Last Wednesday I heard a sermon about the importance of persistence. The preacher used the example of Gideon and his army to show how even when we are exhausted we must be persistent in our pursuit. While I was sitting in the pew trying to glean as much as I possibly could from this mid-day, mid-week sermon I couldn't help but think of Ferguson. It has now been 51 days since officer Darren Wilson executed Michael Brown, yet he is still a free person. Justice has been delayed in Ferguson, but the people have kept the pursuit going. A grand jury now has until January 2015 to decide whether to indict officer Wilson or not. Meanwhile, in the streets of Ferguson, the community continues to march; they continue to put pressure on city council members and other public officials; they continue to organize and strategize; despite the odds they – persist.

I have learned a lot in the past month and a half and I hope the rest of my generation has also learned a similar lesson. The fight for justice is not an easy fight. In this day and age where results come almost instantaneously one thing that never comes overnight is justice. What I heard in the sermon is true, "anything worth accomplishing happens over time and anything that comes quick does not last long." Any change that comes will take a sustained movement.

We have had several victories because of sustained movements like that of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, but the war against Black bodies in this nation wages on and is far from over. For 400 years our humanity has been denied, our dignity stripped, our very existence vilified, all while our culture is appropriated, repackaged and sold to the rest of the world. What would justice really even look like for Black people here in America?

Each generation is given a new fight. Another thing the preacher reminded the congregation of is that, "it is one thing for things to change or for things to get better, but it is another thing to be totally free. There is nothing like being totally liberated." Indeed things have changed since the days of chattel slavery. But we cannot afford to be lulled into a state of complacency after each victory, no matter how significant they are. We must persist.

On the outside one might think that an indictment of officer Darren Wilson would bring justice to the people of Ferguson and to the family of Michael Brown. That ship has long sailed. While it would be a major step in the right direction, the past two months have revealed the ugly reality in which the Black community in Ferguson is forced to live in.

"Problems persist because we knock them down but we don't finish the job."

The arrest and indictment of officer Wilson would be a knock down for sure but what would it take to score a knockout? We must get to the source of the problem and uproot it. The youth-led movements in Ferguson are doing exactly that by being persistent in their pursuit for justice and by not allowing themselves to be silenced by an intimidating and increasingly inept police force. They have played an integral role in exposing the over-policing that occurs in every community of color around the nation and the effects of militarizing police forces.

The cries of despair and shouts of distress from Ferguson still resonate across this country. Law enforcement continues to respond violently to peaceful protests. Distrust continues to grow between the Ferguson Police Department and the community. Michael Brown's memorial was even burned to ashes. Yet, while faint and exhausted, the people of Ferguson persist. They have a job to finish. In fact, we all have a job to finish and we all must play a role in the pursuit for justice.

Whenever God puts a message into my spirit and I know that it is from Him, I get so excited to share in hopes that someone else may also be helped. For this reason, I find myself up at an unreasonable hour writing this message in hopes to minister to another brother/sister in Christ.

As a somewhat chronic worrier (unfortunately), I have developed the ill habit of worrying even when “life is good.” I don’t know which is worse, the actual act of worrying in anticipation of some catastrophic event that never happens or my disobedience since God clearly tells us to be anxious for nothing.
Phillipians 4:6-7 ESV
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Thankfully, since God is merciful, I have one less thing to worry about. I mostly just have to work on reassuring myself that God is not angry with me when I fall short. He just wants me to do better. I have to be confident that when I strive to follow Christ that He is my biggest supporter and is always for me. 

Nonetheless, within just these past few days, I have fallen short once again. I’ve been extremely uneasy. I went as far as “diagnosing” all possible causes (It must’ve been something I ate. Did I need more sleep?). As I lied awake frustrated from another restless night, I suddenly felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. It was regarding something that God revealed to me months ago. I began feeling uneasy about a friend and felt that God was leading me away from that person, yet I chose to (slightly) ignore it. How I went from knowing that I should distance myself to assuming that “distance” was up for interpretation, I’m still not sure. I do, however, remember wondering whether it was my thinking or God telling me to go. So, I somewhat listened and stopped hanging around that friend as much, though I didn’t quite let go in an attempt to avoid feelings of loneliness.

I didn’t see much harm coming from a friendship. The thing is that though I hate to admit it, satan is pretty clever and can sneak confusion into a situation if we are not consciously and consistently guarding our hearts. The second mistake I made was failing to believe that I am more than a conqueror through Christ who strengthens me (Romans 5: 35-39) and that it is never too late to make right of a wrong situation.

I am now confident that it was the Holy Spirit nudging me back then. The thing is, God knows all and sees all. He knew that I would be right where I am before I got here. He knows exactly what I can and cannot handle. Now, though to-date nothing tragic has happened as a result of that friendship, I have still had no peace regarding it. That’s a big deal to me.

It all began when I started ignoring the Holy Spirit. When you begin ignoring a spiritual tug from the Holy Spirit, your trouble starts manifesting itself in other ways that may not initially appear to be related. In my case, that manifestation was lack of peace, fear, and stress that seemingly came out of nowhere, but actually cultivated slowly over time. So today, I choose obedience.

Though trials are inevitable, there is a reason why God asks us to be obedient: one, I believe, is for our protection. I’m not sure if it’s human nature or just my nature, but sometimes I feel as though being obedient to God’s will automatically means that I’m sacrificing something/potentially missing out. I realize that oftentimes you do miss out when you obey God. You miss out on stress, heartache, and pain that God sees before you do. God is a shield for His children.
Psalms 3:3-4 ESV
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
While I am far from a spiritual authority, I’d like to share a piece of advice that may help someone: The next time you consider hanging on to something that God told you to let go of or you begin experiencing feelings of regret about letting something go, remember that God never withholds any GOOD thing from those who are obedient and trust in Him.
Psalms 84:11-12 ESV
"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!"

Please Note: This is not to say that because you are currently frustrated in a situation that it is time for you to just “drop” it. Letting go because it seems easier to handle versus letting go because God told you to are two different scenarios. Ask God for guidance, read His Word, and stay on watch for your answer. God Bless!

Lonna Edwards is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studies Electrical and Computer Engineering. 
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