God of Our Weary Years: 2020
What can we say? 2020 has been quite a year. From illness and deaths due to Covid-19, to job losses, protests calling out racism, lockdowns and isolation, many feel angry, depressed and even bewildered. If you add on lack of physical presence of fellow believers in worship, this year might seem too much, leaving us with a weariness like no other.
Weariness is often described as “the reluctance to see or experience any more of something.” Something that Black America is well acquainted with, it gave rise to the phrase, “God of Our Weary Years.” This phrase comes from the third stanza of what’s often called, the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother in 1899, the hymn was birthed in a decade that saw some 1,111 lynchings of Black people. A perpetual threat such as lynching will produce words like those beginning the third stanza:
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
St. Paul encourages the people of Corinth and people today
In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul the Apostle shares the weariness he experienced while in Asia. He writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 about the situation which caused him to even despair of life. He writes,
“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again.”
While experiencing such a situation, Paul still holds on to the fact that God is a rescuer who never fails – even in the midst of death.
Upheld by faith
James Weldon Johnson seems to know what Paul knows, despite the weariness at the threat of death experienced by Black America. He knows that despite our weariness, God is a faithful rescuer to be called upon. The last part of the stanza reads:
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Our native land as Christians is within the Kingdom of God. When the world seems to tear at every ounce of vibrancy we have left, we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us remember that our help is in the name of the Lord. God does not fail, even in our weary years.
The Rev. Nicole Foster is a Doctor of Ministry Candidate at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and the founding minister and blogger/vlogger of The Hippie Theologian. She holds a Master of Divinity from Redeemer Theological Seminary and a B.A. in History from Southern Methodist University. She loves to hike, camp, make organic soap and be a beach bum as much as possible. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
- A Holy Quarantine: Spiritual Practices Amid Pandemic by Nicole Foster, an ECF Vital Practices blog, September 1, 2020
- A Time for Everything by Linda Buskirk, an ECF Vital Practices blog, March 17, 2020
- Braving the Wilderness: Lanterns to Light Our Way an ECF webinar presented by Callie Swanlund, June 22, 2020
- Prayer and Action In a Pandemic, by Yesenia (Jessie) Alejandro, Vestry Papers, September 2020