Oct 26, 2016

by Katrina Goodrich


When peace like a river attendeth my way,

when sorrows like sea billows roll,

whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say:

It is well, it is well with my soul.

nia volando con nube

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with all the negativity it can be difficult to be thankful. Being a Christian is not like being a princess in a fairy tale. Yes, there is a happily ever after, but that doesn’t come here on this earth, with this life. Becoming a Christian, much like marrying a prince, does not ensure smooth sailing for the rest of your life. Rotten things happen in the best of times, and in the worst of times, and being thankful in the midst of it seems inconceivable.

We expect the things of the Christian life to be all “hunky-dory.” I don’t know why life, Christian or otherwise, can just be plain grueling. Yet we still plaster the “church face” on: the buoyant “Jesus loves me and that makes everything rainbows and butterflies” face. Maybe we do this because of some misguided notion that we’re doing something wrong if everything is not okay. Perhaps we know there are bigger problems out there or, heaven forbid, someone will know that our lives aren’t perfect. We think in order to be thankful everything must be right in our worlds.

Masking any uncomfortable feelings becomes a burden (I think) because not only are we hiding from the rest of the world, but we’re also attempting to hide from and be dishonest with God. We may not be trying to cover up an outright sin but, like Adam and Eve, we are trying to cover our nakedness, the exposed nerve, because it hurts.

Horatio Spafford penned his now famous hymn after suffering great tragedy, not once, but twice in a short period of time. He was not okay, surviving, or hanging in there when he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul.” He was broken. Things were the very opposite of “well.” His lot at the time was awful — and yet he writes, what I would argue, is a piece filled to the brim with thanksgiving.

(See…/it-is-well-with-my-soul-the-song-and-the-story.html for the story.)

Spafford was honest with God. His sorrows were huge. God gave him the ability to say, “no matter what, it is well with my soul.” Being well in your soul does not mean that you’re not feeling rotten. It does not mean that life is good. It means that no matter the damage, you can take comfort in knowing that, though trials abound it this life, it’s not the end.

When we walk about as if everything is fine when it isn’t, we lose sight of the fact that this life isn’t the end. This life isn’t supposed to be perfect — Christian or not. When you are ignoring the imperfection of life, I don’t believe you can say with any honesty that it is well with your soul. I think that would make it very difficult to be any sort of thankful.

Be brave. Be honest. Be truly thankful. Don’t cover your life with a glossy Christian veneer and lose the ability to say, “It is well with my soul.” It is scary to let go of the mask for many reasons. Just because you let down your mask doesn’t mean that you have to tell the world your sorrows — and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to spill your guts to everyone who asks what’s wrong. You have the right to tell people that you don’t want to talk.

Spafford’s words resonate with thanksgiving even though he was in the midst of tragedy. I don’t think he was happy. He wasn’t okay but, even so, he had the ability to be thankful. So even though life may not be roses, I am thankful for the opportunity to say “It is Well with My Soul.”

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