Over the last few months, there has been a song that keeps showing up here and there in my life. It’s a song that I like; a hymn really. It is the hymn “It is Well with My Soul”.
I am not sure why this particular song keeps surfacing in different ways lately but every time I hear it I get that feeling in my stomach…that feeling that says, “Pay attention. This is important”. But it’s like driving on a foggy day. I can’t quite see clearly enough to feel confident in my driving…or in my understanding.
The first appearance this lyrical intrusion made into my consciousness was in the song “Joy” by Page CXVI. The song is actually a really thoughtful and interesting cover of the hymn “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart”. It’s played in a minor key and the juxtaposition of the words of the song about joy and the funeral dirge like music really intrigues me. It begins very quietly and build up to a really powerful part and then ends with a sample of the song “It is Well with My Soul”. Latifah Phillips, who wrote this stirring arrangement, shared in her blog that she wrote it after learning of her father’s cancer diagnosis. He had previously been diagnosed with dementia and said that he viewed the cancer diagnosis as a blessing. To him, cancer was a better way to end his
story than a mind with no memory of his family or his life. Despite Latifah’s profound sadness, she was able to rest in the peace and yes…joy that God provides. She said, “It
was not until grief became a part of my story that I realized that joy is not simply an expression, but an attitude and acknowledgment of the deep peace of knowing a Savior.”
Maybe that is what draws my heart to this song. Over the last several years, grief has become a part of my story as well. Prior to 2013 I had not really experienced grief. Sure, I’d lost a favorite pet and a few relatives had passed, but because we had not ever been close, it was not a devastating loss to me. In March of 2013 I lost my little brother. Not only did he pass away; he passed away tragically and in circumstances that could 100% been avoided. I spent his last days with him and was holding his hand as he took his final breath. Grief enveloped me in a way I had never experienced, nor imagined. It rocked me. It changed me to my core.
Yesterday, another song was shared with me and lo and behold, “It is Well with My Soul” is also sampled in it. The song I heard for the first time yesterday is “Even If” by MercyMe. While I don’t know the background of the song, the theme really speaks to me. It talks about having only a little faith and how sometimes God leaves mountains unmovable.
When I was growing up the only thing I wanted to be was a mom. I had no college plans. I desired no career. I dreamed only of getting married and raising a family. Now, when I set a goal I really go all out! I married at 19, had two biological children and internationally adopted four others. Raising our family was a full time job and more. In addition to meals and laundry and IEPs…prosthetic legs and therapy sessions….I also kept the daily books for our businesses. It was crazy busy, but I thrive on crazy busy so it was all good. I believed that because I had been obedient to follow what I heard God leading me to do that things would turn out well. I was naive at best.
Perhaps I should clarify…things turning out well and things being easy are not the same thing. Things can go according to God’s plan and still be hard…ugly….tragic…unbearable. And you know what? They have. Losing my brother was all of those things. Raising children who made life choices that are really difficult, as a parent, to watch falls into that category. Lying awake at night with worry because you know your child is sleeping on the street and hungry is a level of grief I didn’t even fathom existed. Knowing that your child may forever need assistance to stay on track and be successful is a huge weight to bear. It has been weighing heavy on my heart and I find myself frustrated and at loose ends. I liked it when my God-view meant that I would do what I’m supposed to with oh, maybe 85% accuracy and God would then make the road smooth and easy.
Since I have been so vastly off the mark with my view of what a relationship with Christ really means, I’ve had to adjust my sails and lean into the wind. If God isn’t the ‘magical giver of good things as long as I’m pulling my weight’ deity I’d mistakenly assumed, who is He? Does his lack of intervening in my rocky road mean He doesn’t care? Does it indicate that I’ve been disobedient and deserve a rough go of it?
No. No it isn’t like that at all. As the song “Even If” says,
“I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
It is well, it is well with my soul”