And the cares of this world take their toll.
In the heat of the day there is grace enough to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
The first time I heard the contemporary version of the great hymn “It is well with my soul” was at our local Women Aglow meeting. I am never sure that I like people playing around with a perfectly good hymn – but this is an exception. It stirred my soul.
Truth of the matter is I wasn’t sure that it was so well with my soul. The storms of winter were blowing and the cares of the world were taking their toll and grace wasn’t absent but my soul wasn’t well.
I know my soul is safe. It is in no danger of turning away from God. So, in one sense, it is well with my soul but I was greatly disturbed by so many things near and far. I read the news. I know so many Christians that don’t read the news. There is so much bad news that it is distressing. I read the news so I know what to pray about.
I had reached saturation point. The horrific activities of the Islamic State seemed to be going unchecked. Someone had shared a newspaper article that insisted the situation was beyond prayer. Is anything ever beyond prayer? I had read about the young girl from Glasgow joining the forces in northern Iraq, marrying a soldier and encouraging others through her twitter account to cause trouble in the UK if they couldn’t travel out to join her.
I began to pray. I am not sure exactly what I wanted to see happen. An end to the violence? The safety and the witness of the Christian community? People coming to their senses having had enough of war? Yes, I prayed about those things.
It didn’t seem to help. I didn’t feel like any weight had been lifted or that angels were rushing about in heaven doing stuff – or that God was particularly moved.
I began to cry.
I was overwhelmed by a deep sadness.
I imagined one of the Islamic State soldiers, a British convert, looking in a mirror, catching just a glimpse of himself, and not recognising the person reflected back. As he looked deeply into his eyes he couldn’t see any trace of the man he used to be. There was no smile in his eyes, no humour, no love or compassion, just a stranger looking back. He hadn’t just travelled from one country to another. There was an inner journey from being someone balanced and whole to someone fractured and broken. He seemed to realise that he had gone too far along the road to be able to find his way back to who he used to be.
Then I felt the presence of God so close. It was as if God was kneeling in front of me. And as if He took my hands in His.
We cried together.
“He has lost himself. When he looks in the mirror he can no longer see My image in him. I had a plan for his life – to do him good, for him to prosper. My plan would have brought him fulfilment. There is no victory for him to celebrate but only a loss to mourn.”
Together, God and I, prayed for this man’s restoration and healing.
And then it was well with my soul.