It is well with my soul
Anxiety is running pretty high, assaulting on many fronts. Fear is fueled by war and rumor of war. Institutions of all sorts seem profoundly dysfunctional. Driving around town, I maxed out on the news and put in a CD (remember those) of old hymns, including the one with this refrain: It is well with my soul.
Written by Horatio Spafford, the hymn text was forged out of tragedy, beginning with the Chicago Fire, which ruined Spafford financially. His business interests were further hit by an economic downturn in 1873, at which time he planned to head to Europe with his family. In a last minute change, he sent the family ahead, staying behind to attend to business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank. All four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him this telegram: “Saved alone.” Spafford soon traveled across the Atlantic to meet his wife. The ship passed by the exact place where his daughters had perished. As it did, he was inspired to write the hymn text, the first stanza appearing in the column on the left.
How do people navigate those waters? Where does inspiration come from, affirming that, despite circumstances, all will be well? We’re moving into the season of Advent, a season of hope and expectation. I’m reminded of what Jim Wallis said: Hope is believing in spite of the circumstances and watching the circumstances change. Have you ever known that to be true? Does your faith deepen hope, so that you can say with Julian of Norwich that all will be well?
In my own journey, my own struggle for soul-wellness, I’m grateful to have been supported by others in this call to wellness. One of my spiritual advisors, at moments when I battled toxic church behavior which threatened spiritual wellness, simply reminded me: “Turn toward the light.” He meant Jesus. (He even gave me a t-shirt with that saying printed on the front.) One friend would take me to lunch from time to time, simply to ask how I was doing, whether it was well with my soul. Another participated with me in a weekly bible study. The gathering always began with a circle of prayer. As we went around the circle asking for stuff, he would always say a prayer for me and my family.
I’m grateful for those over the years who have found ways to show and share concern for the state of my soul, for my walk with God, in ways that didn’t make me want to run or shut down (I’m good at both), in ways that felt genuine and kind. It meant a lot to me when brothers checked in. I invite you to think about who there is in your life, leader or follower, employer or employee, friend or relative who might benefit today, not from inquisition but from generous, sensitive inquiry into spiritual health and wellness.
Such inquiry in word, action, prayer is service (as long as you listen for the answer). It shifts focus from self to the other. It lifts us out of patterns shaped by ego, patterns shaped by our narrative as hero or victim.
It may be a word of gratitude. It may be letting someone know you said a prayer for them. It may be a blessing, wishing that person well.
There’s a lot of talk about wellness these days. So what do you think about wellness of the soul? How can our faith provide it for us? How can we help those around us to receive it?
– Jay Sidebotham
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.