Friday, October 18, 2013

It Is Well with My Soul (Strength in Hymn)

"It Is Well with My Soul"
by Horatio Spafford

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.
It is well 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.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with 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!
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day 
when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, 
and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul. 


My mother and grandmother in July
1. My sister called on Monday night. My Grandma Hess is dying of congestive heart failure, and I am expecting a phone call with the news of her passing any time now. I thought that's why Barb was calling then, but she was actually telling me that Grandma was restless, having a hard time getting settled comfortably for the night. Barb invited me to join her in singing hymns to help her rest, especially since Grandma had been a church organist for decades. I suggested Great Is Thy Faithfulness.Then she started in with It Is Well With My Soul, while I flipped through my hymnal to find the words, most of which I know already. We ended with one of Grandma's favorites, Love Lifted Me, which she played on the piano for me at her nursing home last year. I can't think of a better comfort and I am glad that I could participate in some small way, even though I am several hundred miles away. Please pray for us all as we are working through the loss of another much loved family member. I will write more about her later.

2. Many people know the story behind the hymn of faith: Horatio Spafford wrote it on a ship in the ocean at the very spot where his four daughters had perished when their ship had sunk. Earlier, his life savings had been wiped out in the Chicago fire. Yet he expressed his abiding faith in a loving and powerful God. It has been beloved by Christians ever since.  You can read more about this story and hear the song here: "It Is Well with My Soul" at Songs and Hymns.

3. And now, a little bit of philosophizing on the lyrics: "It is well with my soul..."  I think of two extremes of people in the ranks of Christianity. The first are those who strongly believe in what is called "positive confession." They won't acknowledge anything wrong in their lives, unless it is to come against it by claiming complete victory right now - despite the actual reality of their circumstances. "Name it and claim it" is the way of life here. So it's, "I'm not sick!  I claim my perfect health in the name of Jesus, because by his stripes I am healed!" These folks are vulnerable to those in the prosperity gospel movement who will appeal to their sense of spiritual entitlement. They can often be motivated to do foolish things because they want an instant fix to their health, finances, or family problems. The other kind of extreme Christians are the navel gazers whose mantra is, "I'm so full of sin! There is nothing good in my soul! I don't deserve anything. I can't do anything worthwhile, because my best deeds are filthy rags to him." These folks are vulnerable to abuse by those who use their poor self-identity in order to control them. They confuse obedience to God with obedience to humans who claim spiritual authority. "I'm so foolish, I don't know what to do, so someone needs to tell me. I can only do what they ask me to do, or I would be pridefully striving in my own strength and wisdom." Their sense of initiative and Christ-confidence and seeking wisdom in God's word for themselves is lost because they see themselves as helpless grimy little spiritual worms. The actual truth? Yes, we are sinners who need God for salvation and strength. We live real lives that are often confusing and messy. But he has saved us for his glory, and we are now beloved saints, children of God! Not everything will turn out the way we want this side of eternity, but we can trust God still. It will all come out right then, and in the meantime, we keep doing our best to make things right in our own lives now. Our trials here on earth will serve to strengthen us, help us to depend more on God instead of ourselves, and make us more compassionate to the sufferings of others. We can step out in faith and confidence that he has great things in store for us, that he has gifted us to serve in our own unique ways that others might not always understand or appreciate. We do not have to live under condemnation for our weaknesses! We just need to continually offer up whatever we do have and whoever we really are. He receives our gifts of faith with joy. We are covered in the righteousness of Christ and he fills with the Holy Spirit as we continually yield our hearts to him. That's what he sees. That's what enables us to sing, "It is well with my soul!"  More on this here:

4. The photos in this post were taken yesterday at a local suburban park. You can see more here:  Kewanee Park on a Foggy Day.   Most of my entries in this Strength in Hymn series are accompanied by sets of nature photos.

I know this has been a really long post.  Thanks for reading this far.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles


  1. Your photos are lovely. I think it's wonderful that you could share the music from so far away. I did read your post to the end and I have to say that I agree with you. We can't be sure of anything except that God will see us through.

  2. Thanks Virginia for this post. I am sorry about your Grandmother's failing health so soon after your mother's passing. That is so special that she loved hymns and continued to play the organ for so long. I pray that God will keep you encouraged in the days ahead.