I’ve made a little tradition of posting a lengthy quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the day we remember him and the great injustice that he fought. Here’s an excerpt from a sermon he gave in Chicago in August 1967.
And Iâ€™ll tell you, Iâ€™ve seen the lightning flash. Iâ€™ve heard the thunder roll. I felt sin- breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.
And Iâ€™m going on in believing in him. Youâ€™d better know him, and know his name, and know how to call his name. You may not know philosophy. You may not be able to say with Alfred North Whitehead that heâ€™s the Principle of Concretion. You may not be able to say with Hegel and Spinoza that he is the Absolute Whole. You may not be able to say with Plato that heâ€™s the Architectonic Good. You may not be able to say with Aristotle that heâ€™s the Unmoved Mover.
But sometimes you can get poetic about it if you know him. You begin to know that our brothers and sisters in distant days were right. Because they did know him as a rock in a weary land, as a shelter in the time of starving, as my water when Iâ€™m thirsty, and then my bread in a starving land. And then if you canâ€™t even say that, sometimes you may have to say, “heâ€™s my everything. Heâ€™s my sister and my brother. Heâ€™s my mother and my father.” If you believe it and know it, you never need walk in darkness.
Donâ€™t be a fool. Recognize your dependence on God. As the days become dark and the nights become dreary, realize that there is a God who rules above.
And so Iâ€™m not worried about tomorrow. I get weary every now and then. The future looks difficult and dim, but Iâ€™m not worried about it ultimately because I have faith in God. Centuries ago Jeremiah raised a question, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” He raised it because he saw the good people suffering so often and the evil people prospering. Centuries later our slave foreparents came along. And they too saw the injustices of life, and had nothing to look forward to morning after morning but the rawhide whip of the overseer, long rows of cotton in the sizzling heat. But they did an amazing thing. They looked back across the centuries and they took Jeremiahâ€™s question mark and straightened it into an exclamation point. And they could sing, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.” And there is another stanza that I like so well: “Sometimes I feel discouraged.”
And I donâ€™t mind telling you this morning that sometimes I feel discouraged. I felt discouraged in Chicago. As I move through Mississippi and Georgia and Alabama, I feel discouraged. Living every day under the threat of death, I feel discouraged sometimes. Living every day under extensive criticisms, even from Negroes, I feel discouraged sometimes. Yes, sometimes I feel discouraged and feel my workâ€™s in vain. But then the holy spirit revives my soul again. “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”