“What are your plans for the day?” the lady asked me as sat in the chair for my monthly haircut. Quickly, I respond (not the whole truth), “I’m retired. I guess I will read and write”. It was somewhat like our churchy answer of “I am fine” even though we have a throbbing headache.
It is not news to you that our days, weeks, months, and years are filled with cycles of the up and down, the drab and the glorious, pain and health, losses and gains, new life and death. The truth is never do I use my entire day just to read and write.
Back to the question of my haircut lady. The partial validity of my answer is I am retired, which gives me an increased opportunity to read and write more than I could throughout my employment years. At the time of my monthly trim up I had just started to read Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama. I am fascinated with its pages as Kenneth L. Woodward, who served as Religious Editor for Newsweek Magazine documents over forty years the stories of sacred and secular movements (civil, women’s, religious, etc.) and governments that parallel my own years of formation. Years that he too lived through and closely followed and reported on as Religious Editor.
What is pertinent for today’s post is his rehearsal of the 1950’s. It was truly one of the up times in the history of the nation where I grew up. It was a time of hope. As one example, more places of worship were constructed, and greater numbers of people attended weekly worship than at any time in the country’s history. I can only thank God for His grace during the 1950’s that planted the roots of faith in Jesus in my life walk.
But even in the fifties we experienced the valleys. I read old letters where my parents struggled to place the next meal on the table. Our family experienced death, joblessness, pain, health struggles, and the dark valleys that come with life.
Through it all I was taught, and have come to know by experience, the one thing that is for real and eternal is my soul. Through all the ups and downs of life I can trust Jesus with the eternal care of my soul.
Yes, my soul is me. It is designed by God for God. Powered by the Holy Spirit, my soul mates of body, mind, and heart move through life’s dark valleys and celestial peaks toward perfect wholeness with Father, Son, and Spirit.
I’m drawn to a rich hymn of soul affirmation given to the church in the late nineteenth century. The back story of both lyrics and music connect to deep soul pain. Horatio Spafford penned the lyrics after the death of his four daughters in a shipwreck.
Three years later, Philip Bliss in 1876, wrote the music, then gave it the name of the fatal ship, the Ville du Havre, that took the lives of the four little girls. One month after the hymn was first sung in public worship, Bliss and his wife died in a tragic accident as their train plunged into an icy river that ran through the state of Ohio.
Yet, in the face of death and destruction their hymn stands as a monument to the indestructibility of the soul that is placed in the care of the Holy.
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 the 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 pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal. Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope blessed rest of 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.
My prayer for all who read this blog is that we can join and sing with complete confidence; It is well with my soul as together we confront the ups and downs of life.
Will you join me as we declare in unison It is well with my soul?
Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection on How Is Your Soul in The Ups and Downs of Life?