Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Is It Well With My Soul?

Without a doubt, can I truly say, “It is well with my soul?” 

Last week in my blog post, I linked the song “It Is Well With My Soul” sung by Chris Rice. The powerful words of this old hymn tend to inspire me, but do I believe what I'm saying? Is it really okay with my soul if I lost everything, EVERYTHING—parents, husband, children, grandchildren, business, house, job? What if someone threatened to put me to death unless I recanted my belief in Jesus? How would I respond? Would I be able to gallantly sing this song? 

I recently asked myself those questions after an early morning phone call. A security company called our home telling my husband and me that our son’s house alarm was going off. My son, his wife, and their two children live in the home. The company couldn’t get an answer from either of their phones, so they called us. My mind scattered into a thousand possibilities. Did someone enter their home to burglarize and kill? Did carbon monoxide infiltrate their home and cause death. My racing mind landed in several scenarios while my body numbed and my stomach lurched. 

Praise God it turned out to be a false alarm, a mix-up with their phones. Thank you, Jesus, that my family is alive and well! And then I cried as questions rushed my mind. What if all was not well? Would I allow fear to take over?

Without a doubt, could I truly say, “It is well with my soul?” 

Consider the life of the one who penned the beautiful hymn—Horatio Spafford. This man and his wife encountered tremendous tragedies. In 1871 they lost their son to pneumonia. That same year they lost much of their business during the great fire in Chicago. Eventually they rebuilt the business.

Several years later, Horatio and his wife Anna planned a trip to Europe. An unexpected business glitch delayed Horatio’s travels, but he sent Anna and their four daughters on the scheduled ocean liner, promising to be reunited with them as soon as possible. 

Four days into the journey, the ocean liner collided with another ship. In less than fifteen minutes, 226 passengers, including the four Spafford girls, lost their lives as it sunk. A sailor, rowing a small boat near the accident area, discovered Anna floating on wreckage. He pulled her into his boat where they waited to be picked up by a larger vessel. 

Nine days later they landed in Wales. Anna immediately wired her husband and told him the horrible news. Childless—now the remaining four of their children dead. Unimaginable pain.

Horatio immediately booked passage on the next available ship. When passing over the area where his daughters met death, inspiration deep within his soul found its way onto paper.

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. 

How could he declare it is well with his soul? Who or what strengthened him to stand strong within a storm of sorrow? 

If you are familiar with church, the Sunday School answer is Jesus. And yes, the correct response is Jesus. But simply knowing the answer is not enough. Knowing Jesus personally gives affirmation of the source of strength and peace.

Only Jesus takes us through tragedy.

          Only Jesus strengthens. 

                    Only Jesus grants peace.

Horatio and Anna knew Jesus! They understood His strength and they understood His sufferings. They believed He suffered and died for them so that they could live eternally forever with Him.

Jesus encountered the cross for the joy set before Him, the joy of eternal life with the Heavenly Father, the joy for all who believe in Him as Savior (Hebrews 12:2). Even as He lived on earth, He gazed at the world through eternal eyes. Because of their belief in Jesus, Horatio and Anna regarded worldly issues with eyes turned toward eternity. 

A pastor who also survived the ocean liner disaster later recalled something Anna said about her personal catastrophe. “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why,” she stated with conviction. 

Horatio and Anna envisioned hope and a future with eternity's eyes. They believed in God’s promises. I believe those promises of God too—He has been good to me. He gives me courage to gaze toward eternity rather than dwelling on the situations around me. Can you look at your circumstances with eternal eyes? 

Without a doubt, can you truly say, “It is well with my soul?”

PS. God blessed Anna and Horatio with three more children, but one died at age four with pneumonia. Two of the children survived their parents. The Spaffords moved to Jerusalem in 1881. It is there that Horatio died and is buried.

Bless the Lord, the God of Israel, who exists from everlasting ages past—and on into everlasting eternity ahead. Amen and amen! Psalm 41:13 (NIV)

And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Mark 9:23-24 (NASB)

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4 NIV

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far
more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB)

The Lord bless you, and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance on you,

And give you peace.’ Numbers 6:24-26 (NASB)

"It Is Well With My Soul" - Audrey Assad

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