It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Well, honestly I’ve spent much of this year riding the roller coaster from discouragement, uncertainty, anger, and pain to hope, optimism and faith and back around again. The most recent instance has just been another circumstance which brought pain and worry.
A few days ago, I’d looked up Bible verses about worry and anxiety and was punched in the gut with Philippians 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I am always thankful for God’s grace when a verse like that lays me out flat. While I pray often, I also fail regularly to “not be anxious.”
The following day, I really didn’t want my worries and fears to consume all my thoughts as they had been doing. As I brought all of that to the Lord in prayer that morning, many things ran through my head. My need to repent and confess of my sins of worry, and control and fear was a large part of it, and it was in that time of prayer I finally realized all those were symptoms of having placed my faith in myself regarding the situation rather than placing it in God. Again, ouch.
All of that and a snippet of music on the radio led to me to reflect on the hymn, It Is Well, which was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873, after all of his five children had died (four in a shipwreck).
The first verse reads:
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.
As I think about that first verse I’m not only humbled I’m humiliated. I sing the words aspirationally, knowing all too well that it is not well in my heart or mind. That when I dislike my circumstances I pile up sin after sin as I worry incessantly, replay my deepest fears over in my mind and try to fix the situation to make the pain end. I wondered how many times have I committed those sins without even recognizing them for what they were? How many more times will I have to repent of them again in this lifetime?
But if I keep on singing past that first verse, the song reminds me of the truth that can set me free from my desperation.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the 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.
That same day, I sought out sermons to keep my mind focused on Christ instead of circumstances. This sermon I listened to on Psalm 23 was incredibly helpful. (Seriously, this is the sermon about Psalm 23 you need to hear and probably never have!) The familiar passage assures us that our Lord guides and provides, yet even as Christians we often live mired in worry and anxiety. Pastor Hoskinson tackles the reason for that as well as the incredible hope found in this psalm.
Ultimately, what I relearned this week was that with my gaze fixed firmly on myself and my situation, it is desperate. Even hopeless. But if I look up, to Christ, I can endure. I can rest and trust in the one who already paid for my sins. He can grow my faith and give me peace because He is God, He knows all and He is still working.
It’s a lesson I expect I’ll have to relearn again and again. But when I apply it, I do find rest and peace in Jesus.