Column – What the world needs now

Published 4:20 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

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Jeremiah 8:22 says: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

In the work of ordained congregational ministry, I often find myself asking, “What is needed?” What do the people in my congregation need? The city of Suffolk? The children? Those living in poverty? Those being oppressed and excluded? God’s world? 

All sorts of answers can come to me through prayer, conversation, and research. People need to be uplifted, comforted, a meal, more books, better pay, relief, and traffic control. The earth needs cleaner air, water, and less debris. You get the picture.  

Just before beginning to write, I had the song “What the World Needs Now is Love,” from way back in 1965, pop into my mind. You know the song, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing there’s not enough of.” Written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach and a hit for Jackie DeShannon, it’s timeless. 

The song itself is timeless, and the message will always be true. Yet, I like to get specific sometimes. How does the world need love to be given or shown? Is it in the meal for the hungry, or a myriad of other ways, like those mentioned above? Yes, of course it is. There are specific things we can do to show love for others, especially strangers. 

Yet, I keep coming back to a theme that I see repeated in conversations I’ve had, studies I’ve read and events I’ve participated in. The world, and every part of it, needs healing. That includes you and me. 

This isn’t new. As scripture tells us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Yet, it seems we are too unwilling to admit it or take part in the process. We have this false perception of independence and individualism that mostly leaves us alone, wishing deep down that we were a part of something. Because being a part of something, a community or cause, heals us in ways we didn’t know we needed to be. It gives us hope and connection. Whether it be the promise of working towards something better or the healing touch of holding another’s hand. We need that balm. As the traditional African-American spiritual song, ”There is a Balm in Gilead” tells us, “As there is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole, There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul, Sometimes I feel discouraged, And deep I feel the pain, In prayers the holy spirit, Revives my soul again.”

Dear neighbors, I believe there is a resource near you that can provide healing in ways that no other thing can. It can give you the connections of community, friendships, food, music, meditation, quiet time, fun times, a common cause and Grace beyond any bounds. That resource is the local church. 

Yes, not all churches are healing. Not all Christians will welcome you. Yet, near you, there are those that will. 

Find them, and give yourself time together, as any prescription takes time to fully work. 

The world needs you and your healing heart.


The Rev. Jason Stump is pastor of Oakland Christian United Church of Christ in Suffolk. He can be reached at