By Archbishop Mary Floyd Palmer, Pastor of Heavenly Hall Church Presiding Prelate, Philadelphia Council of Clergy
Hope is defined by Wikipedia as: “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large (noun)”; or, “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” (verb).
For one who believes in God, we embrace His words expressed in Psalms 39:7 (NLT): And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.”
As a child, I sat at the feet of my elders and listened to their stories about world situations that appeared to be hopeless. Our ancestors worked on plantations looking forward to the day when they would be free. Despite the whip or hard labor, they continued to work and eventually, through freedom—or not, came north from the deep south. My grandmother told me about the “day that will live in infamy, December 7th, 1941,” where she said all the colored folk were in church to sing and pray, hoping the Japanese would not come to North Philadelphia. Even through that war, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the great Depression, poverty, economic disenfranchisement, civil rights battles, and yes, even gang wars, there was something within them that believed things would get better…one day.
Well, it is clear that our ancestors never dreamed of our current world pandemic. This unseen, unknown disease has altered our normal day-to-day and has brought about cessation on every level, forcing us to cease what we have wanted to do and needed to do. Thousands of people are impacted with unemployment, interrupted education of our children, continuum care of our ill family and friends, and even being unable to share the special last moments of our beloved ones as they transition. But, we can be thankful for our first responders–all of whom are overworked, remain dedicated because of the great need. Yet, we still ask, “When will this end? How will we return to our normalcy? Will we ever be as before?” and the big question, “Why?”
My brothers and sisters, at the end of the day, it is what God has allowed. This is not just a test of our faith, but the work of it as well. There is an assurance when you know God for yourself, that despite fear and uncertainty, there is a trust in Him that makes you feel confident. Psalms 91:2 says, “I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”. (NIV). Now is the time to call on Him, the Almighty God. He is the only One that can remove all doubt and fear, and make you smile with joy in spite of. One of my favorite hymns says, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
During dark moments of my life, I was filled with hopelessness and despair. A source of comfort was the strong, yet gentle and confident voice of my great-grandmother, grandmother and my momma, who would resoundingly say, “Baby, everything’s gonna be alright.” At times, it did not look like it, nor did I want to accept or believe it, but it was those words that rang true, and everything did work out. Be assured that same comfort and trust that I held onto through their collective voices proved to be true, and yes, it did work out just fine! Know that this, too, shall pass….
In closing, I am comforted by Isaiah 41:10 (NIV): “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”