“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.”
These words are the first verse of a hymn penned by Horatio Spafford in 1873. It was during a time of almost unimaginable difficulty after a series of tumultuous events completely upended his world, including the death of a child and financial ruin from the Great Chicago fire. While tending to business affairs related to the fire, he sent his family to Europe with plans to join them at a later date. Their ship sank and his four daughters were killed. Somehow his wife survived and sent him a telegram with the excruciating words, “Saved alone…”
On his lonely, grief-torn journey across the Atlantic to join his wife, Spafford asked the captain to let him know when they would be passing the location where the ship sank. It was precisely in that spot that he wrote the words that have comforted countless people in times of grief, distress, anxiety, confusion, and confliction.
“It is well with my soul.” This phrase suggests to us in less-than-subtle ways that it is quite possible to have a healthy soul during unhealthy times. What a message for our current culture. Could there be anything more germane?
Questions about how to contend emotionally and spiritually with the world we now inhabit have surfaced more frequently in the last year than anytime we can ever remember. And we are convinced that it has everything to do with living in unsteady times, rancorous times, dispiriting times, dangerous time, violent times. It is becoming increasingly evident to many that we internalize far more than we realize, and it can short-wire our emotional systems.
We are hardwired with both a need and a desire for security, tranquility, unity and prosperity. Their erosion unsettles us in unsettling ways. We desperately need something to anchor us and to center us from that which threatens to undo us.
There is a place where we find rest and solace for our souls even when storms are pounding away at our lives. This is truly one of the secrets to a happy life. To live out of the deep places of our interior lives that are centered in something far greater than ourselves. There is a power, a strength, a peace, a calm, an assurance that functions independently of our circumstances.
Put another way, we have been designed with the remarkable gift of an interior life that is not dictated by our exterior life. But like our bodies and our minds, our souls must be cultivated…they must be strengthened…they must be tethered to something immutable. And when they are, O the freedom, O the strength, O the peace, and dare we say it, O the joy!!!
Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?