We begin Holy Week of 2020 in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are unsettling times wherein many of the culture’s idols are being shaken. The fallen world has always been an uncertain place, and uncertainty is the foundation of fear. Human history is a long series of stories, of individuals, families, cities and nations that have found themselves surprised, reversed, frightened and grieved. Our extremely finite nature, living in the midst of what seems to be an infinite cosmos, leaves us (in our more candid moments), somewhere between nervous and terrified.

The vast majority of people have lived hard, short lives. We read or hear about such things and for most of us, who live relatively comfortable lives, these stories seem distant. The modern world has created many creature-comforts, which do take a lot of the edge off, providing plenty of food, medical care, leisure, and electronic devices. Our illusion of “self-sufficiency,” is actually a dependency upon civil government to be our savior; to provide, protect and solve every potential crisis. We’ve come to assume that every problem can be solved by money, science and government. But no matter how comfortable we might feel today, the threat of tomorrow, and more especially of eternity, looms over us all. Economist John Maynard Keynes articulated this well when he said, “In the end we are all dead.” We’re all lost, now what?

A microscopic virus has suddenly demanded our attention and has disrupted our routines. Mortality can be a bear. Or as Jesus asked: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36). You see, one big problem overrides everything else, and that problem is our own death. Of course, if this is it; if we’ll all soon be returned to cosmic dust to be remembered no more, then what’s the big deal?

When a newspaper article asked “What’s Wrong with the World?” G. K. Chesterton wrote back: “Dear sir, I am. Yours truly.” We all know that there’s something very wrong with the world; but not just the world, there’s something very wrong with people; there’s something wrong with us. We desperately want the problem to be “out there,” because we then have some hope that we can be saved by government or by science. But if our much bigger problem is us; if it’s inside, then we’ll need a much bigger Savior. The Apostle Paul wrote:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. —1 Timothy 1:14-17

This Friday is the day Christians call “Good Friday,” which was the day that Jesus was crucified. While the origins of the term “Good Friday” are uncertain, what makes it “good” is that Christ showed His great love for man.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —1 Corinthians 5:17-21

We have been given a real Savior who has conquered death, which is our ultimate enemy. Once that enemy is defeated, there’s a sense in which we can relax, or have peace, even when everything else seem uncertain. That doesn’t mean we “act like nothing is wrong.” The fact is, there’s much that is wrong. Nevertheless, if we have come to know the One who rules over all the circumstances then we’re never left to languish “under the circumstance.”

“It Is Well with My Soul” is a hymn that was written by Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) and composed by Philip Bliss. Spafford was a successful lawyer and real estate investor in Chicago. He and his wife, Anna, had one son and four daughters and lived a life of philanthropy and service in their church, until 1871 that is. In that year they lost their four-year-old son to scarlet fever and a few months later the great Chicago fire wiped out the majority of their property holdings. They made it through the next two years until, in 1873, tragedy struck again. The Spaffords had planned to visit Europe as a family, but business kept Horatio behind. On the voyage, the ship Anna and their four daughters were traveling on struck another vessel and sank rapidly. Only Anna survived; she sent a hauntingly brief telegram to Horatio bearing the words “Saved alone.”

After suffering the loss of his children, Spafford wrote this beautiful hymn as a testament to the salvation he found in Jesus through the good and bad times in life. The song focuses less on what was lost and more on where hope can be found. No doubt Spafford was shattered by the loss of his daughters, but his heart turned to the faithfulness of God in the midst of loss and the work of Jesus to rescue sinners. The hymn does not diminish or gloss over pain and tragedy but rather proclaims that God is present in them and greater than them.1

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

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with 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

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

  1. https://americansongwriter.com/behind-the-song-horatio-spafford-philip-bliss-it-is-well-with-my-soul/