Tag Archives: comfort

It Is Well

“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.” ~Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

Horatio G. Spafford 1828-1888I grew up as a well-loved kid in the 70s and 80s, the second child, and only daughter, of a Methodist evangelist and a homemaker. (Props here to my most awesome parents, John and Betty Jo!  Love you!) Most of my memories of childhood are bookended by family, love, friends, church and Jesus. Throw in a little sibling rivalry and some summer camp, too.  In the midst of all of that, music has impacted me a great deal throughout my life—basically, everything makes me think of a song.  Just ask my kids.

I remember standing in church as a child and singing those good old Methodist hymns that, for the most part, made no sense to me whatever.  When we weren’t singing hymns in church, my older brother and I were sitting in the pew cutting up, laughing at the blue-haired old ladies and getting the death dagger stare from my mom as my dad was in the pulpit. Oh, how my brother did enjoy making me laugh in church.  He was good at it too.

Those were also the early days of what we now call “contemporary Christian music”. My mom had her shoebox of cassettes that she kept in the car filled with artists like Keith Green, Dallas Holm, Amy Grant and Andre Crouch. Y’all remember cassette tapes, right? Of course, at the time, I was trying to get her to listen to the radio in the car so I could sing along with Debby Boone. I did not have the wide musical appreciation that I have now.  Let’s face it, I was just a kid, after all.

As an adult, though, I have a great love of the old hymns.  In fact, not only do I love them, but I take great comfort in them.  What I love even more, is knowing the stories behind some of them and the joy and pain that the composers brought to those beautifully written lyrics and music. There are so many wonderful hymns, but my most favorite hymn of all time is It Is Well With My Soul. (Second favorite would be How Great Thou Art.)

It Is Well With My Soul was written by a man named Horatio G. Spafford in 1873. He and his wife, Anna lived a fairly well-to-do life in Chicago with their five children, and they were very generous to many causes with their time and their money, thanks to Spafford’s successful law practice. But in 1870, their only son died of scarlet fever.  I can only imagine their devastation, yet they pressed on. In 1871, there was the Great Chicago Fire, which left the Spaffords their home, but little else.  They had invested much of their wealth in real estate and most of their holdings had been destroyed.  They pressed on and ministered to those in Chicago who had been left hungry, homeless, sick and injured as a result of the fire.

Fast forward two years to 1873 and the Spaffords were in need of some time away. They had planned a trip to Europe and intended to meet up with the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody at a revival he was holding in England.  Spafford had some loose ends to tie up before he could get away, but he decided to send his wife, Anna, and their four daughters on ahead on a steamer ship heading to Europe. He planned to follow soon after.  Tragically, while crossing, the ship that carried Anna Spafford and her daughters was struck by a British iron sailing ship.  The Spafford’s ship sank in a matter of 12 minutes in the Atlantic Ocean.  Anna Spafford was one of the few survivors. However, all four of their daughters were lost. When she was taken to safety, Anna sent a telegram to her husband, which said, “Saved alone.  What shall I do…” Of course, Horatio left right away to go meet his grief stricken wife and bring her home.  It was while sailing across the Atlantic on the way to meet his wife that Horatio Spafford penned the words to the now famous hymn It Is Well With My Soul. It has even been said that it was written even as he passed over the place where his daughters had drowned.  And yet, he pressed on, his faith intact.

Anna and Horatio Spafford eventually went on to have three more children, two girls and  another boy.  Sadly, the little boy died as a small child just as his older brother had, of scarlet fever.  But they pressed on.  They left America and settled in Jerusalem where they helped the poor and the needy, the sick and the homeless.  They existed to show the love of Christ to everyone…even in the midst of their own personal profound tragedy…until their deaths.

Is it well?  Is it well when the world seems to be going crazy?  Is it well when you feel isolated and discouraged?  Is it well when you lose your job, your home, your health, your children, your security? Even your very life? Can I truly say, “It is well.”? Do I choose to say, “It is well.”?

Sometimes I find this refrain swirling around in my head and my heart.  …It is well.  With my soul.  It is well.  It is well.  With my soul…  Especially at times when things don’t seem so well.

I find comfort in Spafford’s words.  I find them all the more comforting knowing the anguish and the staunch faith behind them. I pray that in the midst of our own personal trials we all can sing “It is well with my soul”, cling to our faith and press on, and focus on loving others and God’s love for us, as Horatio and Anna Spafford did.

It Is Well With My Soul

Horatio G. Spafford 1828-1888

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
(refrain)

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(refrain)

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

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Peace, be still.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.  ~Kurt Vonnegut

This has always been one of my favorite quotes. I prefer laughing to crying, like our friend Kurt Vonnegut.  Crying is just so messy, but somehow I cannot help myself at times. I am the person crying at the Hallmark commercials, all the Lifetime movies, Disney movies and Parenthood episodes. Remember those Folgers coffee commercials where the guy is coming home from the army or some unknown far off place, and he brews some coffee to wake up and surprise his mama?  Yeah, that makes me cry too.  And I cry when the National Anthem is sung. FACT: I am a crier. And I have even been known to lapse into the full on “ugly cry”.  Not pretty, my friends, not. at. all.

I woke up today to  all the bad news on the TV.  Such a bummer.  I am so weary of all the crazy in the world…potential government shut down, nuclear reactors about to blow sky high in Japan, some 8 year old kid pepper-sprayed by the Po-Po at his own school, earthquakes and tsunamis, bank robberies and murders, unemployment and inflation.  All the death and destruction of this world proves to be overwhelming to me at times.  And I just feel myself wanting to shut down. And cry.

SIDEBAR: The only real bright spot on Good Morning America this morning seemed to be some commentary on Dancing With the Stars, which we very much enjoy at our house.  Apparently, Wendy “How YOU doin’?” Williams was given her walking papers last night.  Her comment was “if DWTS were a personality contest, I would have won it hands down”.  How YOU doin’? I would have to agree.  I enjoy her immensely. The best dancer though?  Um, no. My personal faves are Kirstie Alley, Ralph “Daniel-san” Macchio , and Hines Ward.

Anyway.

After the morning news, and as Emma and I were rushing out the door to school, I received news that a dear lady, a life-long  friend of my husband’s family and essentially a family member, passed away overnight.  It was not unexpected. It frees her from her painful earthly body.  And though I do not mourn as one without hope, it just has made me feel so truly sad today. SIGH.

I hate to be such a downer, but I’m just being real today. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to asking at times, “God, where are you in all of this??”  But I know the answer.  He is here.  He is merciful. He is in our midst and only He is our comfort and our confidence.  He tells us to be strong and courageous.  He tells us we can trust Him.  He tells us we can cast our cares on Him.  He tells us we can find rest and peace in Him. And that is what I must do in the times when the world seems to be going crazy…and me along with it!  If you listen, you can hear Him saying to us, as He said to the sea, “Peace, be still.”

Today I choose to focus on the life I have and my family and the precious relationships God has brought into my life.  I choose to know the peace of God that passes all understanding and rest in His promises.

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”          1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NIV)

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:39-41 (KJV)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

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