An inspiring old song that famously captures the essence of Christian trust is, ‘It is well with my soul.’ The story behind its composition is an amazing example of one man’s undying belief in God despite adversity. It reminds us that we can find strength in Him in the midst of hardship when we cling to God rather than run from Him. God is no cosmic crutch or psychological panacea, but a faithful Father whose unchanging, unending and unfailing grace is available to all who would reach out to Him in mindful devotion, rather than mere desperation.
Horatio Spafford had sadly lost almost everything in Chicago’s great fire of 1871 and then in a recession shortly after. Seeking to relocate to London to start over, he sent his wife and daughters ahead of him as he sought to finalise his business affairs. Tragically, he received news from his wife of the collision and sinking of their ship and the death of all four of their girls – just 11, 9, 5 and 2 – when he received her ‘saved alone’ telegram.
As Spafford crossed the Atlantic to be reunited with his wife, the ship’s captain identified the particular spot where his daughters had perished. Rather than be angry or despondent, Spafford was moved to write: “When peace like a river attends my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’.”
Jesus’ death on the Cross makes it possible for us to confidently access God as a welcoming Father, rather than a stern judge. A verse of Spafford’s song says that because sin was “nailed to the Cross and I bear it no more, ‘Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, o my soul’.” When we respond to God’s gift of eternity – and it is certainly a choice we must make – then we opt to commit our lives to Him in a journey of trust and obedience.
But it is then that we also experience the joy of serving God, come what may. Isaiah 48:18 says we can then know His peace like a river. We enjoy it in the midst of life’s storms, rather than expecting God to prevent them. He is not the author of turmoil or hardship, but the source of victory within it. Sometimes that victory overcomes adversity by faith, and sometimes that victory is the confidence to live with endurance in light of the knowledge of where we are going when we die. The God who saves us also walks with us in everything we face, and promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Is it well with your soul today?