It was a first for me, well maybe not a first, but kind of a first. It didn’t matter how hard I tried, the words would not come. My voice box would not work. But my tears sure did. I’d heard the words of the song many times; I’d read them; I memorized them and I’d sung those words more times than I can count.
The tears would not stop.
And I did not care, because it occurred to me that either I have been lying all of those times, I sang the song, or this season of life just has me silenced. I was standing in a room with at least 150 other people all singing “It Is Well” and all I could do was cry. I refused to stand there and lie and claim that my soul is well, when it is far from well.
It is broken.
It is dry.
It is sad.
It is tired.
It is NOT well.
I know the story of the songwriter, and so do you. It is a song penned by a man who endured unimaginable loss, and is just as powerful today as it was when he watched the sea billows roll.
But I couldn’t lie, so the words didn’t come and that day, in that room, I was having a standoff with God.
The thing about epic standoffs with God, is that they are normally unexpected. None of us plan to actually argue with the God of the universe. I’d looked forward to this retreat for a long time and was in a room full of women (and I think a dude or two) who love books and Jesus, what is not to like? Well, that is how standoffs with God happen sometimes. I couldn’t have been in a better spot, to be honest. The music is always my favorite part of any gathering, so I didn’t expect the time of singing to throw me into an emotional meltdown. But, it did and as they sang about peace like a river, my tears were making their own tracks. I gave up after awhile even trying and allowed myself to listen to the beautiful melody and harmony of that song, and I silently prayed that it could be well with my soul.
If there is such a thing as a “winter of discontent”, then I have had the longest winter ever. While I have plenty to be sad, worried or stressed about, I know that the condition of my soul is because of my inability or unwillingness to seek contentment. My soul is tired and not well because it works too hard to meet self imposed standards that will never be met. My soul is tired because life, once again, knocked me upside the head, blindsiding me so much that I am not sure that I will ever recover (spoiler alert: I will).
But I knew one thing as I stood there mute and sobbing: “Godliness with contentment is great gain”. That is one of those Bible verses that somebody made me memorize and it immediately came to my mind as I stood there accessing the condition of my soul.
And I realized I was doing it again.
Trying so hard.
To stop trying so hard.
I was trying to be “enough” again.
And standing there, not singing, I owned it. I owned all of it, because while I could not find my words to sing the song, I found plenty at first angry and then contrite and finally grateful words to say to God. I surprised even myself as tapping into that dry condition of my soul scared me and I didn’t have anything to lose by articulating what He knows anyway.
So, what do I (we) do when it is not well with our souls? I think that remains the million dollar question, yet has the most simple answer on the planet. That answer is without cost because that price was paid a long time ago. When our souls are in these conditions, it is almost always because of something we don’t have, failing health, financial concerns or our perception of lack of purpose. I find myself clinging to all the promises of all the scripture that I have memorized over my lifetime because the lack of words from my mouth is met by the lack of desire to pick up my Bible.
We were flying home and not unlike the last several months I was exhausted. But my inability to sing a song with all the truth in my heart bothered me. And I couldn’t help but wonder: “what do I do now?” Because maybe for the first time ever, I was throwing around indictments at God and wasn’t holding anything back. And then it hit me.
It would never be well with my soul unless I consulted the Creator of my soul. And what happened next is hard to explain to you. Whether on the plane coming home or every minute since, I have really sought a solution for my tired, weary soul, the one where the hope gage is on empty. And I know that seeking Him first is the only way to be content. And yet another verse becomes remarkably special to me, Matthew 6:33
“Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you”
What is meant by “all these things”? Would I be less sad less stressed or less tired? Would I find contentment? How hard do I have to try? Will my efforts be enough?
And I find myself right back where I started, falling remarkably short of any standard I would set for myself or by another person. My pain and maybe my purpose has been so wrapped up in people and circumstances, I forgot about the Healer of souls. I forgot about the One that is constantly making all things new. I forgot about the One Who’s ways are higher than mine.
I forgot Jesus.
I really do want my soul to be well.
So I will seek first.
And that will be enough.
Though satan should buffet though trials should come let this blest assurance control, my that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul
It is well.
With my soul.
“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 74:26