Absalom Jones’ Historic New Year’s Message, Part III
After providing sustaining care, Rev. Jones next explains God’s healing involvement in the African American plight. “. . . in this situation, they were not forgotten by the God of their fathers, and the Father of the human race. Though, for wise reason, he delayed to appear in their behalf for several hundred years, yet he was not indifferent to their sufferings. Our text tells us that he saw their afflictions, and heard their cry: his eye and his ear were constantly open to their complaint: every tear they shed was preserved, and every groan they uttered was recorded, in order to testify, at a future day, against the authors of their oppressions.”[i]
Trust His Heart
Do you detect Jones’ underlying message? God’s delay in rescuing the Israelites and his delay in rescuing African Americans are part of his wise and caring plan, no matter how inscrutable that plan may appear to human eyes.
Next, with stirring imagery, Jones describes the personal nature of God’s healing presence. “But our text goes further: it describes the judge of the world to be so much moved, with what he saw and what he heard, that he rises from his throne—not to issue a command to the armies of angels that surround him to fly to the relief of his suffering children—but to come down from heaven in his own person, in order to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians. Glory to God for this precious record of his power and goodness.”[ii]
Christian Healing Hope
Jones personifies historic healing. For over two thousand years, Christian healing has underscored the encouragement that comes through enlightened eyes that see God at work behind life’s miseries and mysteries. Its practitioners have understood that when life stinks, our perspective shrinks. Therefore, they have diligently listened for God’s eternal story of deliverance. They have asked, in the midst of messes, “What is God up to in this?” They have worked with suffering people to co-create faith stories and Exodus narratives so that people can rejoice in the truth that “It’s possible to hope.”
When all seemed dark and hopeless, they communicated that “God is good. He’s good all the time!” Healing soul physicians enabled their spiritual friends to say with the Apostle Paul, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9b). They celebrated the resurrection and raised the roof because of the empty tomb.
They have also emphasized faith eyes or spiritual eyes by using scriptural truths to enlighten people to enter new dimensions of spiritual insight and to empower them to cross the threshold toward new levels of spiritual maturity. If sustaining brought surviving, then healing produced thriving. Even when situations could not change, attitudes and character could. Historic healers followed a biblical sufferology (theology of suffering) that taught that crisis provided a door of opportunity which could produce forward gain from victim to victor. Through creative suffering, they placed themselves and their spiritual friends on God’s anvil to be master-crafted according to his perfect will.
[i] Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering, p. 34, from Foner, Lift Every Voice, p. 75.