Women Arise: Peace Like a River
Article by Andrea Maher
When I read something that moves me deeply, I automatically find myself googling the author’s name to learn their backstory. I wonder what they had to experience to possess a marksman-like aim that shoots a bullseye straight to the heart.
Recently the words of an old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford concluded my morning devotional time. I know this song well. As I read the words in the stanza, I couldn’t help but wonder at the great reflection of a soul at peace. Peace is so elusive. The world longs for it; and women by design wrestle on a daily basis to attain it.
Usually when we think of peace, we think of stillness. But true peace is not the absence of trouble, but rather a fixed position of the heart that is not thrown off course by the erratic moments of life.
Christ’s life was one of continual troubles; He was surrounded by enemies and in a constant barrage of spiritual warfare. Yet, even in the midst of tumultuous occurrences, He always remained calm. He exuded peace. When enemies assailed Him, He was unmoved. Even the night before He died in agony, knowing full well what He was facing, He still took time to comfort His disciples with these words:
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).
You may be in the midst of great trials and wonder how you can gain this type of biblical peace. Isaiah reminds us how: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). I see a directive here to “stay our mind” which means, “to lean, to rest, to hang out before God.” Turn your thoughts to Him and Him alone. It is a place of rest and refuge despite disruptions. It is our knowledge of His sovereignty and omniscience that allows us to remain calm in the most wildly fearful happenings because we trust Him. This peace is never ruled by circumstances, but instead His peace infuses and overrules our fears in our trials.
Paul said he could be content in any circumstance; and he demonstrated that peace even in the jail at Philippi, where he sang and remained confident that God was being gracious to him. Then when the opportunity arose, he communicated God’s goodness to the Philippian jailer, and brought him and his family to salvation. Likewise, James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” (James 1:2).
So, before you think this type of peace is only possible for super apostles presented in the Bible, let me share an abbreviated version of Horatio Spafford’s story that I believe will strengthen your heart and remind you that a soul who knows the Prince of Peace is not jostled even by the worst of storms.
“Horatio Spafford was a successful attorney and a real estate investor who lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire in 1871. Around the same time, his beloved four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Thinking a vacation would do his family some good, he sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England, planning to join them after he finished some pressing business at home.
However, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was involved in a terrible collision and sunk. More than 200 people lost their lives, including all four of his precious daughters. His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to her husband that began: “Saved alone. What shall I do?”
Horatio immediately set sail for England. At one point during his voyage, the captain of the ship, aware of the tragedy that struck the Spafford family, summoned Horatio to tell him they were now passing over the spot where the shipwreck had occurred.
As Horatio thought about his daughters, words of comfort and hope filled his heart and mind.
‘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.’”
Do you sense the powerful blend of intense sorrow and peace tied together? Think about this visual. This is a man acquainted with His Savior. In his own desperation, he falls back to a default foundation of “while this doesn’t feel good, God is always good.”
He equates peace like a river. But a river is not peaceful; it flows with force. He describes his sorrows like sea billows. Does that sound like flowery language? It’s not. He knows that sea billows are great waves that can wipe you out. Yet he concludes, but whatever my lot…. God has steadied the position of my soul. The key word “whatever,” whatever comes my way whether good or bad, whether in a valley or a mountain top, God is with me and because of that– it can be well with my soul.
Whatever the weather, the peace of God enables us to weather the weather.
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Andrea Maher is the former editor-in-chief of PARENT ABC’S a monthly magazine. Her writings have been featured in local newspapers and parenting publications nationwide. She is the author of LETTERS TO MY SON: Soley a God Story and SLAMMED: Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief.
She is the executive director of the Be Still Foundation, a ministry that disseminates hope and encouragement to families in crisis. She has been married to her husband John for 45 years and has four children and 10 grandchildren. https://bestillfoundation.org