So. Where were we?
Ah yes. The beautiful, classic hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”. A favorite of mine. Which is saying something, because I love a lot of the old hymns. But there’s something so wonderfully singable about this one.
The story of the song is probably nearly as well-known as the song itself, but just in case you’re not familiar… The song was written by an American named Horatio Gates Spafford, in 1873. Spafford’s wife and four daughters had been on a ship crossing the Atlantic to Europe, when the ship collided with another, and sank. All four of their daughters died. And when Spafford traveled to meet his wife, he wrote the hymn as his ship traveled the same area where his daughters had been lost.
It’s a beautiful song of praise, in and of itself, but having an idea of what Spafford was going through at the time makes it even more poetic and sincere. There is no praise like that given when one has good reason not to praise.
I thought about this song recently, while listening to the words of a father who lost his daughter in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The quote was from very soon after that tragedy, and his words were full of trust and peace in the Lord. And I started to wonder how he is now. How he was a month, six months, a year after his little daughter was senselessly murdered.
I know that sense of peace in times of pain (albeit nothing like that father suffered). And I also know that it doesn’t last. Or a better way of putting it, is that it tends to waver. Faith can be very strong in the early moments or days, but then as the pain or the trial continues, sometimes our faith weakens. It is well with my soul, but only until it’s not anymore.
I’ve mentioned my friend Lauren, whose grown daughter Kelley recently suffered a brain aneurysm. That was three weeks ago. Kelley is alive, and expected to be out of ICU in the next day or so. After that will come days or weeks or months of therapy as Kelley relearns what she used to know: speaking, eating, walking, writing… And slowly but surely, Kelley’s family will see her progressing. And there’s no way to predict how long it will take or if there are things she’ll never be able to master again.
Kelley’s husband and kids, and her mother Lauren, and all those who love Kelley, are in for a long haul. Every email update I’ve received tells me that it is well with their souls. But are there times, maybe in the middle of the night, when fear or pain seems bigger? Well, let’s just say I can’t be the only one who is weaker when I’m tired or hungry or confused.
The good news is, those are just emotions. They rise and fall, affected by an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese or a fragment of underdone potato. (A thousand points if you can name that quote!)
But God’s peace ~ that goes deeper than just emotion. You can hurt, and wonder why, and still know that He is God. And if you know that, then truly, all is well.