It’s always humbling to be able to preach at Lord of Glory. I was hesitant to share the message that I did, knowing it could touch some raw nerves (mine included). But as we moved through it all, it was clear we all needed a balm… to be reminded: “It is well with our souls”.
(oh yeah, the recorder kept recording during the singing of “It Is Well”. Pardon my off notes!!!)
“Jesus’ words [to widow at Nain in Luke 7] “Do not weep” could be restated as: “You cried out and I’m here now. I’m here.” I know many of us have been angry at God when tragedies happen; we feel abandoned; we feel powerless, especially when we put such faith in a powerful God. For all we know, Jesus’ presence set this woman off on an angry tirade. We aren’t told. What we are shown, however, is that Jesus cared about this woman’s pain and suffering in her present moment just as much as his own ability to turn the situation around in the next moment.
“Don’t weep. I’ve heard you. I’m here. I’m here. I’m here. I’m here, my love, I’m here. You are not alone.” Here is love: Jesus’ knowledge the life was going to get better for this woman, but choosing to be present in her life through her eyes first before racing into fix everything.
I also believe Jesus was able to show such empathy because he saw in this woman’s world a terrible foreshadowing of his own. A widow… mourning the death of her son… moving her son’s body to his tomb… it has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? In the widow of Nain we see Jesus’ own mother, Mary. And in the unnamed son, we see Jesus himself.
So where are you today? What cries are you lifting to heaven? I’ll admit that when I cry out to God, I often don’t really believe he’ll show up. It would truly freak me out if I turned around only to see Jesus standing right there. My last name’s “Thomas” so my doubt is totally legit, but I’d still be freaked out.
Where are you?
As a people emulating the love of Christ, how can we express that love during times of grief and sorrow and pain? Are we able to put aside our own notions of what the other person might need, and step into their worlds for a time? Are we able to be vulnerable with each other?
So whatever happened to Anna and Horatio Spafford?
Well, a gentleman by the name of Philip Bliss landed on a copy of Horatio’s words and together they wrote one of the most powerful hymns ever to come out of North America:
“When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot,
Thou has taught me to say:
‘It is well; it is well with my soul”
In the song, Horatio didn’t minimize his grief, he didn’t hide his feelings or sweep under the rug the truth of his plight; he didn’t try to focus all on the positive things, or positive energy or positive thinking; and he was able to express the reality that no matter the darkness that engulfs us, our God is present with us. It doesn’t magically make the world a rosy place; and, unlike the widow of Nain, we aren’t given our loved ones back to us; but the presence of God breaks through the crowds, the advice, the details, the pain and the woundedness, wraps his arms around our flailing and cries and says:
“I’m here. You’re not alone. Scream all you like. It hurts.”
… That’s not a silver lining. That’s God creating a powerful good out of a powerfully awful situation. We have a God who not only desires peace, hope and trust for us; he cares about coming to us in our darkest times simply to be present. And when we are able to respond back to him, then… and only then… are we able to say:
“It is well with our souls.”