WHEN my youngest brother died on the operating table at 5 years old many years ago, I never forgot my mother’s description of the experience of losing her youngest, the first loss in the family.
She said it felt like a knife was stabbed at her heart and it stayed there. With over 2 million deaths due to COVID alone, many families are grieving and are in pain. As our team was discussing this about the year 2020, our team retreat facilitator shared the story behind the song “It Is Well With My Soul.”
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
The hymn was written after several tragic incidents in Horatio Spafford’s life, a well-known lawyer and businessman in Chicago. First, he lost his 4-year-old son to scarlet fever in 1870. The next year, he lost his entire life savings to the great Chicago fire. In 1873, the family was to set sail to England, but he got delayed with some business and sent his wife Anna and their four children ahead.
The ship the family boarded collided with another vessel and sank quickly, losing all four young children. He followed to comfort his wife who survived, and wrote the song while his ship was passing over the area where his children drowned.
Losing wealth that one has worked hard for is one thing, but it can be rebuilt again with hard work. But losing a child who will never return in this lifetime is so painful; losing four at the same time must be unbearable! It seemed senseless! One tragedy after another, similar to the story of Job. The stress level and trauma of such loss are over the top.
Yet, how could Spafford even write this song and not shake his fist at God? Are some people just made of sterner stuff that nothing can break them down? Or why do others cave in when tragedy strikes, like the increasing mental health problems of people unable to cope with isolation and limitations, brought about by the pandemic?
I came across the article titled “Is it Well With My Soul?” of one student in our parenting class, Jefrinces Carlos, who lost their only child (and with her permission to use).
“It is well. It was the phrase I constantly reminded myself of during the most difficult moment of my life. We were at the hospital for only around 24 hours. With a tap on my chest, I remembered muttering, ‘it is well, it is well.’ I saw Kahel being intubated, having difficulty grasping his breath, and two nurses and two doctors working delicately on his tiny body. At that moment I knew Kahel was not meant to live long. That three-word phrase prodded my anxious heart to rest in the truth that no matter how seemingly difficult it was to accept, it was going to be well . . . It is well, it is well. I knew, as a mother to that child and as a child to the Creator of everything, God was asking his child back home.”
“Was it really well with my soul? Probably, not. I rested my faith in the goodness of God, but kept thinking that maybe my sin had some contribution to this heartbreak. It was the constant theme for months, . . .
(To be Continued)
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