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Alex Bartlett is a graphic design resident with The Austin Stone Community Church.

Thou Hast What?

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

In peace and in sorrow, Lord you have taught me to say that it is well, it is well with my soul.

This is where my mind lingers upon the arrival of September.

First, peace.

As I sit in my bright yet shady backyard, listening to the wind dance with the trees, the subtle chirps and the soft droning rhythm of cars driving on the near highway, I see that for today, peace is easily found. And I've learned that this moment I'm experiencing proclaims God's glory because I've read in Psalm 19:1-2 that:

1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.

The earth sits as an active proclamation to God, in every gentle blowing of the trees and wondrous moment looking upward at the stars.

This, what I've been given this Saturday afternoon, is well with my soul. 

Second, sorrow.

Yet if you've been alive this last month you've no doubt heard/likely experienced Hurricane Harvey and the incredible damage it's brought to my hometown, Houston. I was able to come home last weekend and help my actual neighbors tear out everything in their homes. It's one thing to watch a natural disaster take place on the news, another when you recognize the streets underwater, or neighborhood friend's houses sitting with 3-4 feet of water inside. My family and close friends have been fortunate to have not really sustained much damage or any flooding from the storm, but sorrow can still slowly push its way in when I think of the of pain and loss that my city has experienced. For this month, sorrow can be easily found.

Yet the song goes on.

Third, being taught.

Here is where I've found myself being constantly convicted.

As I sit and study Horatio Spafford's lyrics, trying to figure out how in sorrow he can still say "it is well with my soul," a word finally stuck out to me that hadn't before. Thou has taught me to say. Taught. Here in lies the secret to Spafford's incredible response to any situation. He had to learn to say that it is well with his soul. That means he practiced what he heard on Sundays or read in the bible, studied scripture and likely memorized it, failed at being the man he wanted to be yet sought forgiveness and kept moving forward. God's sanctification of Horatio was what prepared him for his greatest moment of loss, his family.

Unlike Horatio, I can find myself getting frustrated, like I have recently, that when really awful things happen or I make some really poor choice, I can't help but feel flimsy and weak in my faith. I look at men in my life who have proven to be steadfast when their family experiences great loss, or are quick to worship and praise their Lord in sorrow, or even quick to invite strangers and refugees into their homes without a second thought, and am easily blinded by the moment that I see. When I see a man have incredible faith I can quickly believe that he's always had such faith. I see that incredible faith and want it for myself. But I don't want to travel the road it took to get there. I just want the result. This is what I have to remind myself of those mornings I don't want to get up and crack open my bible or allow space in my day for prayer.

Fourth, it is well.

And so I'm reminded when I sing this song that it is through being taught, learning, that I am able to proclaim this, that it is well with my soul amidst any situation. It is well because the Lord has taught me to say that it is. Though sometimes cliche, the words right before the classic Philippians verse put it best:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13 ESV)

I have learned. I know how. I can do.

I can do all things comes only after Paul has learned, practiced, studied, and daily chosen to believe and follow Christ.

This is my challenge and encouragement to myself, and maybe you as well. Am I truly practicing what is necessary to be able to believe that "it is well" in any and all circumstance? August was a whirlwind and honestly, I'm a bit glad it's over. But I didn't proclaim that it was well with my soul. In the peaceful days, the hard days, in the sorrowful moments I must cry out to God sooner.

For today, it is well with my soul.

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