It Is Well

Without the grief of my death on Good Friday, you would never understand the joy of my resurrection on Easter Sunday.

I was at a Music Gala Benefit at the Kimmel Center here in Philadelphia last Friday where the last song sung was, “It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. After watching and listening to such talented performers, it was soothing to me to hear this song and be reminded that no matter what circumstances come my way, it is well with my soul because God is on the throne.

stock-footage-christian-crosses-on-a-hill-at-sunsetFor those who are not familiar with Horatio’s story, he was a great man of faith and a wealthy lawyer/businessman who was born in New York in 1828. He settled in the Chicago area, married and had five children.

In 1870, Horatio experienced the first of several tragedies. His only son, four year-old Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever. Then, in 1871, the Great Chicago fire swept through destroying a third of the city and causing Horatio to lose most of his life fortune. In spite of this, he and his wife were grateful that their family and house had been spared, and worked tirelessly to help others. For the next two years, they devoted their time to feeding, housing and caring for the many victims who were trying to put their lives back together.

Two years later, Horatio decided to take his family on a much-needed vacation to Europe to see their friend and the great preacher Dwight L Moody. An urgent business matter wound up detaining , but he sent his family ahead planning to join them as soon as he could.

Sadly, the ship they were on, hit another ship and sank within 12 minutes. There were 226 deaths and only 47 survivors. His wife, frail and weak, survived, but his four daughters perished. After reaching shore, his wife sent him a telegraph, stating, “Saved alone, what shall I do.”

Horatio quickly chartered a boat to join his wife. When they passed by the sight where the captain thought his daughters had drowned and his wife alone had survived, the captain summoned Horatio. Horatio found it hard to sleep that night and penned the words to his well-known hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.”

This song is especially apropos on Good Friday where we see our Lord mocked, scourged, beaten beyond recognition and finally killed on a Cross to pay the debt for our sins. This is the darkest day in history.

And yet, as tragic as this is, we know that Easter comes in two days. Thus, we grieve today with hope for tomorrow. Beth Moore puts it best when she says, “As sure as the earth will quake on Friday, a stone will roll on Sunday.” Because of this, we can join with Spafford, even in the bleakest of times, and say:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
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.

(refrain)

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!

(refrain)

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

Our Helper

I am more loving than you can fathom and more complicated than you can comprehend.

“Lord, my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”  Psalm 30:2

Of course, we all wish that this verse referred primarily to physical healing, which would happen this side of eternity. I do cling to this verse, believing that God has physical healing for me here and that He cares very much about the infirmity of my body. But I also know that God is still the great healer even if I don’t see a physical healing this side of eternity. For, although God is filled with compassion and grieves with me over my physical illness, He is even more concerned about the destiny of my soul. As I pray for physical healing, help me to always value the fact that by Christ’s death and resurrection, God has healed me of the most important thing and given me a new future that will never perish, spoil or fade.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:18

Today will start my first treatment at Betsy’s. We will run it at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The test run last Wednesday has caused me pain in the glands and lymph nodes in my neck, sharp pain in my spine, neck and shoulders and pretty severe headaches. This nuisance reminds me that God is much more in control of my health and life than I ever could have understood when I was well. In the health struggles that I’ve gone through, I am reminded that each breath I take is a gift from Him and should never be taken for granted. I pray that I will look for the blessings around me even when I am in pain. They are there because He is who He says He is, the suffering servant, the overcomer, my sword and shield, the compassionate and gracious one, the giver of all good things.

In the most difficult health moments when I’m too exhausted to even get up and read, the following song has provided me much encouragement and hope. I hope that it will for you, too.

Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement. I am blessed to call you a friend!

Joy Through Sorrow

I know your grief for I have been there in its depths.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Such a short verse yet so comforting…  It is the shortest verse in the bible but quite powerful.  Because we know that in our sorrows, we are not alone. Jesus knows sadness. He knows grief.  He knows what it feels like to be outcast by others who do not understand this disease and the effect it has on our bodies.   Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed Him not.”

But then in other verses, the Bible tells us to rejoice.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Rejoice always.” Philippians 4:14 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” How is it that Jesus was a man of sorrows and wept yet He rejoiced?  And how do I possibly rejoice in my current circumstances? Honestly, there are times when rejoicing is not one of the top things I am thinking of doing. I am thinking how am I going to get through this next minute, this next hour of physical agony and exhaustion.

I think there are many answers to this. For me, one is that Jesus is telling us, ‘No matter what your circumstances are, rejoice in the Cross. Rejoice in the fact that I have conquered it all.  I have won the victory.  Because of my death, you have life. This thing about sickness will be no more. You will remember it no more because you will be with me and get to gaze at me face-face.’  When I look at it this way, I see that joy and sorrow can go hand in hand. In 2 Corinthians 2: 6, the apostle Paul says, “… dying yet we live on, beaten and yet not killed, sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

At various times in my health journey, I have felt quite sorrowful, and I have questioned whether this makes me an unfaithful soldier.  I think, “As a Christian is it ok to be sorrowful? I see lots of people running around joyful and yet I feel sorrowful in this moment.”  As stated above, we see that even Paul felt this dichotomy that we sometimes experience. And it was important enough to include it in the Bible for us to know.

Probably this is because we have a God who weeps and yet rejoices.  He weeps at the sin in this world. He weeps at our sickness and our suffering. He weeps at what it will cost his Son. Jesus weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus and at all death. He is so distraught in the garden that He sweats blood.  He weeps yet He knows the end. He knows that God will come one day and right all things.  Jesus’ death brings triumph. Therefore, we can rejoice knowing that Jesus knows the beginning and the end.  We are finite so we cannot see the whole picture. But Jesus can. He has a purpose that includes His suffering, our suffering, and through it, God is most glorified, and we will know more joy than we could ever imagine.  Yes, it is ok to weep uncontrollably and yet rejoice because we have a God who weeps yet rejoices knowing the beginning and the end and all the pieces in between. He just asks us to gaze up at Him remembering the Cross but also the resurrection. Remembering it is ok to be sorrowful yet rejoicing.

Fear Not

I love you and am caring for you even when you cannot understand.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I know I have had a lot of fear as I’ve watched my health disintegrate and have had no control over it.  Thus, verses about fear make me stop, think and reflect. At times I have thought, “Well how can I not fear, look at what is happening to me. I know you are God and I do love you but what do I do about my current circumstances?”

This verse is particularly comforting to me because I think about the fact that God says this to the Israelites in quite perilous times. Nations were being captured and falling to enemies. The superpowers were crumbling, and other nations were vying for that spot. Poor Jerusalem is in the middle of this suffering the consequences of their own sin and the evil that is around them.

In some ways, this is very similar to our own circumstances both internally and outwardly.    We watch our health disintegrate, and we watch the America that we once knew as safe and strong changing.  We see external threats enter into our countries in ways we had never seen before. Children now have to have drills to be prepared for armed intruders and bomb scares. This, to me, seems in many ways, so similar to what the Israelites were in the middle of.  And yet He says to them, “Fear not, I am with you, I am your God.” In the mist difficult of circumstances where there are no answers, we can remember that the Great I Am is in it and For us.

It is difficult for our finite minds to comprehend that He could be for us while we watch things crumble. God knows our doubts and our fears because He made us.  He knows how we think, how we feel.  He knows this more than anyone else.  God knows the grief in our heart as we watch the things we once held dear being snatched from our hands. He knows the fear that instills in us. Will we ever get them back? Will it get worse? We are no longer self-reliant. In fact, we are at the mercy of others to care for us when we are so sick.

God does not give us answers to the questions we’d like answered.  Instead, He reminds us who He is and calls us to trust Him.  He says, ‘I Am the One who was here before the beginning of time.  I measured out the depths of the earth.  I am the one who determines the number of stars in the sky and calls them each by name.  I carry the lambs in my arms and save those who are crushed in spirit. I heal the brokenhearted and bandage up their wounds. The nations are as a drop in the bucket to me.’  Mighty in power, His understanding has no limit.

Wouldn’t you rather put your trust in Him when you are fearful knowing that when things seem out of control for us, our God is over them and steering all things for His purpose? We may not have all the answers but we know the One who does.