Is there a Balm in Gilead?
The unbearable pain of Jeremiah rises to the surface in this section. His spiritual agony was triggered by the revelation of Judah’s impending destruction, national corruption, complete desolation, and ruthless deportation.
A. Impending Destruction (8:18–9:1).
Jeremiah experienced a sorrow beyond healing because of the revelations of future judgment. He seemed to hear a dialogue between the future captives and God. The former questioned why God, if he really lived in Zion, would permit the city to fall. The Lord responded by pointing to the chief cause, viz., the idols by which they had “provoked” him to wrath. The future exiles responded with a complaint of unfairness. They felt that they were continuing to suffer even after the harvest of judgment was past (8:18–20).
The despair of the people caused Jeremiah to despair. The wound of Zion was deep. No medicine (balm) or physician could heal her. Jeremiah wished that he could produce an inexhaustible supply of tears so that he might lament the inevitable doom of his people (8:21–9:1).
of them when he writes, “Is there a balm in Gilead?”
This is a lament over Israel. She had gone away from
God. She had passed up every opportunity to repent and to
turn from their sins. Now only the judgment of God awaited
her. It is in this context that Jeremiah laments over the
condition of God’s people.
It should also be noted that Gilead was famous as a place
of healing. In this mountainous region east of the Jordan
River there grew a certain kind of tree from which they
extracted an oil that was famous for its soothing and healing
qualities. So, Gilead became synonymous with healing. It
was to that day what the Mayo Clinic or M.D. Anderson
Hospital are to us. If there was no healing there, then there
was no hope.
There is an obvious answer to Jeremiah’s questions, “Is
there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” “
Yes! Yes there is a balm in Gilead. Yes, there is a physician
there.” The problem was not the lack of healing and help;
the problem was the lack of application.
In days of sorrow and sadness and loss like this, we are
apt also to have these same feelings of hopelessness and
despair. We are apt to cry out with Jeremiah, “Is there no
balm in Gilead? Is there no one to help us in this time of
sorrow?” And the answer comes back from the word of
God, “Yes, yes even in a time of sorrow and heartache, there
is hope and healing that God can bring.”
Let me suggest six healing helps God gives to us. They
• The Healing Balm of Thanks
• The Healing Balm of Talk
• The Healing Balm of Tears
• The Healing Balm of Time
• The Healing Balm of Touch
• The Healing Balm of Trust
God brings help and healing when His people turn to Him.
First, thanksgiving is a healing balm. To keep an attitude of gratitude helps. As you relive the
memories of your loved one, focus more on what you had
than what you have lost and it will help you through the
It is amazingly simple and simply amazing that when we develop an attitude of grastitude – God uses it. God blesses you when you are thankful and you bless God in being thankful.
Open Your Heart
Second, talk is a healing balm. Find someone — it need
not be a professional — with whom you can share your
feelings. It may be your pastor or just be a friend; as long
as it is someone in whom you have confidence, someone
you trust, someone who will understand and who is wise.
Catherine Marshall, after the death of her husband, said
she finally saw that “tightly closed hands are not in a position
to receive anything — not even comfort. It matters not
whether they are hands clenched in rebellion or just piteously
trying to clutch the past.
“We must open our hands and our hearts to receive help
that is available. We can’t receive unless we’re willing to
share, willing to open our hands and hearts to others.”
Its OK To Cry
Third, tears are a healing balm. Moreover, it is okay. Tears are a legitimate expression
of the emotion of grief. If it is okay to laugh when you are
happy, then it is okay to cry when you’re sad.
· John 11:25-27 – of course, often this is referred to as the shortest verse in the Bible. The tears of Jesus reveal His feelings for others. We are never more like Jesus than when we seek to bring comfort and hope to those who need the Lord through loss, through illness, even through sin.
Fourth, time is a healing balm. To lose a loved one is much like recovering from surgery or the healing of a broken
bone. Healing does come in time. However, the deeper the
wound or the more serious the break, the longer it takes.
Moreover, the scar will remain forever.
Fifth, touch is a healing balm, i.e., reaching out to
others in friendship and service. When you have lost a loved
one the temptation is to slip into self-pity, to become
introspective, to become antisocial. Nevertheless, fight that
Above all, avoid being alone on the actual holiday if
possible. When your grief is deep and very painful, you
may want to avoid others. Sitting alone during the holidays
makes you even more miserable. Reach out and touch
someone. It will help.
Finally, trust is a healing balm. Turning to God and putting your faith in him is the greatest help of all.
Communicating with him will bring a source of peace and
strength that you cannot find in any other way.