Written by Sandy McKee
I recently came across a story about the origins of the hymn, It is Well With My Soul. For me, the song runs through my mind when life is good and problems are few. That wasn’t the case for the writer of the hymn, Horatio Spafford. Spafford was a successful Chicago attorney and businessman with a lovely wife and five children. Then in 1871, his only son died of pneumonia and the Great Chicago Fire destroyed a lot of his business. Two years later, he lost all four of his daughters when their Europe bound cruise liner collided with another ship and sank. His distraught wife was rescued while hanging onto some debris. She said that one day God would explain why the tragedy had to happen. Her husband Horatio boarded a ship to meet up with his wife. After four days at sea, the ship’s captain told him they were over the place where his beloved daughters drowned. It’s reported that Horatio penned the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, on that painful journey.
The touching story got me thinking about the state of my own soul. It’s been one of the toughest years in my 70 on earth. Pandemic sickness and deaths coupled with political riots and economic challenges have resulted in unprecedented stress and despair for many. Some parts of our souls seem battered and torn. I honestly can’t image the pain of losing one child let alone five. To write such a hymn while in the depths of despair seems impossible.
And just, what is our soul? We throw the term around loosely and pair it with terms like food, music and man. But to God, the term seems to have more specific meanings. Someone said that if we strip away our earth suits -- our physical bodies -- the soul is what remains. It's the “Me,” who you are, your memory, feelings, imagination, desires -- your whole being. Our soul lives on forever and it’s the part of us that God is most concerned about. In Mark 8, Jesus said our soul has great value. Our soul is breathed into us by God, and the body apart from the soul or spirit is dead. But because we are human, our soul is not pure and is capable of sin. God gave us free will and we can often make bad choices. For it to be well with our soul, we need to nurture it daily.
Maintaining a healthy soul isn’t all that different than keeping a healthy body. We must feed our soul with the same zeal with which we feed our physical body. We take care of our physical health by eating right, exercising, and getting adequate rest. If we don’t, over time our bodies deteriorate.
We can keep our soul healthy by feeding it with prayer, worship, Bible readings, confession, inviting the Holy Spirit in, and trying to emulate Jesus by loving our neighbors and serving the needy.
It’s been said that the Lord meets us in our weakness, not our strength. God reveals himself more often in darkness. As we emerge from the dark days of 2020 and 2021, perhaps we all need to consider the state of our souls. Invite God to meet us in our weakness, and help us turn our fears and trepidation into the joy that comes from being so loved and assured that we will spend eternity in heaven.