Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A Perfect Peace

"You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust you" (Isaiah 26:3)

Another one of those rare moments of actual silence, with only the roar of a forestry truck grinding its gears in the distance. It is short-lived and much cherished, before two bounding bodies burst through the door with offerings of dirt-covered apple and beaming grimy faces. How can I resist. The sweetness fills my mouth while bits of sand grind between my teeth... Black and indigo-winged butterflies visit the kitchen garden, ground hornbills call from the tree-tops and the air is fragrant and warm. A peaceful picture, not?

It truly is, yet even in such a haven, there can be turmoil in your soul. The deception is that "stress" is caused only by an upheaval of external conditions, causing inner distress - ultimately leading to an inability to cope and illness. It is often believed that if the cause of "stress" could be removed, we would be content. I have witnessed different people deal with "stresses" like death and grieving, illness, tragedy, unimaginable pressure.  There is a sense of deep loss, pain, fear, despair, weariness and at times, denial or anger. But ultimately, for those truly anchored in the Lord, there is acceptance and perfect peace, and believe it or not, joy. The storms may rage, but Jesus told the waves to be still and they "bowed down and said: excuse me Master". The sun rises again and the glory of the Son, no "stress" or worldly condition can dim. Let our minds be steadfast and our trust secure. The Lord is our Shepherd and we will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Original script of "It is well with my soul"
Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford wrote a beautiful hymn titled "It is well with my soul". The words "When sorrows like sea billows roll... It is well with my soul" were written during a time that he suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy. Spafford's only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later each one of the holdings he had invested in on the shores of Lake Michigan was wiped out by the great Chicago fire. Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. A late business development caused Horatio to delay. Since he did not want to spoil the family holiday,  his wife and daughters sailed East to Europe without him. He would follow in due course.

Nine days later he received a telegram from his wife in Wales: "Saved Alone, what shall I do...". On November 2nd 1873, the "Ville de Havre" had collided with "The Lochearn", an English vessel. It sank in only twelve minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. His wife Anna had stood bravely on the deck, holding on to her daughters. Her last memory was of her baby being torn from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was saved from the fate of her daughters by a piece of debris that floated beneath her unconscious body. Her first reaction was of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose". She was reminded of the words of a friend, "It is easy to be grateful when you have much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God".

Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. During the voyage, the captain of the vessel called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made" he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep. Horatio took a deep breath, returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of this great hymn. (Please read the full hymn under "Quotes, Prose and Poetry" of this Blog).

At times of stress or distress, it can be well with my soul. Have you ever had to follow a car in a maze of traffic? One cannot afford to take your eyes off the leading vehicle, regardless of who or what is beside or behind you. You memorise the registration number, the colour, model, whatever detail you need, to make sure that you do not loose sight of it. What "stress" it causes when you are distracted for a second and it disappears from your sight. What sweet relief, when you see its familiar shape waiting patiently for you next to the road.

And what fullness of joy we shall have when we get to our final destination.

Picture: Nasa - Morning Star meets moon
For our minds to be steadfast, we need to trust and surrender. To take all thoughts "captive" that are not from Him, for it is in the mind where the struggle begins. Where the enemy whispers lies and the the acid starts to leak into the soul. As we reclaim the truth through our victory in Christ, the Peace returns. Utopia lives in the heart, the shining temple of our Lord, the place where the bright Morning Star rises each new day.

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...

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". (Romans 8:28).

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