When we cry to God, does He hear? Does He see our suffering?
Cries and Tears: To the God Who Hears and Sees
Olaudah Equiano was not alone in perceiving with faith eyes the hidden work of God. The oft invisible hand of God softly, yet firmly, left his compassionate fingerprints on the trusting hearts of millions of enslaved Africans including Quobna Cugoano.
Cugoano was born on the coast of present-day Ghana, in the Fante village of Agimaque. In 1770, at the age of 13, he was playing with other children, enjoying peace and tranquility and the amusement of catching wild birds, “when several great ruffians came upon us suddenly.”
Led away at gunpoint, they eventually came to a town where Cugoano saw several white people, “which made me afraid that they would eat me, according to our notion as children in the inland parts of the country.” He was conducted away to the ship after a three-day imprisonment in the baracoon—a euphemistic term for concentration camps where the kidnapped Africans were held without respect to gender, family, or tribal affiliation, until slavers came to buy their cargo.
“It was a most horrible scene; there was nothing to be heard but the rattling of chains, smacking of whips, and the groans and cries of our fellowmen.” Cugoano’s experience was anything but rare. Torment saturated the months-long experience from capture to importation. The process was physically and psychologically bewildering.
After briefly describing his external situation, Cugoano highlights his internal anguish.
“I was thus lost to my dear indulgent parents and relations, and they to me. All my help was cries and tears, and these could not avail; nor suffered long, till one succeeding woe, and dread, swelled up another.”
Jehovah Sabaoth: The Lord Almighty
He was not isolated in his agony.
“The cries of some, and the sight of their misery, may be seen and heard afar; but the deep sounding groans of thousands, and the great sadness of their misery and woe, under the heavy load of oppressions and calamities inflicted upon them, are such as can only be distinctly known to the ear of Jehovah Sabaoth.”
How did he, how did they, how do we maintain our souls when treated soullessly? Like Cugoano, we entrust ourselves to Jehovah Sabaoth: the Lord Almighty, the Lord of Hosts who rules over his universe with affectionate sovereignty. Like Hagar, the slave forced to bear her master’s child (Genesis 16:1-4), we commune with the God who hears our misery (Genesis 16:11). We pray to “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
We minister healing soul care to our spiritual friends suffering under unspiritual treatment by encouraging them to groan to God. We encourage such groaning by helping them to cling to biblical images of God: the Warrior God who spoke the universe into existence and still speaks powerfully today, the God with ears cupped to hear their cries, the God with eyes like the Hubble telescope to see their misery.
Join the Conversation
In our times of suffering, what images of God should fill our minds? How could you help your spiritual friends to see God as the Warrior God speaking powerfully today, the God with ears cupped to hear their cries, and the God with eyes like the Hubble telescope to see their misery?
Note: This series for Black History Month is excerpted from Beyond the Suffering:Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care. To learn more and to read a sample chapter visit Beyond the Suffering.