You stop, finally sit down for a moment, and actually remember what it feels like to just breathe. It’s been a long day. Correction, it’s been a long season of what can only be described as seemingly endless nights that turn into mornings where the darkness doesn’t go away. You feel the weight of it and harbor the guilt even though you are fully aware that the emotions you feel are mostly birthed from lies. It’s as if you have chains attached to your limbs and moving your body is comparable to running a marathon, but you know that’s a lie, too. You tend to get stuck on the roller-coaster of your inner thoughts, even when surrounded by a sea of faces. And each time a new day dawns, you whisper to yourself, “Deep breath. It is well.”
Somehow, telling yourself to breathe actually helps you do so. You repeat your reminder over and over again, and it helps the heaviness in your soul dissipate little by little. You are inexplicably unhappy—burdened in a way that you cannot describe—yet simultaneously have a heart so full of joy. Joy? But, how can there be joy in the midst of pain—in the midst of being overwhelmed by your brokenness?
Say this with me, “Even so, it is well with my soul.”
Horatio Spafford, an American lawyer in the late 1800s lived through unimaginable loss—the kind of loss that led his fellow church members to believe that he was being divinely punished for something. Spafford and his wife lived in Chicago with their four daughters, surviving the great fire of 1871. After the fire had devastated the city, they planned a family getaway to Europe. Horatio sent his family to sail ahead while he was held back on business. Their vessel, the Ville du Havre, collided with a British ship and sunk into the ocean, leaving only a few survivors. His wife was among them. His daughters were not.
Years later, the Spaffords lost another child to disease. From the tragedies that this family endured, though, came lyrics that would go on to stir countless hearts. Despite having nearly every reason under the sun to run from and blame God, Spafford chose to press on in joy, declaring, “It is well with my soul!” Tragedy prompted the creation of a timeless, soul-moving hymn. It is a hymn that moves my heart to worship and brings me to tears each time I recite or sing the words.
This persistent battle for joy reminds me of John Milton’s poetic depiction of the original story of mankind’s tainted desire. In Paradise Lost, the blind poet narrates the fall of mankind and the expulsion from Paradise, the Garden of Eden. In the story, we see Satan enticing Eve:
Here, happy creature, fair angelic Eve,
Partake thou also; Happy though thou art,
Happier thou may’st be, worthier canst not be;
Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods
Thyself a goddess, not to Earth confined.
Satan deceives Eve and builds her self-esteem, filling her with the same lies that we fall prey to. I imagine Eve almost in a trance—as if she is watching him dangle the most precious jewel on a thread of gold. Satan essentially says, “Sure, you’re happy right now, but don’t you want to be even happier?” Let’s be realistic, who wouldn’t want to always be happier? The problem is: we often forget what real happiness is. We are creatures of the moment, seeking to satisfy the flesh rather than nourish the soul. We chase after momentary happiness that will leave us disappointed, broken, unsatisfied, and worn. We crave temporary satisfaction, and we’ll trade true joy—the kind of joy that persists even in the darkness—in order to get it.
I often wander into believing the same lies that Eve believed—lies that cause my perception of myself and my surroundings to become a distorted reality, regardless of how aware I am of the Truth and the countless blessings I have received. Yet, thanks be to God, for He continues to save me from myself! This is a daily, silent battle that we all endure, whether in the face of mental illness or simply the normal challenges of life. It is a self-imposed fight against the desires of the flesh. Satan makes Eve feel empowered, saying she is worthy and can be a limitless goddess with just a simple taste of the forbidden fruit. Eve is drawn to the point that she rebels against her Creator leading her and her husband to trade communion with their Creator in Paradise for a moment’s taste of what she thought she was missing.
We, too, succumb to the lies of the Deceiver, whether in our pursuit of happiness or in our quest for perfectionism. And we, too, trade in communion with our Creator in Paradise for empty promises that continue to leave us wanting.
But there is good news.
Our Creator does not abandon us in our rebellion. He has made a way for the heartbreaking separation from His dear ones to be reversed. Someday, the Creator, who cast out His children from Paradise, will bring Paradise right back to them.
Friends, we are those children, and our Father—our Rescuer—is coming for us. I pray that you receive His invitation with open arms as He beckons you—as he invites you not into temporary, empty happiness, but true, eternal, unshakeable joy. Because true joy can lead a grieving heart to proclaim, as Spafford’s hymn continues: “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well! It is well with my soul!’”
This life can be dark, but there is One who has conquered the darkness and leads us to the light. We just need to surrender to Him. And the irony of surrendering is that it’s actually the only path to liberation. In the surrendering of our desires, plans, hopes, dreams, and even our suffering, we find freedom—a freedom that is only found in the presence of our Creator.
And it is there in His presence—in Paradise—that we’ll be able to forever declare, with nothing to hinder our joy, “It is well.”
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Kayla Hodges lives in Cypress, Texas and loves being at home learning her new role as a mother to her baby girl, Eden Grace. After graduating from Baylor University, she and her husband Matthew began partnering in ministry together with Bridge Point Community Church, an Acts29 church plant that they have helped launch with dear friends in Cypress. Kayla works part-time at Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands and is passionate about her family, stewarding God’s Creation of this earth, and mental health awareness.