It is Well with My Soul
The grief comes in waves, just like they say. Fine one moment, laughing even. A mountain of tears and anger the next. The anger has been the hardest for me to control.
I have not written much about the loss my family experienced this summer, because to be honest I am having a hard time acknowledging it at all without completely breaking down or wanting to throw a chair through a window in rage.
You never think you are going to be the one sitting in the front pew of a funeral. The one shaking, the one holding your Mom’s hand tightly praying to God you have enough strength to hold both your grief and hers. Watching your brave little brothers, too young to lose a Dad, share memories. You never think you will be the one with flowers and cards delivered to your porch. Calls and messages coming in and checking to see how you are holding up. It doesn’t feel real. It still doesn’t.
For a while I really hated mornings especially, when the flush of reality came running over me like a bulldozer. But I have little kids to take care of, so most days I’ve really tried to put a smile on my face and press on. And other days I take a midday shower just to cry while my girls bang on the door unaware that their mommy is hurting.
But yet, even amidst this sadness, I do feel overwhelming peace sometimes. The only way I can describe it is when I think of the nights my girls are restless with bad dreams and I will go in their room and just lay with them for a minute and put my hand on their chest. Just the pressure of my touch is often enough to ease them.
I’ve felt that very touch these last few months. Like a weighted blanket, giving me relief that somebody is here with me through all of this.
This very peace has had me thinking of the heartbreaking story behind the popular hymn written in 1873, It Is Well With My Soul.
Before knowing the details behind the song, it can be easy to brush it off as too optimistic. How can things be well when I am going through such pain? How can I be well while the world is in absolute chaos? But the story behind the words in this song is a horrific one. It was written by a man who lost his four daughters in a shipwreck. Soon after, he was going out to sea and he was about to cross the very place where they died. While he felt this surge of pain and sorrow, he also felt a surge of peace at the very same time. And so he wrote the words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul
Now every time I hear that song, I weep. Because I understand. I understand that pain and peace can coexist.
Similarly, in a recent novel I read, The Book of Longings, Ana, a character who is facing much tragedy is told by her wise aunt, “All shall be well” and Ana snaps back asking how she could say such a thing during such a tragic time, her wise aunt replies:
Oh, Ana, Ana. When I tell you all shall be well, I don’t mean that life won’t bring you tragedy. Life will be life. I only mean you will be well in spite of it. All shall be well, no matter what.”
These words are so powerful to me at this very time in my life, maybe they are for you too. To know that we can be well amidst our pain. That is the magic of God’s peace and grace, if you let it in. If you give it up to Him. Something I am still working on.
There are days I have a hard time letting it in, anger gets the best of me, I just want to scream at the world and isolate myself from everyone and everything. I want to scream at people who complain about small things, when I sit here with the loss of a parent. But when I give it up, like really actively giving it up to God, the mountain weight gets lifted and I feel that peace. Just enough to get through that day.
This year has brought us all to our knees for one reason or another. It has forced us to lose control and to lean on nothing but faith and hope. And just maybe, that is where we were supposed to be all along.
God never promised all of our prayers would be answered nor that life would be free of pain and sorrow. But he does promise to hold our burden with us and he promises hope. So that is what I am hanging on to these days and it is after all what this Christmas Season is all about. Hope.