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Do you know the story? The one of this modern day Job... he lost almost all. A successful lawyer at the time, the 1871 Great Chicago Fire destroyed him financially. An economic decline in 1873 hurt him further. But these were barely blows, such small wounds compared to what was to come. In a spur of the moment decision, he chose to send his family (a wife and four daughters), ahead to Europe on a ship while remaining behind to try and manage business prospects. The ship collided with another and in the great, dark coldness of the ocean, all four of his beautiful daughters perished. The telegram his wife sent read, "Saved alone..."
A father drained of finances, unable to protect or save the ones he loved the most. If there is anything that lays bear my heart, it is this: man or woman undone. As his ship crossed the same waters carrying him to his grieving wife, he was alerted when they drew near the place his daughters had drowned. Standing on the deck, hands curled knuckle white at the rail, surely weeping, the words left trembling, tear salted lips.
"It is well, with my soul."
It was a moment that became inspiration for one of the most powerful hymns of the century.
But how? How could a mere man stand stripped down to inescapable pain and still manage to praise God? To find thankfulness instead of hate? It is Christ, only Christ. Job 5:18 states, "For He wounds, but He also binds up. He injures but His hands also heal." Everything happens for a reason. Everything. Or, as a character in one of Denzel Washington's latest films, "Flight" states when asked what form of cancer he has, "Fibromyxoid sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcoma. Very rare. God chose me. Once you realize that all the random events in your life are God you will live a much easier life. We spend all our time trying to control all these things that happen to us, it's bullshit. The plane you're flying goes down? Out of your control. God gives you cancer? I have no control over that. Did God give me cancer? You bet your ass God gave me cancer. You think God would have given me cancer if I asked for it? I don't think so because I begged for God to take it away - and guess what? No control over that either."
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Perspective and gratitude. They change everything. Recently I finished reading the book "1,000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Amazing writing from a woman with an amazing heart. I'd highly recommend it. She challenged me personally through her writing to take a stance of thankfulness and start grabbing the beauty in EVERY moment of life. The sink full of dirty dishes moment. The quiet evening hour on the porch with the one you love moment. She challenged me to preach to myself every day the truths I want my children to learn because at the end of the day I need that truth just as much as they do. I am lost without it.
And so I've begun to compile my own list. I'm calling it my "It is Well" list to remind myself of Horatio Spafford, the man who buckled under deep grief yet did not question the One whose hand ordained it, who let himself be used to greater measure than imaginable (he and his wife went on to have three more children and found a mission that served the poor in Jerusalem).
The timing of all this in my own life is no coincidence. They don't exist. A week ago I received news that my youngest brother, the one who used to sleep slumped up against me in a packed family van, had taken a dangerous drug just before school and been hospitalized in serious condition after having a neurological response to it. My heart ached. Images of him seizing uncontrollably on the classroom floor haunt me. Three days ago, we confirmed that our home will need to have the roof replaced within the coming months. My heart sank.
But all is well. I cling to that, and I dig deep to find the thankfulness in all things. Thank you that my husband is wise with finances and we have a warm home we are blessed to replace the roof on. Thank you that my brother has suffered, that he is living, and that this might wake him to the deadly tightrope he is walking.
I'm no Eckhart fan but his words move deep under the ribs. "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." Enough... as Voskamp says, thankfulness always precedes the miracle. The minute we stop and give thanks for the little we have, it becomes enough. This will probably be my last post for the year and as far as last posts go, I can't think of one better. May you have a beautiful season... may you be thoroughly saturated by it, may it be well with your souls.