
Grandma isn’t allowed visitors in her nursing home. Workers are telecommunicating. Zooming, and Skyping in their baseball caps and slippers. Handshaking and hugs have been put on indefinitely hold. This strange season has introduced a level of fear we haven’t seen since 9/11
Fear of what might come. Fear of touching. Fear of exposure. Fear of what we can’t see.
We are anxious, Father, And so we come to you. We don’t ask for help; we beg you for it. We don’t request; we implore. We know what you can do. We’ve read the accounts. We’ve pondered the stories and now we please, “Do it again. Lord, do it again…”
This is the first part of his lengthy prayer. The rest were his reminders of what God has done for the people of the Old and New Testaments and the miraculous and triumph story of Resurrection. Max Lucado asked God to do it again. You can read his entire prayer online. Also, I would encourage you to go online to listen to some of the great musicians singing this most inspiring hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead” It warms my heart and I’m sure it will do the same for you.
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