When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.
Do you know that old hymn “It is well with my soul”? It’s one of my favorites. I love everything about it…the responsiveness and harmonies in the chorus, the building melody, and of course the hope and promise in the lyrics. But most of all I love the story behind the song. Horatio Spafford wrote these words while mourning the loss of his four daughters, killed at sea. This tragedy was one of many Spafford suffered, including the death of his only son several years before, and the loss of his business to the Chicago fires. And yet, in his grief and sorrow he was able to say “it is well with my soul.” Oh how I aspire to affirm these words and posses the faithfulness of Mr. Spafford.
Last Sunday our amazing praise band sang this song and by the second line a giant lump had formed in my throat preventing me from doing more than mouth the words. Then the tears began to pool until they flowed over my lashes and down my cheeks. I wept for the beauty of the song. I cried because of the promise of the words. But more than anything, my heart broke because I so desperately wanted to say those words and believe they were true. To trust in my Father so deeply that even when I’m in the middle of a raging storm I can be confident that He will whisper peace to my soul. But the tears came because I knew all that I was lacking.
It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. Stress, overwhelming responsibility, lack of sleep, lack of focus…lack of faith. I have felt like the “Jordan above me” was sweeping me into its current. And I most definitely have not felt like all is well in my soul.
It is hard to face this part of myself. This part that lacks faith and falls short. That doubts and mistrusts and turns away. That focuses on the unfavorable and overlooks the blessings. That sees adversity without opportunity and cries out “when?” and “why?” instead of “I can wait” and “I put my trust in You.” In the midst of horrible tragedy and loss Horatio Spafford was able to have peace in his soul, but I have a rough week at work or struggle with my kids and I start to fracture.
Patience, trust, faith. These are the things I try to teach my children, they are prayers I lift up for friends who are struggling, encouragement I pass on to colleagues, words I share with all of you who read this blog. Yet so often I forget them for myself.
But our God…He knew I would. He is so good and merciful; He caters for my lack of faith and meets me where I am. The living word says, “…there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:21-24, TLB).
His loving-kindness begins afresh each day. Can we just sit together a moment to soak up the warmth of that promise?
He doesn’t just love me; He doesn’t just forgive me. But He is kind and gentle with me. No yelling, no losing His patience, rolling His eyes or sighing heavily and muttering under His breath, “you’d think you would have gotten this figured out by now.” Instead His loving-kindness is there, refreshed and renewed every day. Which means I get a fresh start every day. We all get a fresh start every day.
Every. Single. Day.
Yesterday my soul was weary. My faith wavered. My trials consumed my thoughts. The river rolled over me and I struggled to keep my head above.
But today? Today is a new day and His gentle, loving kindness is pure and bright and fresh. It glows like a rising sun and I have another chance to bask in its warmth. To let it wash over me and straight into my soul. Another chance to choose trust, patience, and faith instead of doubt, worry and fear. To choose to say: it is well, it is well with my soul.