It Is Well with My Soul

“He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, For they are many who strive with me.” (Psalm 55:18)

The Lord is wanting and willing to redeem us from the sinful life we have lived and restore us in our fellowship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. This has been His purpose since the fall of man into sin, to redeem us. But I approach the meaning of the second part of this verse in two ways.

“For they are many who strive with me.” My first thought is that there are many as we who seek the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness. They strive to live a life that is led by His Spirit that they may grow into the image of His Son. This is the first order of our walk of faith. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)

My second thought is that there are many who strive with me in opposition. In this world that is under the curse of sin from the fall in the garden there are many who oppose the truth of God’s Word. They not only oppose it but they hate it. They may oppose it because they love their wickedness or because of their wickedness they have been blinded by the god of this world and do not understand it. “In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) They can’t understand the Christian or the way that they strive to live. They do not like hearing the truth as it convicts them and they love their own way and do not want their error to be revealed by the life that the Christian is living. They persecuted God the Son and therefore they persecute the followers of the Son. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) I understand that and let them follow the path they have chosen for themselves.

My battle is not against them but against the forces that have perverted them. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) All I can do is pray for them and move on to seek an open heart. I have to remember that I am but a man and Satan is a fallen angel whose power is far greater than mine and my only strength is found in the Lord. “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” (Psalm 27:1)

There will be temptation, there will be trials, and there will be tribulation in our life here in this world. This is an inherent reality in the world that we live in as the prince of the air travels to and fro seeking to kill and destroy. (John 10:10) Satan was cast down from heaven and now seeks his revenge upon man as a way to hurt God who cast him out. “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2) Satan and his demons will attack us with every opportunity until the day that they are bound.

Such as it was for Horatio G. Spafford. Horatio was a successful business man in the City of Chicago in the 1800’s. He was a successful layer and a close friend to D. L. Moody who was the great evangelist of his day. In 1871 Horatio’s son of four years contracted Scarlet Fever. In spite of the best of medical attention Horatio’s son died from the fever. The family was grieved but as we all must the family moved on. Horatio invested his wealth in real-estate and amassed a great amount of wealth. Later in the year of 1871 Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocked over a lamp in the barn and set the town of Chicago on fire. Much of the property that Horacio had invested in was lost along with his wealth. Of course Horatio and his wife Anna had suffered a devastating year with the loss of their son and there financial investments.

Horatio worked hard and started to rebuild his fortune and in the year of 1873 things were looking better for him and his family. He decided that the family needed a vacation and he booked a voyage on the ship Ville du Havre. They had planned to sail to England and see D. L. Moody who was speaking there and all was set for them to go. A business emergency came upon them and Horatio could not go. He sent his wife Anna and their four daughters on ahead of him and he would come at a later date.

On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and 226 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. Anna Spafford survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford saying “Saved alone.” Spafford then sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters’ deaths. (Wikipedia)

When Horatio was able he sailed to England to be with his wife Anna. As he crossed that Atlantic in the winter month of November and it must have been a very lonely voyage for him. The weight of Horatio’s grief must have been unbearable as he steamed across the waters that rested above the bodies of his four daughters. I can imagine that as he passed over he called out to them each by their names. “Oh! If I could but see them once more and tell them how much I love them.” I can almost hear as he said their names in a grief stricken voice. My dear Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta. How the tears must have flowed in streams down his cheeks. How bitter he must have been for the tragic losses that he had suffered. Like Job, Satan had taken near all from him and there he was on board a ship in the middle of the ocean and all alone. Was he?

I image that Horatio was like most of us as he looked up towards the heavens and cried out, “God why have you allowed this to happen?” It may not be the way that we picture someone crying out to the Lord but he was calling upon his name. God hears our voice but He searches our heart. God is faithful and truth and He will answer our prayer. “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15) God who loves each and every one of us and knows how to heal the hurt that we bear was there by his side closer than any could ever be. I have learned in my own life as Horatio learned that day when we offer our tears to the Lord we will find our comfort and strength. Horatio praised the Lord and wrote this hymn.

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. 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 His 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 pain shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to 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. It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.

We all fight our battles each day. We all have suffered loss of one kind or another and whatever that battle was it was harsh to us. My battles are just as sever to me as any battle that you may have fought. No battle is easy and sometimes we may feel that we are losing. I am sure that Horatio may have considered that which he had lost. But he sought the Lord’s counsel and was given the victory as it was then “Well with His Soul.”

As we look back and see all that we have come through knowing that it was the Lord who carried us through let us carry onward in faith that He will not forsake us. We must always go boldly forth trusting in His promises and in the assurance of His love. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

The Apostle Paul suffered greatly during his missionary journeys. As we read in his letter to the Corinthian Church. “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27) Yet Paul carried on boldly in his mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ never in anxiousness, never in fear, but with confidence that the Lord would give him the victory and raise him from the dead.

Paul not only looked back on the trials and tribulations that the Lord had led him through but he was also mindful of the trials that lay ahead of him. Paul knew that his battle was not against flesh and blood but against evil spiritual forces in the heavenly places. He knew that the god of this world comes only to steal, kill, and destroy but Paul also knew that his God had already defeated Satan on the cross. There is no god like our God, ever present, all knowing, and almighty. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31)

This is the evidence that we have that since the beginning of time God has proven Himself time and again that we can trust His providence in the here and in the world to come. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) We can say with confidence “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Pleasant Manor, July 23, 2016

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