During and after five hours of chemo yesterday I had several people comment! “You poor woman!” My response delivered with a grin is generally, “Ahhhhhhh……..it could be worse.” In Pat language this can be translated to quote the title a hymn called……..”It is well with my soul.”
Long ago after Doug and I had lost our second baby and I was hospitalized for a suicidal depression for over a month. I had bled out and at that time there were no transfusion given as AIDS was in the blood supply. The huge loss of blood and hormone changes trigger the depression. Then, too, our insurance had no coverage at all for mental heath and oh how those bills were piling up.
During that darkness, I had many fellow Christians who professed to love me and God question me over and over again about what I could have done in my life for God to punish me so harshly. I was a twenty-year-old kid for Pete’s sake!
I remember receiving a phone call from out of the blue. It was a pastor from a nearby Lutheran church calling at random doing outreach. When he said his name I recognized it, he had been the pastor of the Lutheran church in Litchfield , MN where my three great aunts Doris, Hilda and Esther attended. I used to go with them whenever I stayed with Aunt Doris.
He was now the pastor of the Lutheran church nearest me in St. Paul. He was surprised he had not seen me at worship since I had lived here for months.
I told him I couldn’t. I was mad at God.
I told him the whole sorry story and when I finished I cried to him, “Try as I might I cannot understand why God hates me so….I had asked Jesus into my heart as a little girl, been a good kid, taken care of my grandma and grandpa, respected my elders even when I thought some of them were nuts, not only had I attended church regularly, I had been one of the first female ushers, and the first girl to light the altar candles, I had taught Sunday school since I was 15 years old, memorized the catechism, been a youth leader at church, never went to parties no matter how much I was mocked or bullied at school,
I had never drank alcohol or tried drugs. Up until recently I did even not swear, had been a virgin when I married, read my bible and prayed often.
Why am I being so punished? I know that I have not led a perfect life. Pastor caught me playing cards in the balcony with the guys when I held my cards too high and he spied them during his sermon and told me to hold them lower right from the pulpit. I once accidentally sprayed him with water when I had been demoted to dishwasher after the naked lady pancake incident during an Easter breakfast.
Ok, maybe soaking down a blushing pastor is a grievous sin. And, yes, it was also wrong to put the fox paw in the pocket of the cheerleader’s winter coat at school. Especially, since it was already several day’s old. But, she was such a bully and it was trapping season.
I know, I rarely obey speed limit signs and more than once opened a hunting season early when the temptation of a good shot got the better of me. I am far from perfect and know it.
But, God took my babies that I wanted so desperately and people all around me pop out kids they don’t want or are even kind too. I cannot come to church because I am so angry with God all I would do is sit in a pew and cry the whole time!”
Pastor Wallrod never made a sound as he patiently listened to my entire tirade. Then, his quiet deep voice drifted into my ear and went right to my brain. “Oh, Angel, (it was the nickname he had for me) God does not hate you. You are not being punished….what kind of a God do you have that would not understand the anger of a young woman who has had such a huge dose of this imperfect world. God is crying with you and for you. Come to my church Angel and cry and we will cry with you.”
On the phone that day he finished with, “to those “Christians” who reaped more grief and suffering upon you by saying your loving Heavenly Father has not only deserted you but is punishing you and then went about their lives leaving you to this struggle alone no less…….all I can say about them is if faith is never tested is there faith?”
“Angel, I will see you Sunday.”
He was standing in the doorway with a box of Kleenex, open arms and a bear hug.
At that moment I knew what it felt like to know that, it is well with my soul!
We were members of his church and after yet another pregnancy loss he eventually baptized our only daughter Aurora.
Aurora is Latin for dawn. Our daughter is named after the Psalm, “Weeping may endure the night, but joy comes with the dawn.”
The hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” was penned after traumatic events in the life of hymnist Horatio Spafford. The music was composed by Phillip Bliss.
The first catastrophic event was the death of Spafford’s son at the age of two. On the heels of that loss came the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre.
In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he finished up some business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire.
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone”.
Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had die..Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
The Spaffords later had three more children. On February 11, 1880, their son, Horatio Goertner Spafford, died at the age of four, of scarlet fever. Their daughters were Bertha Hedges Spafford (born March 24, 1878) and Grace Spafford (born January 18, 1881). Their Presbyterian church regarded their tragedy as divine punishment.
In response, the Spaffords formed their own Messianic sect, dubbed “the Overcomers” by American press. In 1881, the Spaffords, including baby Bertha and newborn Grace, set sail for Ottoman-Turkish Palestine.
The Spaffords settled in Jerusalem and helped found a group called the American Colony. Colony members, later joined by Swedish Christians, engaged in philanthropic work among the people of Jerusalem regardless of their religious affiliation and without proselytizing motives—thereby gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities.
During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played an important role in supporting these communities through a time of great suffering by operating soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other outreach initiatives.
The colony later became the subject of the book Jerusalem written by the Nobel prize-winning author, Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlo.
The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was first published in Gospel Songs No. 2 by Ira Sankey and Bliss (1876). It has become the favorite hymn for many Christians including me.
It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
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.
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!
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.
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.
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
“know” (at the end of the third line) was changed to “say”.”
A song in the night, oh my soul” (last line)
was changed to “Even so, it is well with my soul”.
Click on the link below to hear a most beautiful rendition of this heartrending hymn.