Womanist theologian Diana L. Hayes describes how Black women in her life rely on God to help carry their suffering. She draws on her upbringing in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, in which seemingly impossible difficulties are sustained with God’s help:
The mothers of the black church, those elderly women who have worked hard all of their lives, often with so little reward, have a way of saying, whenever something goes wrong or someone is burdened more than they feel they can bear, “You just have to ‘let go and let God.’” As a child, I would look at these strong black women who I knew had been through so much in their lives, and who were still going through difficult times, and wonder what they meant. . . .
They had experienced both the joys and the sorrows that human life has to bring. Yet, they could, when necessary, simply “let go and let God.”
They could “let go” of the pain of losing a child through illness or misfortune or of watching another child or their husband slowly give up hope of getting a meaningful job, of having something tangible to produce at day’s end. They could “let go” of the racism that confronted them at every turn. . . . They could “let God” carry those sorrows for a while. God did not take over the pain, the frustration, or the anger—it was still there—but they could rest their burden with the Lord for just a little while until they found the strength to take it up and carry it again. Some would say they were passive. . . . But they would be wrong.
Through her own suffering, Hayes has come to understand what the mothers of the Black church meant by “let go and let God”:
Today, as I battle with my own fears and doubts, my own frustrations (about who I am and where I am going) and yearnings for a life free from pain, free from prejudice and discrimination, free from the constant struggle to survive and simply be me, I have come to realize that there are times when life becomes infinitely more tolerable if the burden is shared, with human friends, yes, but even more important, shared with a God who loves and watches over me like a “mother hen brooding over her chicks” [Luke 13:34]. It is that same God who has said, “Behold, while you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you and I named you [Jeremiah 1:5]. How could I love you less now?”
To “let go and let God” is to put yourself into the hands of God, even for just a little while, until the challenges of life are more bearable. . . . It is not a form of “otherworldly” escape, for the pain, the anger, the fears, the frustrations are always, sadly, a part of life, not because God wants it so, but because of our own human failure to make it different.
Diana L. Hayes, No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2016), 51, 52, 53.
Explore Further. . .
Read Barbara Holmes on crisis contemplation.
Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 2, Untitled 3, Untitled 9 (details), 2022, photographs, Colorado, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: The hollow feeling when loved ones are no longer present, like holes in a log. The pain of a thorn piercing skin. This tree has suffered and witnessed suffering. We too have suffered and witness suffering.
Story from Our Community:
My story is simple and repeated a million times over. As a chronic, albeit recovered, alcoholic, I have been given an undeserved gift of a second lifetime. Was it me? No. Did I participate in the process of redemption? Yes. Woven into the fabric of Fr. Rohr’s teaching is the truth that I, and everyone else, is a co-Creator with God. This realization has, in the midst of great personal suffering, given me the freedom to live a life of relative peace and serenity. —William L.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.