Every once in a while I am encouraged by someone who, in my perception, I should be offering care to rather than the other way around.  This hymn is about that special ability that some people have to care for those around them despite finding themselves in dire situations.  It is a powerful gift to receive love, understanding and compassion from one who appears depleted.  It is a powerful lesson, also.  We have so much within ourselves.  And when we acknowledge that kind of wealth, we are able to share it and embrace what it really means to be well.

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We have arrived at one of our most treasured hymns. I think it may be the one on my list that was most often suggested. One friend shared, “This hymn is my mom in all circumstances.” What a statement. What an image of a strong and caring woman for a daughter to look up to.  What expressions of love – by both demonstrator and observer of this kind of strength.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And on it goes, repeating the phrase “it is well with my soul” until we start to feel that this seemingly impossible spiritual state is, in fact, possible.

This is a hymn born out of tragedy. The story is quite famous. After suffering financial ruin following the Chicago Fire of 1871, Horatio G. Spafford sent his family to Europe while he cleaned up the mess. The ship they were travelling on was involved in a collision and all four of his daughters died. It was when he passed near the spot of their death, that he wrote these words.   The tune, written later by Philip P. Bliss, is named Ville du Havre, after the ill fated ship.

Once again I am amazed at what emerges from tragedy. How some special souls in our world seem to be able to express, through the deepest pain, something that serves to inspire and uplift us – over time and through generations. The ability to both share and rise above our pain brought me a number of stories about singing this hymn at funerals. It moves us, makes us weep, helps us grieve, and gives us comfort. What struck me, however, was that it is often those who are dying that give us these words of comfort by requesting they be sung. This is a song that allows those left behind to feel assurance. These are words that, when given, allow us to send our loved ones to their eternal rest. That is an enormous gift.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

I get choked up every time I sing “the trump shall resound” because it is a magnificent image.   It implies a welcome of great proportions. It’s the kind of welcome I think we would all like. It’s certainly what we wish for those who go before us. Whether sung at a funeral or not, this hymn brings us to a place of contemplating our soul’s wellness. A place where we can choose to lovingly express and share the deepest strength of our being.  Perhaps that lies in faith; perhaps in choices, integrity, values, relationships, inspiration, beauty or simply contemplation. I wish that, like my friend’s mother, these words described me in all circumstances, maybe one day they will. But even more, I hope I can find the part of me that will give these words to those I love when the time comes that they need them. Those who have done so are beyond inspiring.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.