Tag Archives: Immanuel

Even When It is Not Well

Read Psalm 42

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1 NLT).

One of my favorite Christian hymns is It is Well With My Soul, written by American Lawyer and Presbyterian Church Elder Horatio G. Spafford. The story behind the hymn, at least the direct reason for it being written, is pretty well-known. Spafford was a lawyer and senior partner in a large law firm who was also friends with Dwight L. Moody who was a substantial and well-known evangelist who was the founder of the Moody Bible Institute. Spafford had also made substantial real estate investments north of Chicago in the Spring of 1871, but in October of that same year most of those investments were lost in the Great Fire of Chicago. That terrible event destroyed the city leaving nothing but ash in its wake.

Two years later, the Spafford family planned a vacation in England where their friend Dwight Moody would be preaching; however, Horatio was unable to join them due to business issues that arose that kept him from going. On the way across the Atlantic, the ship that Anne Spafford (Horatio’s wife) and their daughters were on was hit by an iron sailing vessel and killing 226 people including Horatio and Anne’s daughters, Annie (12 yrs old), Maggie (7 yrs old), Bessie (4 yrs old), and their 18-month old baby. Anne Spafford, Horatio’s wife, was the only survivor of the family members on the ship.

Things were not okay for Horatio or Anne in that moment or, I am sure, for a long time after. Things were were not well for them. This is not how things are supposed to be. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents, let alone in such a horrible way. Mothers aren’t supposed to survive while their children die. I can only imagine the depths of despair that Anne and Horatio were both going through. The worst thing that could happen to parents had just happened to them.

On the way over across the Atlantic to meet his wife, Horatio penned these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well), with my soul, (with my soul). It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

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.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, the sky, not the grave, is our goal; oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, a song in the night, oh my soul!

Even when it was not well with his soul, Horatio still penned those words: “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.” Even when it was not well with his soul, Horatio knew that it WOULD be well with his soul, because Christ would not abandon him or his wife in that tragedy.

The truth is, Christ will not abandon us either, even when things are not well with our soul. As the hymn boasts in the face of such tragedy, Christ has regarded our helpless estate and has shed his own blood for our souls. He is not giving up on us even when we feel like giving up. Let all of us who suffer, who feel Satan and trials are surrounding us on all sides, never forget that Christ is Immanuel, God with us, and he will get us through all circumstances if we but put our faith in him.

“You can survive the storm. Your soul is stronger than the storm.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

Lord, even when it is not well with my soul, I know you are with me and that you WILL NOT abandon me. Amen.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Read Matthew 1:18-23


“Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.’” (Isaiah 7:13-14)

O Come, O Come, EmmanuelIt is hard to put into words the fear, anxiety, sadness, depression and confusion that ran through most people’s minds at the close of this past Friday, December 14. By the end of the day we had learned, following spending the day watching the drama unfold on live TV, that 28 people had been shot and killed at an elementary school in Connecticut. Out of the 28, twenty of them were children between the ages of six and seven years old.

Often times, in tragedies such as this, people ask the question, “Where is God in all of this?”  After all, what kind of God would allow children to be born and grow up in a world that is seemingly as evil as this one is?  What kind of God would create “monsters” who go out and destroy those who are innocent?  What kind of God would be so cold as to not intervene when the lives of the innocent are at stake?

These are all valid and good questions to ask ourselves.  It is also safe to say that there really aren’t any answers that fully satisfy our need to understand how evil and God co-exist? I could offer a ton of Christianese clichés that sound good off the cuff, but that would only be to simplify something that is very complex; so, rather than offering easy answers to really tough questions, I will provide one of many possible ways in which we can reflect on what happened and what our response will be.

It is very easy for us to look at where we don’t see God only to miss out on where we are seeing God.  For instance, we look at Adam Lanza and see his actions as a prime example of God failing to be with us. Yet, we also fail to see that God was with the principal who lunged at Adam and was the first to be shot and killed. God was with the teachers as they did everything they could, including cover children with their own bodies, to save their students.  God was with the first responders.  God is also with those who are looking at ways to address the societal issues that end up allowing people like Adam to fall through the cracks unnoticed until it is too late. When Jesus called his disciples to care for “the least of these”, that included those who suffer from mental illness. Yet, in our society, mental illness is stigmatized and our health care system often doesn’t provide affordable ways for people suffering from mental illness to get the kind of care (not just drugs and a locked asylum door) that they need.

The fact of the matter is that bad things do happen. People have free will and choose to do all sorts of things that God would not wish for anyone to choose. But aside from that fact, we still have a God who loves us, a God who is with us, a God who provides hope even in the darkest of circumstances.  The Nativity story is a reminder of the hope of Emmanuel, or rather, the hope of God being with us. This God came to earth and became one of us; this God put others first and sought to be present with all people, regardless of their status or condition. This God was crucified by God’s own creation and resurrected back to life despite being put to death.  This God is the same God who was present with the teachers, administrators and first responders who worked desperately hard to save as many as possible, risking their own lives in the process. This God is the same God who is turning the media’s attention from labeling Adam as “the face of evil”, to looking at how people like Adam haven’t received the care they need.

While we cannot definitively answer the question of why bad things like this happen, aside from the obvious answers, we certainly can still have the hope of Emmanuel. Let us not forget that God never leaves us, nor forsakes us.  We can know that God is with us, and we can let God guide us to be instrumental in sparking the changes that are needed in the communities around us, the very changes that could protect other children and people from such acts of evil. Let us welcome Emmanuel in this world, by seeing God’s revelation in us.  We have been equipped to be the presence of God in the lives of those in need, whether they are children in distress or Adam Lanza’s slipping through the cracks. Let us be like the writer of Hebrews who with confidence proclaims, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (Hebrews 13:6).


We need not look any further than our own hearts, and the hearts of those around us, to find God.


Lord, I thank you for always being preset me, and thank you for revealing your presence in me. Let me witness to that Good News! Amen.