Thursday, January 29, 2009

It is Well With My Soul

Today in chapel we sang one of my all-time favorite hymns, "It is Well With My Soul." This song is a reminder to me that no matter what may happen in life, I have full satisfaction in Christ and peace that only He can give. Hearing the story behind the song has had an even greater impact on me. In case you have not heard the situations which led the author of the song to compose these lyrics, here is the story:

Horatio's response to the calamities in his life with such powerful words and faith remind me of Job and his response to all of the trauma that occurred in his life. This righteous man lost everything; his livestock, his servants, and his seven sons and three daughters. Everything that the Lord had blessed him with as recorded in Job 1:2-3 had now been taken away by the end of the chapter. All that Job was left with was his wife who we see later on in the book to be not much of an encouragement or a comfort to him. But Job responds to all of the terrible news which he received all at once in a way many of us would not expect or respond with ourselves. He responds in worship. His wonderful statement reveals the contentment which he could only find in God: Naked I came from my mother's womb, / And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).

In fact, the apostle Paul's contentment was found in Christ and in Him alone. He states that I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (Philippians 4:11). While Paul knew what it felt like to live in prosperity, the secret of being filled and of having abundance, he also knew what it felt like to get along with humble means, going hungry, and suffering need. Paul was definitely no stranger to suffering. He gives a list of these many sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28: Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was shipwrecked, a night and day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. And we think we have it bad sometimes! Paul was a friend of suffering. However, back to his discussion of contentment in the letter to the Philippians. What was the secret of Paul's contentment? What helped him through whatever circumstances that he had, whether that be living at ease or several of the horrors he experienced as recounted to the Corinthians. Vs. 13 answers all of these questions: I can do all things through Him who strenghtens me. The secret to Paul's contentment was Christ. Christ enabled him to have the strength to find contentment in all of those experiences in the list as well as those times things were going well for him. It was this contentment that kept Paul going and sustained him to persevere.

I don't know what you may be going through right now but there is hope. The same One which Job, Paul, and Horatio found contentment in during the bleakest of circumstances can be your source of contentment as well. There is no indication in Scripture that Job ever fully understood what was going on with all of the suffering which he went through. We know of the supernatural picture of God and Satan but Job is never revealed to be aware of this. Likewise, we do not always understand why the Lord brings us through certain periods of trials or sufferings but I can assure you that you can find contentment in Him during those times. The three men examined are examples of this. Jesus never promised us a rose garden but He has promised to walk with us through the gardens and valleys in our lives. I encourage you in whatever you may be going through right now, trust in Christ, and may He grant you the peace to be able to say throughout the darkest of trails, "It is Well With My Soul."

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

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