~ John Onwuchekwa
Editor’s note: Today is Silent Saturday, the day after Jesus was crucified and before His resurrection… when His body was dead, fear ruled, hope had evaporated, and evil seemingly won.
Saturday is before the victory. Saturday is the aftermath that is still agony. Saturday is essentials for believers today because we all go through tremendous, heartbreaking struggles wondering if God hears us and see us… and He does. He is with us! Enjoy this excerpt from John Onwuchekwa’s book We Go On.
God is in control. God is just. God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.
I believe those statements with my whole heart. Then it happens again. Another video. There’s another shooting. Another politicized court case. And like a bad movie, the beginning drama eventually fades into an anticlimactic ending. Few indictments. Renewed fears.
But my sadness refuses to be stained with teardrops anymore. They stopped a long time ago.
There’s a pain that hurts so bad, it makes it difficult to stop crying. Most of us are accustomed to that. There’s a type of pain that hurts so deep that sometimes it makes it impossible to start crying. I’ve been there for the last several years. With each video, I find myself heartbroken, but not surprised. My heart isn’t newly broken each time (I haven’t fully put the pieces together since Trayvon). Each instance reminds me that my heart is still fractured.
Injustice rules our world. It’s been that way for a very long time. The Teacher saw it too:
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors — and they have no comforter. — Ecclesiastes 4:1
It’s enough to make you give up, to doubt you could ever make a difference. God says He’s in control, but is He really?
I’ve got news for you. Good news. He is!
The Teacher says, God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 3:17). His justice will be done. This future vision can fill you with hope to keep going. So, let’s take an honest look at the world. Like the Teacher, let’s keep it candid — ’cause if we’re blindsided by injustice, we’re going to be blindfolded to hope. And we need the encouragement and inspiration that’s only found in God’s promise for the future.
- Justice is God’s work, and He won’t let it fail. He’s got you!
GOD’S GOT YOU
I got you. Growing up, those three words were enough to make you float. Back in the day, if you didn’t have a ride or enough cash and your homie said, I got you, you knew you were taken care of. You were straight. Well, that’s the idea. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
Like my prom night. I brought LeKendra, my date, to an expensive steakhouse. I really wanted to impress her. So, when we took a look at the menu, I told her, anything you want.
I got you.
She ordered the salmon. There was no price, only something called MKT rate. Weird. But I wasn’t sweating it. Well, not until the bill came. It was more money than I had in my bank account.
You okay, John?
Yeah, I got you.
I tried to say it confidently, but insecurity was dripping off my forehead and onto the check I couldn’t pay. Her lips said, Okay, but I could tell she wasn’t buying it. I swiped the card, and we left. Thankfully, the overdraft fees didn’t kick in till the following Monday. I was shook regardless.
It’s one of those stories that gets funnier the more the time passes. I promise you, though, it wasn’t funny at the time. But it does illustrate the insecurity you feel when someone says, I got you, but you don’t really believe them.
You believe God’s got you, right? You believe that He’s in control no matter what happens? But what do you do when someone causes you harm? They lie about you, mislead you, or betray you. They take advantage of you or someone you love. And then justice is delayed or even denied. You want to trust God through it all, but it’s hard to understand what He’s doing. Some might question God’s goodness. Some might ask if God really cares. You just want to know why He hasn’t taken care of you the way a Father should. You don’t expect things to be painless or easy. You just want assurance that God’s really got you.
Are you in that place right now? You’re crying out: God, I believe — but I just don’t see. Don’t give up. Keep seeking His face. Ask Him for a deeper awareness of His presence.
The earliest Christian monks in Egypt would memorize Psalm 70:1 to help them gain that awareness. It reminded them, too, that they shouldn’t just seek God when they thought they needed Him, ’cause the truth is, they always needed Him. And not only that, He was always there, even if they weren’t looking for Him. Same for us today.
So, let this psalm be your constant prayer:
Hasten, O God, to save me;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
KEEP ON LOOKING
The need to believe God’s got me comes up every time my social media timeline tells me the contrary. Lately, I’ve sat with the fact that watching murders isn’t normal.
I know every generation has heard about them, but I’ve recently realized that there have been generations of people throughout history who never witnessed a murder caught on camera, and I’ve seen too many to count. I’ve seen so many, I don’t even remember them all. Every time I see another senseless killing as I’m casually scrolling through my feeds, I ask: God, have You got us?
The feeling’s compounded by the fact that we believe the American justice system is supposed to reflect, even if in a very limited way, God’s justice. And yet, as the Teacher says, we find that even in the place of justice — wickedness was there (Ecclesiastes 3:16). Instead of providing security or care, the system habitually leaves us anxious, uncertain, even terrorized. We want to trust, but it’s hard — sometimes, impossibly hard. I remember the horror of seeing my oldest brother, Emmanuel, sent to the hospital by a policeman who split open his left temple with a Maglite.
He fit the description of kids who’d gotten into a fight earlier that night. My brother still had his work uniform on. I remember my other brother, Sam, telling me how he was cuffed, thrown into the back of a cruiser, and taken to jail because of “warrants” an officer insisted belonged to him. The officer refused to check the name on my brother’s license: Chinedum Chibuike Samuel Chukwunonso Onwuchekwa. There weren’t a lot of folks with that name walking around Huntsville, Texas, in 2003.
I remember the chills sprinting down my spine and warm tears flooding my cheeks as I stared down the barrel of an officer’s gun. At one point, the pistol was so close to my head I couldn’t see it anymore. My crime? My friends and I were asking directions. We got lost downtown and were trying to get home. A strange sense of sadness and solidarity comes from realizing every Black man I’ve ever started this conversation with doesn’t respond with the scripted sympathy you get from customer service agents: I can’t imagine how that makes you feel.
Rather, every time I’ve started this conversation, it evolves into a tennis match where we volley these horror stories back and forth with smirks and smiles — not because they aren’t uniquely horrible. They are. We don’t cry anymore because the stories are unsurprisingly common. I remember how each of our stories ended the same way. We were reprimanded and lectured on how to avoid precarious situations like that one, and the men who caused our terror and trauma were free to go their way.
Until the summer of 2020, I couldn’t tell these stories without some people thinking I was somehow to blame. I want to trust that the justice system pursues the guilty and protects the innocent. I want to hear an officer say, I got you, and believe them. I want to be at ease during a routine traffic stop. But I can’t. Because I know if I go out jogging in a hoodie at night, there’s a possibility I may not come back.
To put this horror in the words of professor, thought leader, and minister Michael Eric Dyson,
LET IT ALL OUT
We don’t have to share an exact experience for me to know you’ve probably been bruised and battered, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
I got you. If there’s something you need to get off your chest, let it out. Imagine I’m right there with you, listening, not judging a word you say. Take your time; I’m in no rush.
And when you’re ready, let’s give it to God.
I come to You broken. I’ve got wounds and scars
no one but You can see. Heal me, Lord. Restore me. Bring people into my life who will comfort me — people I can trust, people who’ve got me. No matter what I’ve seen before, and no matter what lies ahead, I want to give it all to You.
Maybe you’ve been so beaten down, you’d rather just throw your hands up and walk away. You can’t see a path forward, so you’re looking for a way out. It could be a new community. It could be a new town. It could be a new church. Or maybe you aren’t looking to go somewhere else. You retreat into yourself instead. Injustice has hit you so hard that you internalize it. You try to drown it in distraction. You look to keep yourself and your family safe and let the world do its own thing.
If that’s where you are, I feel you. But at some point, you need to come to terms with your expectations. Nothing in life is going to be everything you hoped it would be. Everything is broken, everything is tainted, even justice — especially justice. You shouldn’t expect it to be otherwise, even if you’ve gotten it worse than other people.
You can want it to be better, yes. You can get on your knees and pray that justice is served. Amen. You can get up and start praying with your feet to work toward a better future. Amen, Amen. But what you can’t do is lose hope.
- No matter what, we must not lose hope.
Excerpted with permission from We Go On by John Onwuchekwa, copyright John Onwuchekwa.
- The quote from Michael Eric Dyson was excerpted from his book Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America, published by St. Martin’s Press, p. 2.
* * *
Are you suffering injustice? Are you losing hope? Don’t lose hope! It may be Saturday, but Sunday’s comin’. Let your light shine in this sin-darkened world and let’s keep our eyes on Jesus who knows injustice intimately. God the Father will right every wrong!~ Devotionals Daily