Troubled on Every Side, Yet Not Distressed

By Keron Blair

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.
2 Corinthians 4:8

There are moments in human history when the world seems to turn upside down. When the walls break down, the hinges fail and the roof simply cannot hold. Crisis sets in and all we see around us is trouble and turbulence. I believe we are living in such a moment now, and we are troubled, perplexed and cast down.

In the last few months we have witnessed the uprising of everyday people in defiance of tyranny and unjust governments. We have watched in awe as people refused to leave the streets, convinced it was time for freedom. Truly the spirit of liberty has been unleashed and people the world over are drinking from the fountain of possibility that fuels and sustains our longing for freedom and justice.

Through these movements, steeped in the human desire for freedom, democracy, and recognition, we have witnessed the world becoming a better version of itself. While we are deeply moved and inspired by what our brothers and sisters in Egypt and Tunisia have fought for and won, we are troubled, perplexed and cast down because in these “yet to be United States of America” we have the horror of witnessing the mangling and brutal truncation of democracy and the silencing of the voices of everyday people.

Indeed this is troubling and perplexing, because Jesus was an everyday person and my relationship to him calls me to always be in relationship to everyday people and to stand on the side of everyday people as they demand recognition and respect….

In America we value democracy. We value decent wages. We value everyone having a seat at the table. In America, the way out of this crisis is dialogue and meaningful partnership and collaboration. In America when hundreds of thousands of people show up to protest a course of action, elected officials should not ignore them but rather enter into dialogue with them. We have not always been that nation, and I am cast down and troubled because some politicians want to take us back to the America of yesteryear, an America in which working people had no voice. And if they win, America stands to lose her very soul. Yes! There is trouble on every side.

Yet, though I am troubled, I am not distressed. I am not distressed because in a time when people could be feeling defeated I have witnessed the greatest movements for democracy in my lifetime. In early March, 30,000 people showed up at the State Capitol in Indianapolis to demand that their elected officials respect their rights. More than 100,000 people turned out in Madison – not once but twice.

I am inspired by the work of folks in Egypt. I am troubled but not distressed, because trouble, no matter how disruptive, does not always last.

Though I am perplexed, I will not despair, because we are a people of hope. The God of History and the God of Biblical Witness stands firmly with people longing for a voice and for freedom. Whatever victory is won today against democracy and worker rights will not last because, as God has done in the past, God will energize the people to keep fighting and struggling. I am perplexed but not in despair, because God is on our side.

And though we might be cast down, we are not destroyed, because our movement is motivated and sustained by the knowledge that we will triumph if we remain steadfast. People standing up to demand their rights can change the course of history.

I am cast down but not destroyed, because I believe in the promise of resurrection. There are times when we suffer the pain of Friday’s crucifixion and the horror of Saturday’s silence and stillness, but Sunday will come with its promise of renewal and resurrection when the stone that blocks us will be rolled away and that which would claim victory over us will be no more.

Until recently, Keron Blair was the Student Programs Coordinator for Interfaith Worker Justice. We reprint a portion of his faith reflection written for the 2011 Labor in the Pulpit initiative organized by Interfaith Worker Justice and Arise Chicago.

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