Truth 2: We can lean on the Lord’s promise that He is always with us to get us through the difficult trials of life.
It was the beginning of King’s rise as a Civil Rights leader. He had been thrust into his place in destiny when he emerged as the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was now several months into this boycott that King and others had expected to only last a few days. King was weary. Since the boycott had begun, he had been receiving a steady flow of death threats over the phone and that night he had received a particularly nasty call. And to be quite honest, he was afraid. King, unable to go back to sleep after the call, sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee. As he sat at the table and prayed, the Lord came to King and reassured him that He would be with him always. And King hung onto this promise for the rest of the life. King recounts this moment in his book “Stride Toward Freedom.”
“I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud.
“The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. “I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.
“At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: ‘Stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”
In an essay entitled “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Kitchen Table,” Catholic Priest Father John Dear writes of how King would continue to hold on to this moment at some of his most difficult times in life.
Three days later a bomb blasted his house and his family escaped harm by a hairsbreadth. “Strangely enough,” King later wrote, “I accepted the word of the bombing calmly. My religious experience a few nights before had given me the strength to face it.”
Exactly one year later, King awoke to find twelve sticks of dynamite on his front porch; the fuse had smoldered out. That morning he thanked God for the strength he had received one year earlier to carry out the struggle for justice, even in the face of ongoing danger. “You gave me a vision in the kitchen of my house,” King prayed, “and I am thankful for it….So I am not afraid of anybody this morning. Tell Montgomery they can keep shooting and I’m going to stand up to them. Tell Montgomery they can keep bombing and I’m going to stand up to them. If I had to die tomorrow morning, I would die happy because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I’ve seen the promised land and it’s going to be here in Montgomery.”
On April 3. 1968, the night before he was assassinated, King repeated the same claim of having seen the mountain top and the promised land. The strength he found to witness for justice and peace had its roots in that midnight experience of God at his kitchen table years before.
Most of us will not go through the same type of trials Dr. King faced, but we certainly will all face hardships of some sort. From the loss of loved ones to a serious medical diagnosis to the loss of a job to the day to day struggles we call life, we all face difficulties. And whether you have had an intense encounter of peace with the Divine as King did or not, the Lord speaks these same words of reassurance to all of us through His word. Hebrews 13:5b-6 says:
(5) …God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
(6) So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Psalms 16:9-11 give us more assurance, stating,
(9) Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure
(10) because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will let your faithful one see
(11) You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your
presence; with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
And Jesus Himself, after calling the disciples to the Great Commission, gives these final words before ascending to Heaven, “And surely I am with you always, to the very ends of the age.”
Dr. King held onto a promise that he was given in a very intimate experience with the Lord. It is a promise that we can all hold onto because the Lord gives us all the same promise in scripture. The Lord is with us always! And in our times of great trouble, it is a truth that we must never forget.