“It Is Well with my Soul” | My Instrumental Arrangement

When I heard this was my then fiancé’s favorite hymn, I had it in my head to arrange it for him, but every time I sat down to do it I felt I couldn’t quite capture the mood I wanted to. It is a hymn that has meant a great deal to many over the decades, and I wanted to do the words justice, even if the words wouldn’t actually be sung in my version. A few months ago, we had the occasion to record some hymns for a church event facilitated by one of our friends. Deadlines are always immensely helpful for me in the creative process, so at last, I managed to record an arrangement I was happy with.

“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.”

In this hymn, we find someone reconciling the good and the hard, as I have written about before. Whether times are easy, or fraught with trial and difficulty, the speaker is able to say, “It is well with my soul.”

But why? You may ask. Indeed, the writer of this hymn had recently lost his children in a shipwreck. How can one possibly say, “It is well?” in such a situation?

“Though satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blessed assurance control:

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

and has shed his own blood for my soul.”

Thus, it is the blood of Christ which gives the speaker the ability to rest. Even in the darkest shadow of grief, he has hope through Jesus, who secured eternal life for all who trust in him when he gave himself up on the cross.

“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 oh my soul!”

The speaker recognizes that he, like every one of us, was born into bondage. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot free himself from his sin nature, that is, that part of him that compels him to think, say, and do wrong things. This is a problem, when you consider that a perfect and holy God must be perfectly just. There must be an answer for evil, including all the evil that you and I have done. God’s answer is found in Jesus. He took the punishment I deserved, and praise the Lord I can agree with the speaker in saying I bear my sin no more, and praise God, so do you if you trust in Jesus.

The hymn finishes with a triumphant vision of Christ’s glorious return at the end of the age. The speaker has such security in Christ that even as that dreadful time of judgement approaches, and those who have rejected Christ draw near to destruction, he can confidently say, “It is well”, because he knows his salvation is sure in Jesus.

“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, Instrumental

Note: Though I think the theology of this hymn is sound, the writer, Horatio Spafford, had some very erroneous theological beliefs, and should not be considered an example of a faithful believer. When I use the word “speaker”, I mean it in the sense of poetic analysis, rather than in reference to the author. As we have seen many times throughout history, God is a mighty redeemer and can use even the lost to produce great works to encourage and uplift his people. I think that is the case here.

Do you have a favorite hymn? Why is it your favorite? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps I’ll be inspired to arrange that one, too.

Christ Identifies with Us in Pregnancy

Not far into pregnancy, I quickly discovered, as I’m sure many women do, that morning sickness is one of the great misnomers of our time. Morning sickness? You mean all day sickness? And if you’re referring to the time of day that it’s the worst, rather than the time of day that it is there (AKA nearly all the time), I would have to call it afternoon or evening sickness. The first time I threw up during my pregnancy was around two Pm. My husband noticed I was losing color, and encouraged me to lie down. He had to run out for a few things, so left me with a pot, just in case. I wasn’t expecting to do anything with the pot; so far over the last 12 weeks I only felt like throwing up, but never actually did… but only a few minutes after my husband had departed, I reached for the pot and clutched it to my chest. 

Maybe it’s called morning sickness because you throw up everything you ate in the morning, I theorized vaguely as fragments of my first meal made their rather uncivil reappearance. Why IS bringing new life into the world such a painful process, I wondered then, returning shakily to my pillow. Sin, I think, is the answer to that question, but we needn’t stop there. After all, there is an answer to sin, that is, Jesus, and he endured discomfort, pain, and humiliation to bring new life to all of God’s children. 

I am struck by the way pregnancy and birth, with all the associated difficulty and sometimes embarrassing side-effects, can point us to the cross. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to be saved, he must be “born again” (John 3:1-7). This is because Nicodemus, like you and I, was first born with a nature prone to hating and rebelling against God. That is, he was physically alive, but spiritually he was “dead in his transgressions” (Ephesians 2:1). 

But how, as Nicodemus quickly asks, can one be born again? How does this “second birth” take place? Jesus says that it is through Him. In order for us to be reborn, Jesus, the Son of God, became also the Son of Man. He was born into the humblest of human situations. He endured the difficulties of daily life, including being tempted in all ways as we are. Though he remained always without sin, he chose to take on the penalty of our wrongdoing and suffered death on a cross.

Christ knows, more than anyone, what it is to suffer on behalf of another. He knows what it is to endure discomfort and even agonizing, unimaginable pain in order to bring new life into the kingdom of GOd. When I remember what Christ did for me, that I might receive new life, the trials and tribulations of pregnancy not only become easier to bear, but become also an opportunity to share, if very shallowly, in the sufferings of my savior. Through my discomfort, I get the joy of bringing a new life into the world, just as through his suffering, Christ granted new birth to every believer.

It’s not the comparison itself that matters. Any potential pain in pregnancy and birth will be nothing compared to the infinite anguish born by our Lord, but only the fact that it points me to him, that in every step of this process, from headaches to nausea to labor, I can reflect on the things Christ endured to make me new. Not only that, but in the moments that I start to think “I can’t do this” (I’m sure that thought will come in labor if not before), I can throw myself upon the one who identifies in every way with my struggles, and in fact knows them far more profoundly than I. It is truly wonderful to have a God and savior who sympathizes in every way with our weaknesses.