PEACE, LIKE A RIVER
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 has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed Hs own blood for my soul.
It was a sweet, tender moment. The tears began to roll. I simply sat and let the words sooth my soul. This is one of my all-time favorite hymns, one that I want sung at my memorial service when I pass on. The words are so rich, so meaningful, so calming. In this past week, my heart was heavy for a number of people who were struggling with health issues and life issues. This song came to mind, and I meditated on the words, much like I would a Scripture verse. I also wondered why the author of this song, Horatio Gates Spafford, likened peace to a river, of all things? I wondered how peace is metaphorically like a river. What I discovered astounded me and caused me to love this hymn all the more. However, I can't say with certainty that what I discovered is what Mr. Spafford had in mind when he penned those words in 1873, as he somberly gazed at the site where an earlier ship, carrying his wife and four daughters, had sunk on its way to England. His wife alone had survived, and he was on his way to join her. But here are my thoughts. Take them for what they are. May they bless you as they did me! A river begins from a source high above, called the headwaters. Thanks to mountain snow-melt, the headwaters never stops pouring forth water. The headwaters constantly and abundantly feeds the river. It never dries up. The river, on its long journey from the headwaters, flows placidly at times, sometimes for miles and miles, meandering calmly through lush meadows, feeding the flora and fauna along the way. At certain junctures, though, where the bank bows inwards to create an inlet, it eddies, flowing in dizzying circles, going round and round and round, going nowhere. And at other sections along the way, the river encounters various obstacles: big boulders, felled trees, other debris. Yet it flows on — around, under, even over these seemingly-impossible barriers. It even completely covers them in its relentless pursuit to its ultimate destination. Nothing can stop the river. Such is peace. It continually and constantly flows from the "headwaters" of heaven, where our Abba Father sits enthroned. From Him comes our peace, for He is the source of peace. Jehovah Shalom. God of Peace. His peace flows in the long, placid stretches of good times, when everything is going well in our lives, with our families, at our jobs, in our hearts. His peace flows in the whirling "eddies" of our lives, when things just go round and round and round, seemingly going nowhere and we feel like we've lost our bearings. His peace flows when life stagnates, when nothing seems to be happening in our lives and we feel trapped and dulled by the monotony of routine, even in our spiritual walks. But His peace flows. Always. Continuously. Around, under, and over the seemingly-impossible obstacles in our lives, when hard times hit, when life takes a turn for the worse, when we suffer some type of loss (a job, a loved one, a dream), when we encounter financial hardship, marital strife ,or parenting problems; when our health is compromised. In all trials and tribulations. It is in these particular times that God's peace completely covers us, guarding our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace. And nothing can stop this peace. His peace flows unabated. It never dries up. This, indeed, surpasses understanding. And explanation! The Greek definition of peace (shalom) is particularly profound: "To be safe, healthy, complete; signifies a sense of well-being both within and without." That last part — "signifies a sense of well-being both within and without" — is beautiful, powerful! Let those words seep into your soul. No matter the circumstances — good, bad, or indifferent — we can have a sense of well-being, within and without, because peace is always present, ever flowing from the Source up above; ever flowing around, over, and under us along our way in life. Indeed, Mr. Spafford was right. When this peace, God's peace, attends our way, it IS well with our souls!