A friend said to me the other day, “Maybe it’s just me, but 2021 is beginning to look a lot like 2020.” He’s right; it kind of is, isn’t it? An impeachment trial in the Senate, more pandemic, challenges of trying to get everybody vaccinated, brutally cold weather, a breakdown in the Texas power grid, loss of water pressure, and more. Surprises, disappointments, inconvenience, unfamiliar emotional terrain, and rising anxiety levels as we wonder what’s next. It’s enough to try one’s soul.
How is it with your soul? The Season of Lent calls us to grapple with that question every year, but this year it has a different intensity. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe the mounting pressures can move us to seek the help we need for the care of our souls. Maybe we will be more intentional in taking advantage of the spiritual disciplines of self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. Maybe we’ll read the daily Lenten Reflections that members of our parish have shared with us.
If our faith teaches us anything, it teaches us that our God is the gracious Lover of our souls who will never leave or forsake us. In fact, that is the one thing that can never be taken away from us, no matter how bad things may be. In Baptism, we are “marked as Christ’s own for ever.”
The familiar hymn It is Well With My Soul was written after traumatic events in the life of Horatio Spafford. The first two were the death of his four-year-old son and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially. His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to England with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn. All four of Spafford's daughters perished. His wife Anna survived. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words when his ship passed near where his daughters had died. Phillip Bliss composed the tune for the hymn and called it Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
The series of tragedies could have broken Spafford. By God's grace, he dealt with the question, "How is it with your soul." The outcome was his echo of the response of the Shunammite woman in her encounter with the prophet Elijah, "It is well." Moreover, the hymn he wrote about the experience has brought reassurance and peace to countless souls for a century and a half.
So, I ask again, how is it with your soul? Seize the opportunity Lent provides to grapple with that question. Observe the Lenten disciplines. Your clergy are always available to help, as are members of the parish who have emerged from their own experiences with renewed spiritual health.
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church