Stories of Our Faith
The steeplechase is an obstacle track event, with barriers (hurdles) and water jumps. A 3,000 meters steeplechase has 28 barriers and 7 water jumps. Imagine running 3,000 meters, with hurdles and water jumps at full speed.
For many of us, our lives feel like a track event. Our routines at school, work, home and whatever other sphere we operate in, are carried out at a relentless pace.
In addition to this, there are barriers and obstacles – a diagnosis of a terminal illness, the loss of a job, death, financial crisis- the list is endless.
This has been my steeplechase year, marked by a relentless pace and seemingly insurmountable hurdles. I’m in the midst of parenting a toddler, a teenager and a soon to be tween. I feel like I’m getting it wrong a million times a day.
I’m in my mid-forties and plagued by severe perimenopausal symptoms. I’m seeking new career opportunities. My mother passed away on Valentine’s Day, 3 months after her relapse. We laid her to rest next to my only sister’s grave. At the funeral, some people made those well-meaning but untimely comments. ‘It is God’s will’ and ‘It is well’. All I could think of was, what is well? Cancer? Death? Pain? Another loss? How can you say it is well?
A Refuge in the Storm
In my younger years, I thought if I had a little more faith, prayed harder and read a few more Bible verses, then everything would be alright. I’ve lived long enough to know that our faith is not a magic potion or a 5 step plan to success.
Our faith is a refuge in the storm and a safe place to be honest before The LORD in our brokenness and despair.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, thou knewest my path. – Psalm 142:3, KJV
Our faith is the testimony of saints gone before us, in the hymns of old that we sing in worshipful reverence on Sunday morning or by a graveside, reminding us that God is sovereign and eternal. The words of the hymn ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, echoing the words of Lamentations 3:23 (KJV), are a declaration in my pain, that God is still faithful.
The Cross and the Resurrection of our LORD is our faith. When I stood by my sister’s and mother’s graveside, I truly grasped what Christ’s resurrection means. The despair and finality of death is in stark contrast to eternal life. When we can do nothing for ourselves, when all our accomplishments and experiences are nothing but a memory, Christ gives us another life, a new day, a chance to be together again with no separation ever again.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16, NIV
Truth be told, this verse irritated me. Being thankful meant being happy or grateful about something, at least that’s what I thought. How could I be grateful for death, pain, crazy hormones and financial crisis? Thank goodness for a patient God.
I have learnt (and I’m still learning) that the act of thanksgiving turns my heart and mind back to Him, the Light who shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5 NIV) When I start to see Him again, I receive comfort, peace and light for one more step.
Our faith is treasures in the darkness and hidden riches in secret places. – Isaiah 45:3, KJV
What treasures could there be in this maddening pain and despair? A realization of my total dependence on God. I need Him to get out of bed each day, to believe and hope that life is still good and to be there for my family as I need to be.
It Is Well
Back to the hymn, It is Well. Throughout my mother’s funeral, this phrase was repeated often. I was furious. Not here and not now. It is definitely not well. A few days later, I was reading ‘The Watchmaker’s Daughter’ by Larry Loftis, a biography of Corrie Ten Boom. He recounted the history behind this beloved hymn.
‘It is well’ was written in 1873 by hymnist Horatio Spafford. After a series of events that affected him financially, he planned to travel to England from Chicago. He sent his family ahead on a ship, the SS Ville du Havre. The ship collided with another vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of his daughters died. His wife, Anna survived and sent a telegram “Saved alone..” Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the words of the hymn as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
In the deepest pain, struggle and despair, I have learnt that every moment of every day, Jesus has always held out His Hand, like He did for Peter and caught me before the waters overwhelmed me. (Matthew 14:31 KJV) Every. Single. Time.
I am learning by God’s grace, to say as Horatio did:
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.