Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It is Well With My Soul

This past year has been challenging.  Several friends have lost loved ones, gotten divorced, lost jobs and had health problems.  I try not to get bogged down in the problems of other people, while still being there for my friends and supporting them however I can.  These past few months it has become increasingly difficult to remove myself from the pain of others.  The fact that I can empathize with others is both a blessing and a curse.  Empathy allows me to be a good friend, but it also makes me feel deeply the pain of others.  Couple that with some struggles of my own, and I can really feel weighed down.

As I often do when faced with a puzzling, questioning, nagging spirit, I go to my music to seek comfort. Most often, I listen to Contemporary Christian music because it speaks to me on a deep and spiritual level.  It is, in a way, an augmentation to the scripture, which I also read to find comfort and answers.

The past couple of days, however, I have been hearing snippets of old hymns, those cherished songs from my childhood, running through my head. One such hymn, called It is Well With My Soul, got stuck on a continuous loop inside my brain.

I had once heard a piece of information about the author of this song - Horatio Spafford, so I decided to read more about it today. It's a tragic story, really, about a man who suffered great loss. His four young daughters drowned when the ship they were aboard was struck by another ship and sank. His wife was aboard as well, but her life was spared. As he was aboard the next outbound ship, to meet his wife, he penned this wonderful hymn.

It is well with my soul. Such a simple phrase that means so very much. To me, as a Christian, it is a peace of knowing that no matter what life throws at me, my soul is well -- it is alive in Christ.

To some, Christianity may seem a fantasy or a crutch -- that having to reach out to something unseen and unproven for strength means that one is weak. I don't feel that way, though. It doesn't bother me that other people find their solace someplace else; I respect that. However, I find mine in my Savior, Jesus and I stand firm in that. I feel it is much more difficult to surrender fully to God for soul sustenance than  to rely on my own power. To me, it would be a greater hardship not to believe in something bigger than myself. If I believed that this ( life here on earth) were all there is, then I would truly lose hope.

I still don't know why tragedies, pain and suffering happen. I no more know why my friends have suffered losses than I know why Horatio Spafford's daughters died in a sinking ship 150 years ago. Death doesn't make much sense to those left behind. I don't think it ever will.

I am, however,  buffeted by the beauty that Horatio created in this song, amidst the pain and bereavement he must have been feeling as he set out on that long journey back to his wife. He must have known that the two of them would have to go on some way, but most probably, he didn't know how.  So he turned to God, and felt at peace. Somehow God spoke to him and said - don't worry, I've got you - just as a parent says to a child who is frightened.

It was well with Horatio's soul that day, and he did go on.  Just as we will.  The suffering may not be ended, but it is well with my soul.  There is peace in knowing a God who attends to the needs of my soul.  Hopefully, when given the opportunity, I can pass that peace along to my friends when they need it.