Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
(Jeremiah 8:22) ~ NCV
Balm is an ointment or salve that reduces pain or heals sores. The balm in Gilead was available in a territory of Manasseh, known for plants and herbs that were used to produce healing balms. While the balm in Gilead is mentioned in Jeremiah 8:22, most of us are more familiar with an old spiritual hymn that references the balm in Gilead. It goes like this:
“There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.”
Few spirituals sung by our ancestors can be precisely dated and the specific authors are unknown, but the Balm in Gilead and many other spirituals evolved from our ancestors’ faith. Theirs was a faith that remained unwavering even as they suffered the breakup of families, survived the oppression of slavery and endured the loss of dignity. This song should remind us of the authentic and steadfast faith of our ancestors who, despite the fact that they were slaves, managed to survive and thrive on their faith in God. If our ancestors – working in cotton and tobacco fields from sun up to sun down, with little water and food, few material belongings and no freedom – could find solace, peace, and faith in the balm in Gilead – despite the shackles of slavery – why can’t we? While hurt, pain and faith are personal and relative, this hymn is a reminder to us that we came from good stock and that God IS faithful.
Are you hurting, grieving, depressed or oppressed? Perhaps, you are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless or disappointed. Do you – your body, soul and spirit – need restoration? There is a remedy – the balm in Gilead. This balm soothes the soul, wipes away tears and replaces emptiness with hopefulness.
© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
We invite you to join us at Grove Church, 5910 West Norfolk Road, Portsmouth, Virginia, Sundays at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Tuesdays at noon and Wednesdays at 7 p.m.