When Horatio set sail to meet up with his grieving wife, the captain of the ship stopped at the spot where his four daughters were lost at sea. At that spot, he penned the words of the hymn:
It Is Well With My Soul
1. 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.
Refrain: It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
5. But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
6. 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.
Every time I read the story behind the writing of this hymn, I’m moved to tears. But even more amazing is the perspective that it gives me. The hymn reminds me that even though the worst tragedy should happen, IT IS well with my soul: Jesus has nailed my sins to the cross and they’re no longer held against me (verses 2 and 3), death will come, but because of Jesus’ resurrection, I can have peace (verses 4 and 5) and one day, what I don’t yet see, will become visible and heaven will be my home (verses 5 and 6). So whatever sorrows come my way, I can know that it is well with my soul (verse 1).
The hymn’s very much like the message of the book of Esther. God delivered the Jews from their enemy Haman. And God’s delivered us from sin, from the judgment we deserve from God, and ultimately, he’ll deliver us from death, mourning and pain. So, like Horatio Spafford, I should be able to say “It Is Well With My Soul”.
The real challenge for me is putting this deep truth into practise. How do I remember it day by day? How do I make sure it affects how I act?
It’s a question I’ve chatted to a few women about since EQUIP last Saturday. Here are some of the suggestions I’ve heard:
• immersing ourselves in the Bible — reading it day in and day out, making Bible study and church a high priority so that we can sit under the faithful teaching of God’s word — after all, God’s word is active and sharper than a two edged sword — through His word God strengthens us and changes us to live His way (Psalm 1, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12);
• speaking the truth in love to one another — this means making sure we keep meeting with our brothers and sisters in Christ and making sure we talk about the things of God (Ephesians 4:15);
• making a deliberate decision to see all things that happen as things God uses for our good to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). This doesn’t just mean the really big things in life, but even the every day little events, including the struggles we have in relating to other people — whether that be our parents, our spouse or friends;
• praying and seeking God’s wisdom and peace when we face trials of any kind (Philippians 4:4-7 and James 1:1-8).
I’ve been so struck in the last few days by the ways I’ve seen people model the same kind of confidence as Horatio Spafford — the dear friend who told us he’s only got months to live, a friend who struggles to understand how to keep honouring her husband even though he doesn’t treat her the way he should, the couple who just today told us their unborn baby is dying and Alison Payne who shared with us (in her live blog at the EQUIP women’s conference) of the pain she feels that her life as a single woman isn’t what she would have planned. They’re all every day Christian people. They’re all suffering. But all of them are trusting God in their pain, knowing that he uses everything to make them more like Jesus and that ultimate deliverance is theirs in Christ.
I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt from the book of Esther and even how Horatio Spafford’s hymn touches you. You can listen a more traditional version of the hymn here or if you’d like a modern version, click here.