Monday, March 5, 2018

The Well

“It Is Well with My Soul” is one of my favorite hymns. I love the traditional version and the new praise song remakes. The words speak to my heart: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know: It is well, it is well, with my soul” (Horatio Spafford).

When sorrows as big as sea billows have rolled into my life, it has brought tremendous peace to know that my soul has not been abandoned to the waves, but is held safe by larger hands.

Yet, during a recent stretch of hard life circumstances, coming from many different fronts and threatening several of my loved ones, my soul did not feel well … it felt crushed. And when listening to this favorite hymn, the words that used to encourage instead seemed to mock.

It was not well with my soul.

I did know that my eternal soul was intact; safe in God’s loving hands. But my spirit was shaken. I could not turn off the anxious thoughts, the very real and threatening “what ifs” or stop the downward spiraling events that seemed to hit daily. The sea billows were rolling, and there was no sign that they would stop anytime soon.

I prayed. I cried out to God. I told Him my expectations of what He should do. How He should rescue. What would make me feel better. That I was at the end of what I thought I could handle … and things kept getting worse.

I listened to praise music to try and refocus my thoughts on God. My favorite song came on. “It is well with my soul.”

I cried out to God again: God, it is not well with my soul. I can’t handle anymore. My body is shaking, I feel the coldness of fear in the pit of my stomach, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I am seeking you … and yet, it is not well. My soul can’t handle anymore.

Then in His still quiet voice and presence, God ministered to my soul, as if whispering: I am the well. I am the well for your soul. When you have reached down deep into yourself, and your resources, and have depleted everything you have and can go no further: then there I am, and even deeper still. I am a deep, deep eternal well of comfort and love for your soul.

God’s love and presence doesn’t depend on life circumstances. It is there in spite of everything, and through everything.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

The next Sunday I went to church. During the worship time the praise band started to sing (of course) my favorite song. I started to laugh. It felt like a private joke between God and me.  I still love the song, but this time as I sang, I changed the words just a little bit: When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know: there is a well, You are the well, for my soul.


Sara Nelson O'Brien is the author of

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