God thrusts his prophets into battles, not because the people think they are ready, but because God is ready to use them as His warriors. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was just such a man in 1955, when he became the head of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
As the bus boycott continued into its second month, King received 30 to 40 death threat phone calls per day. On January 27, 1956, King received a midnight phone call threatening his life. He hung up without speaking. Unlike the other calls which he shrugged off, this one devastated him. He went into the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, and sat down at the table.
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, 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 think 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.
(Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr., Beacon Press, Reprint Edition, 2010)
Three days later, King’s house was bombed and his family nearly killed.
“Strangely enough, I accepted the word of the bombing calmly. My religious experience a few nights before had given me the strength to face it.”
I was immediately driven home… As I walked toward the front porch, I realized that many people were armed. Nonviolent resistance was on the verge of being transformed into violence. (Stride Toward Freedom)
(Continued in Part 8)