Friday, January 15, 2010

It Is Well


I was laying in bed the other night, trying to come up with a topic to blog about. In my half-asleep haze the words of one of my favorite hymns came softly to mind:

When peace like a river attendenth 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."

This hymn has meant alot to me over the years. I can remember the first time it really spoke to me. If you're like me, you grew up in church, singing the old hymns every Sunday (twice a day!) and Wednesday and often on days in between! You learned the words by rote before you were even old enough to understand what half of them meant. In short, you had very little reason to ever stop and think about the words you were singing.

But when I was 13 or 14, someone bought me a calendar. The pictures were sort of abstract art, with musical notes over them, and the words of hymns. I played the piano and the flute, so someone thought a musical calendar would be appropriate. I didn't think much of it, just put it on the wall by my bed and went on with life. But one of the months - I don't remember which - had the words of "It Is Well With My Soul" on it. The picture was done in blues and greens, reminiscient of tossing ocean waves. The words of the song were printed in curving lines along the waves.

In those hazy moments between waking and sleeping, I would lay in bed and stare at that picture. I would sing the song over and over in my head. One night, it just hit me. The words of the song hit me. When things are good and life is peaceful, OR when terrible things are happening, WHATEVER is going on, God gives me peace and wellness within my soul.

That particular hymn steadied me through many a troubled time in my life. When the year that calendar was for was over, I pulled out the page with that song on it and saved it for many years, tacked onto my bulletin board among pictures of friends and school flyers.

When I was 16 and pregnant, the phrase "when sorrows like sea billows roll" could not have been more appropriate. I had incredibly vivid dreams during that time of being lost out in an ocean of violent waves. But I got into the habit of singing that song - "Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say...." in my head as I went to sleep each night.

There have been many times in my life - my husband and I went through a rough few months once, finances have ALWAYS been a strain, back when I worked I had some issues with co-workers, the loss of my beloved grandmother - when that song has come to mind and given me peace through my problems.

There have been, of late, more and more good times and less and less bad - and still that song comes to mind. "When peace like a river attendeth my way..." Even in the good times, God is the sole provider of our peace and joy!

I heard a sermon once - one of the maybe 3 or 4 in my life that have REALLY stuck in my head - about "contentment". The preacher talked about how we are to find our joy in the Lord, and contentment in our lives, no matter what. He discussed how contentment is looked upon these days as a generic rip-off of true happiness, as in, "Its not what I really wanted but I'll just have to be content with it for now." But the Bible says:

"The fear of the LORD leads to life:
Then one rests content, untouched by trouble"
~ Psalm 19:23

AND

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
~Phillipians 4:12

AND

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."
~Hebrews 13:5

Contentment is defined as "satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else". Being content is not settling but really hating what you have and wanting something else. Its like that old saying "Its not having what you want, its wanting what you have." I have had (many times) to take a step back and really look at my own ideas and opinions and think about whether or not I am truly allowing God to make me content. I don't think its possible to be content without God, because without Him we are always missing something, always wanting something more.

To me, contentment doesn't mean I don't sometimes want things I don't have. It means I don't let those wants and desires ruin my outlook. It means I am thankful for the things I have, even though I may be working toward something even better. For example, we're about to buy our first house. I have always -ALWAYS - wanted us to own our own house but financially we've just never been ready for it (until now). I came to realize that I was letting my desire for a house of my own RUIN the life I was living. I never wanted to have people over because "it isn't really our house". I never wanted to put forth time or effort to make the houses we were in "home-y" because "it isn't really our house". I would spend hours looking at houses for sale and floorplans online, even though I KNEW we couldn't afford them.

Then one day, that sermon, along with that song..."WHATEVER MY LOT..." came to mind like a smack in the head. God was saying to me, "You must learn to be content. You must learn to trust that I know what is best for you. You must learn to wait upon Me and be thankful for what you already have."

From that time, I purposed in my heart to be content. It might not be OUR house, but it was our home. I would not be ashamed and I would be thankful that we had a place to live, period.

And then, lo and behold, my father offers us the money for a down payment/closing costs and here we are, 4 months later, buying our first house.

Whatever is happening, whether we be in good times or bad, happiness or sorrow, triumph or trial, God wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to be content in our situations, knowing that He knows best and that in trusting Him, we will ensure that at every point in our lives, we are where we're supposed to be. And, by trusting in Him and His plan and His provision, we truly find that ultimate PEACE. And then, and only then, is it trully "Well with our souls."

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