My husband and I are worship leaders. Coming from a background that’s a little more charismatic than traditional, most of the songs we do are not primarily of the hymn variety. But we’ve always had a tendency to gravitate toward songs that are rich with lyrical meaning, so as often as we can we sneak in a hymn. As we focus on the words and let the age-old melodies erupt from our souls, there is no denying the great depth in worship that takes place. Personally, I cannot usually lead these songs. They move me too much, and I’m liable to end up choking and cracking and crying into a microphone rather than singing. Let’s just say that can be . . . distracting.
The waterworks can be found in all their glory (or a distorted face trying to hold them back) when we sing “It Is Well with My Soul”, written by Horatio Spafford in the late 19th century after his own Job-like experiences. While all the words are weighty, there’s something about the line: “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul” that resounds in me with particular profundity. I find myself acknowledging with the purest of my vulnerability with God that it’s true. And my tears declare it.
Christians and non-Christians alike have challenged me with questions about God’s trustworthiness, particularly in my seasons of pretty crazy bummer situations and circumstances throughout my short life. They’ve made me consider with absolute honesty if it really is well with my soul – whatever my lot.
Now before I go on telling you why I can say “yes” to this very important question, let me just clarify. When I say “it is well with my soul”, I don’t mean I’m ignoring emotions of grief and anger and disappointment and fooling myself into being happy when life deals me a crummy hand. No, lying to myself about how I feel isn’t equivalent to my soul being well.
For me, my soul is well when it is anchored to the immovable Christ, the Rock that can’t be shaken, the firm foundation under the part of me that will never die. I am confident in the trustworthiness of my God. The reason I say “it is well” is because when I gave my life to Christ, I didn’t say He was trustworthy with the parts of my life I’m comfortable with, or that He’s trustworthy only when things are going well, or that He’s trustworthy only when I can see how He has “worked all things together for good.” If I did, I would not be giving my whole heart and life – past, present, future – to Him. Essentially, I’d be telling Him there are still some things I know better about, ultimately elevating myself above Him. C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity that this was “the sin of Satan, and the sin he taught the human race.”
It’s okay with me if people think I’m foolish for having this perspective. I understand how hard it can be to fully trust a God that doesn’t necessarily appeal to our natural senses. I see how our experiences with those we love the most letting us down can seriously damage our ability to trust. But no matter how confusing or frustrating or unfair life can/does/will seem, and no matter who has let you down on this earth, God has never and will never. I know I must take Him seriously when He tells me to trust in Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6).
It is by God’s grace alone that the hardships in my life have not made me question Him. I’ve definitely done my share of grumbling in the midst of them out of self-pity, but not doubting God. Because I believe He is who He says He is, and that He is good even when my circumstances are not, and that He always knows best and wants what’s best, and that my eternity is secure with Him – whether I live or die, it is well with my soul.