Hold On, Be Strong
By: Ekemini Uwan
“Dear God it's me transmittin' from
This tiny place I live in Harlem
Oh Heaven we have a problem
'Cause we've lost all correspondence
And there's no more prophets
They've all been replaced with politics
And they have your people hostage
That's why I'm sending you this postage.”
Perhaps one of the hardest realities we have to confront as believers is God’s goodness in the face of the suffering and evil that are part and parcel of living in this fallen world. Last year, our hearts were rent as we watched Hurricane Irma wipe out the island of Barbuda, and Hurricane Maria ravage Puerto Rico. Our souls turned within us as we witnessed the mudslides in Sierra Leone claim the lives of over six hundred Africans. Whole families were killed in the deluge of mud. Tears of sorrow, anger, and fear well up in our eyes as we learn that Black women are “243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”
Climate change, environmental racism, white supremacy, capitalism, racial inequity, unconscious bias, structural racism via medical apartheid are just a few of the factors that cause the devastations. While the above is a non-exhaustive list of significant factors that continue to ensnare the Diaspora to this present day, they are only symptoms of an insidious problem—sin. I am not using sin as a trite platitude to flatten the interlocking oppression we face. For to say everything is sin is to say nothing at the same time. However, I am using sin in its most biblical sense, full of transcendent and cosmic implications. Sin is the genesis of the symptomatic and quotidian problems Black people experience. Specifically, profits are put before people. Politicians silence prophets. The wealth of the wicked is acquired at the cost of the poor’s well-being and livelihood.
How do we make sense of this?
Read: Genesis 3, Colossians 1:13-14, Romans 14:17
Just as Adam’s sin ushered in the present evil age (Gen 3:14-15), with sin, death, and misery, Christ’s first coming brought forth the cosmological antithesis—the new age—with its attendant blessings of righteousness, joy, and peace (Rom. 14:17). Christ’s Advent marks the arrival of the kingdom of God, which is connected with the idea of a future inheritance. However, the kingdom of God is not only future—it is also present. Although the new age has broken in, we are living in the overlap of the ages, which is the time between Christ’s First Advent and His Second Advent. During this time period, and by virtue of our union with Christ, our lives will be marked by suffering.
Even though suffering is a reality for us all, we must resist the urge to overemphasize suffering to the exclusion of the in-breaking of the new age with its blessings of righteousness, peace, joy, justice, and power—for to do so leads to fatalism. Conversely, we must notoveremphasize the new age to the exclusion of the present evil age, because this only leads to triumphalism—an unrealistic expectation that the future blessings reserved for Christ’s return ought to be fully manifested in this age.While it is true that we are a people marked by suffering, ultimately we are characterized by hope, and this hope is not an abstract concept. This hope is a person—the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s our hope in Him that moves us to bring the blessings of the new age to bear in the lives of our people and all the oppressed through our actions. Believers must learn to be comfortable living in the tension between the two ages.We hold onto a sober expectation, which means that we expect progress and advocate for it because we live in the new age, while recognizing that change may come slowly and will not come easily due to the opposing forces of sin, death, and misery in the present evil age.
Hold on, be strong, sistas!
Father, living between the overlapping of the ages is so hard on us. We get weary and overwhelmed by the suffering we see in the world and experience in our own lives. But we know that You sent Jesus to pay the price for our salvation, so that we are delivered from the power of sin. We pray for the comfort of those who are suffering and for justice to reign in the lives of those who have been wronged. Hasten the return of Jesus Christ, so that sin, death, and misery are no more. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.