I recently heard a gorgeous new rendition of one of my favorite hymns, “It Is Well with My Soul.” As I was listening, I remembered a fascinating Library of Congress exhibit I came upon years ago about the song’s author, Horatio G. Spafford.
In 1871, Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer. He had it all: money, power, fame, and a beautiful family. However, in October of that year, he lost most of his business to the Great Chicago Fire. Two years later, he lost his four beautiful daughters in a shipwreck.
In the weeks after his daughters perished, Spafford wrote “It is Well with My Soul.” Learning the tragic story of how it came to be, I couldn’t help but wonder how this 19th-century Job figure could find it within himself to pen the words of this hymn right after such tremendous losses? “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.’” What is this “peace” of which he speaks in the midst of such sorrow?
Everywhere we turn—television, radio, newsfeed—there is news of strife, tragedy, and devastation. The more news we hear, the more it steals our peace. So how can we keep our peace during these tumultuous times? How can we find the strength to sing, “It is well with my soul,” when it seems that things just aren’t well at all?
1. Dwell on the good.
One of the easiest ways to dwell on the good is to just shut off the stream of bad news. Shut off the TV. Shut off the radio. Shut off the newsfeed. Monitor what you allow into your mind. Guard your peace. If you keep the channel on or keep checking that newsfeed, more likely than not, you will find yourself saddened, angry, and stressed. Instead, dwell on the good. Wherever you find God in your day—in a pleasant exchange, the beauty of a flower, the glint of the sun, a beautiful seascape, or a child’s laugh or smile—stop and acknowledge the beauty and the goodness around you, and take a moment to thank God.
2. Have a “heart-to-heart” with Jesus.
St. Ignatius urged his followers to envision themselves sitting with Jesus and conversing just as one would with a friend. So talk with him; go to Adoration, go to Mass, and pray during the day. Wherever you are, take your concerns to Jesus. All that bad news is not for you to shoulder. He’s got it. Talk about what’s going on in the world, the nation, your home, and your life, and how it makes you feel. Let it all out and be honest! Why not? He already knows what’s in the depths of our hearts, right?
One of my frequent personal prayers these days, recalling Ignatius’s advice about prayer as conversation, is: “Really, God? Again? I thought we were done with this! I need your help. We need your help. God, please help us.”
3. Embrace peace.
As you talk with Jesus, let go of fear and trust that he has it all covered. When you do this, you make room for him to fill you with “the peace the world cannot give.”
4. Spread peace.
Pope Francis reminds us that when we know Jesus, “Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world” (Evangelii Gaudium 269). Centered in the love of Christ and the peace that he gives, each one of us has the power to change the world, one small action at a time.
Once we regain our peace, we are impelled, as stewards of his peace, to share it. All it takes is one flame to break through the darkness. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings). It is up to each one of us to share of that light and that love that inspired the anthem, “It Is Well with My Soul,” so that, together, we may again find our peace.
Great Discussion. As long as we remember :” Peace at any price”,
is no peace at all. We can’t fix all the problems in the world. so doing our own little bit and praying for our so-called leaders to use their abilities to do the Right Thing (Whatever that is?”) Is a good starting place. Every day we can usually find someone to give a helping hand. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.GOD BLESS.
This came when I really needed it. There was a school shooting on Thursday, 09/08/2017, at Alpine High School, where my son is a junior. One student was shot and the shooter turned the gun on herself. She was 14 years old. A parent’s worst nightmare happened in Alpine, Texas. I can’t believe it happened here and I keep replaying the day over and over. Thinking “what if, why, etc. I need to focus on what did not happen and that our kids were safe and able to come home. Thanks be to God for protecting them. Our hearts go out to the victim and the family of the young girl who killed herself. Your article helped me! Thank you.
Rebecca, this is lovely. I needed this today. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, I needed this.
Reading this article in the wakeful early hours helped me gain perspective. May you all be blessed
As an addendum, there is much in this world that, realistically, we ata personal level are not able to do ANYTHING about. Where we often fail is in spreading peace in our own families and in our own neighborhoods. If every Christian could do just that (a tall enough order), the world would take care of itself. We can pray for the whole world and we can “work” where we have been planted by God.
Peace is priceless.
This article is beautiful and helpful,God bless you!
It is easy to become cynical. One time I went for a walk and decided to count all the times I witnessed a rude or agressive act and all the times I witnessed a kind, affirming act e.g. friends chatting, someone holding open a door, parents caring for their children etc. I was soon swamped by the number of positive actions and lost count. Our attention is not drawn to these things, they escape our notice because they are “normal”. We focus on the negative because it is so very jarring to how things should be. It makes it easy to lose perspective. Once we lose perspective we feel overwhelmed and paralysed so being informed is good but we need to be informed about the totality of human nature.
Thank you. Peace!
I AGREE WITH REBECCA.I KNOW THERE IS TO MUCH SUFFER, PAIN, AND SORROW EVERYWHERE
I M PRAYING ASKING GODS MERCY FOR ALL THE NEEDY AND THE SINNER EVERYDAY, INCLUDING
ME. AND I DON’T NEED TO BE BOMBARDED WITH ALL THE BAD NEWS.I AGREE WITH PEACE AND
DO MY BEST. REGARDS.LAURA.
Yes, we need prayers and God’s mercy in this Year of Mercy – and Peacemakers! Peace to you.
Yes, right on. I am proposing that we be mindful of what we allow to enter our minds and limit our exposure to these repeated tragic headlines as they can be overwhelming. Whether we see these headlines one or 100 times we should bring these people and circumstances to Jesus in prayer. The emotional burden of these tragedies is more appropriate to Christ’s shoulders than our own. Our own responsibility, in addition to prayer, is to go forth as stewards of His peace. We are called to spread Christ’s peace and serve those most in need – both near and far.
I agree with you! We cannot put our head in the sand or be unaware – it is essential to be informed. However, the media (TV) repeats the headline stories every 2 minutes to ensure that everyone who tunes in gets the headline news within just a couple of minutes. As a result, we can be bombarded by the same crisis headlines thirty times in a single hour – and this does not include the ever-present online news feeds and radio. As Emma mentioned, seeing and hearing of these horrible tragedies at home and abroad over and over again can simply be overwhelming. I am suggesting that we bring it to prayer instead of succumbing to the hopelessness or despair that might arise with endless exposure to tragic headlines. After we bring all of these concerns for these people and situations to prayer, trusting in God and knowing that God always hears our prayers, we are reassured and empowered by the peace of Christ to go out and serve the Christ among us wherever he or she might be. We are called to serve – it is most essential – called to bring Christ’s light and love to all we meet. I could not agree with you more!
I don’t know if Rebecca was actually suggesting that we play the ostrich. The media today thrives on the sensational and nothing is more so than bad news. Add to that the relentless flow of 24/7 news and online newsfeeds ensuring that you get news as it happens wherever you are and whenever, it can all become overwhelming for anyone seeking peace at any moment in the day. I think Rebecca is saying that we need to take control of how we interact with these news feeds lest they control us and rob us of our peace. We do so whenever we need to enter into the peace we desire in the moment.
I cannot agree with Rebecca about shutting out the troubles of our world. To me it seems like putting your head in the sand. If we are in ignorance of the plight of our neighbours and those in oppressed countries we will not empathise with them or maybe not even pray for them.