Is There No Balm in Gilead?

jesus-with-2-childrenIs There No Balm in Gilead?

I wrote this in January of 2015 but didn’t post it. Many things have changed since then. My mother died in early March of that year, not long after writing it. There has been a divisive political war and an election, with fury raging and frustrations escalating on both sides. Isis has risen and grown. Islamic fundamentalist terrorists have made multiple attacks on the world, and seem to have become bolder. The tide of persecuted, starving, and displaced people groups has become a flood. Racial tensions have escalated. Police are gunned down in the streets. It’s a mad, mad, mad world.

One thing that remains the same, however, is our need for hope.


It hasn’t taken much to drive me to despair these days. I look out and everywhere there is violence and vileness, confusion and disorder.

Politicians and world leaders try to solve heart-deep, age-old problems like greed and sin, hatred and un-forgiveness. Name a country, state or city, and I’ll show you an infestation of complex, human, soul-disease—unsolvable by laws, or natural wisdom and power.

Wars and rumors of wars. Human trafficking. Pestilence. Marriages tearing apart. Street violence. Poverty. Unimaginable evils done behind locked doors. Intentional evil. It’s too much for me, and it’s easy to move toward despair.

And if the world isn’t enough to send my soul crashing on the rocks, my own sense of failure and weakness overwhelm me. It wasn’t long ago that I said to myself more than once, “There is no hope,” when thinking about my own emotional life. Despair has been a faithful (but unwelcome) companion lately.

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

I fled my home on the day of this writing to get away with a book, my bible, my computer and my journal. I needed to reorient my heart toward truth. Sometimes a new location helps.

I was led to scripture that encouraged me—Jeremiah of all places.

The prophet is in deep despair over the condition of his people. He cries out with deep emotion, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?”

The assumption is that there IS a balm—a cure—a physician, but the cure hasn’t taken place, and the prophet is confused. Why isn’t it working? After all, Gilead dealt in balm; they were known for it. Israel had a faithful God; why weren’t things different?

We recently celebrated Christmas—the first advent of Christ. The angels declared in the heavens and on earth, peace on earth good will to men. “But there is no peace,” we mumble in protest.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

The kingdom of God, Jesus says, is like yeast, which can cause a whole batch of flour to rise, becoming bread. It’s like a mustard seed that becomes a tree. Kingdom work seems slow—so, so slow.

Jesus came with transformational power—a power to change human hearts. But often it’s so gradual that we sometimes wonder if it’s taking place at all. And not everyone opts in. Those who believe and are being transformed are his. Those are the ones who are part of an invisible kingdom. For now, we can’t even tell who belongs and who doesn’t. We can guess, but no human has the capacity to judge the human heart, nor does he have the authority. And all of us get it wrong when we try.

As believers, we are so divided by theology and the color of carpet, that it’s hard to believe we are part of the same family. Is it any wonder that we, as well as the world, doubt the reality of yeast or mustard seed?

Is there no balm in Gilead?

And then there’s me! I long for courage, power, renewed faith and strength to muddle through the black tar of life—a mother with Alzheimer’s, family problems, and flagging hope. Then there are the challenges of being a member of fallen humanity AND a child of God at the same time. I feel ill equipped for it all.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

The answer, of course, is YES!

Yes, beloved, (I say it to you and myself), “There is a balm in Gilead.” He alone is the hope of the nations and of our today-heart. Unbelievers will mock. Evil will deride. The spirit of anti-Christ will rise, oppose and seek to kill. Even our hearts may feel beyond hope from time to time, but there is a physician here doing heart surgery every day of our broken lives.

Yes there is a balm. Lying deep within the souls of every man and woman is the only place eternal peace and hope for the earth can become a reality—the transformed human heart. The heart that knows God through Christ.

The cure isn’t human wisdom, might or wealth. It’s not politics or combat.

The Lord replies to Jeremiah’s cries of despair “Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don’t let heroes brag about their exploits. Don’t let the rich brag of their riches. If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me. I’m God, and I act in loyal love. I do what’s right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things. These are my trademarks.” (The Message, my underlining.) Jeremiah 8

God allowed Israel to be carried away because of evil and idolatry. Jeremiah was in despair over the people. God promised hope would come when Messiah arrived. The hope he brought, however, wasn’t a political kingdom. It was a kingdom of changed hearts—hearts that are transformed by knowing HIM. It’s a supernatural force that changes greed to generosity, judgment to grace, hatred to forgiveness, anger to peace, fear to love, and vileness to holiness. It is a transformation that opposes darkness and hatred with light and love. But no human law or decree will bring this healing. And it will not be fully completed until he comes again. For now, we only know in part. Then we will see face to face. (I Cor. 13:12)

When he comes again, we will see God’s law, God’s decree, and God’s eternal, loving, holy presence in our every-day reality. And every knee will bow. Hearts will understand. Those who are His will be like him—not in power or omniscience, but in love, peace, and truth—because we will see Him as he truly is. (I John 3:2)

Restoration will be completed. The balm will be on us to soothe and heal what remained broken.

Hallelujah! There is a balm in Gilead!


There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my hope again.

Beautiful rendition of “There is a Balm in Gilead”

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