During a rousing rendition of the famed hymn It is Well with My Soul at church recently, I was heartily reminded of the peace that comes with the plain acceptance--through implied trust--of a sorrowful life circumstance.
We recall that the writer of the hymn, Horatio Spafford, lost all four daughters to the sea, and with news of his wife ‘saved alone,’ he penned the hymn, it is said, over the very spot they plummeted to their deaths in the icy Atlantic. Spafford was no stranger to loss, this being the third such tragedy, and the worst, over a three year period.
The key message of this hymn is one of astounding victory in the midst of the deepest distress, which is indeed a great gospel paradox of truth.
During my own ‘dark night of the soul’ I lived this gospel reality, absolutely dependent on God’s love, peace, grace and shepherding; and it was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I am so very thankful for it as light shone in the darkness truly for the first time.
We see that once we’ve been touched by a great and tragic grief, and we’ve truly leant faithfully on Jesus, surrendering our own pitiful resources to fight, we’ve found something very precious that is at once recognised fondly in the future when we again get a glimpse of it. It’s the most incredible and immediately recognisable déjà vu. This hymn reminded me of those days.
It is only in this dark place we can more fully and truly appreciate the level of Christ’s sacrifice; that we have been forgiven, not partially, but absolutely, and we bear the weight of our sin no more. Praise in all circumstances is hence entirely appropriate.
It is never to be forgotten, the strength, grace, provision and faithfulness of God during this crushing time when we truly needed God, and that he was there in our desperation. Once we’ve been touched by such sorrow I’m convinced we’re converts of his gracious and loving Spirit, in fact, the sorrowful time is found to be the greatest single event and victory of our lives; it was our true coming-of-age ceremony, spiritually.
And this therapy or muscle memory of the heart and mind is available for use in serving others in distress with the comfort we ourselves were once comforted with (ref: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7). We suddenly know in our deepest being, the compassion of Jesus. I think we need to be hurt like this once to really know it and identify with him.
The sorrowful life circumstance is a fork in the road. Accept it, and whilst it is gut-wrenchingly painful, we find some relief in God and we live (spiritually), limping on to a more hope-filled day. We’re eventually healed. Reject it, however, and we never get to the peace of coming to the end of ourselves.
There is true, real and powerful theology in, It is Well with My Soul and it speaks to every once-troubled God-believing soul who placed their faith in his awesome ability to resurrect their broken down lives.
And it speaks too, to the now-troubled soul, beckoning them to rely on their Lord and focus upon him, surrendering all, in their dark time.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.