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.
So you’ve had it.
With the news reports and the blogs and the grand social media posturing.
With the rising death tolls and the graphic videos and the pointed memes and the hashtag prayer campaigns.
Your heart, worn raw by the continual abrasion of hatred; some carefully hidden, some paraded loudly, is long past the point of breaking open anyway.
You’ve already bled out everything that was inside and now you’re done; through with crying, reading, replying, debating, praying, feeling—maybe even believing.
The truth is, though it hurts you even to admit it, all is most certainly not well with your soul.
Friend, you’re in good company.
What I’m hearing and seeing and most importantly feeling out there in the world, is a heavy, tangible sense of spiritual fatigue. Honest, earnest people of faith are finding their spirits crushed beneath the weight of so much sadness and grief, a feast of desperate questions in a famine of worthy answers.
We’ve all seen far too much death these days; senseless, wasteful cruelty, and images of suffering that seem to fly directly and defiantly in the face of the story we pin all our hopes to—that of a God who is good and a love that overcomes.
This jacked-up mess we’re living in doesn’t seem to be love overcoming. It seems like love overwhelmed. And so we too feel overwhelmed.
Soul-sick people out there: I get you. I’m with you. I am you.
I understand the persistent voice in your head that rises up again and again and asks, “What the hell is going on here?” and finds the responses only yielding despair.
The truth is, these days simply shake our faith. They almost have to, because although we direct our belief toward something Superhuman, we do so while being quite hopelessly human ourselves. We live within the fragile, paper-thin shell of our trembling mortality and we see how vulnerable it is to a violence that seems to be ever rising.
It weakens our knees and sickens our stomachs well enough when we realize how little we control here, but when it feels like God is also absent or asleep or powerless, it can level us.
I know the kind of faith response I’m supposed to have as a Christian; the one that says I can endure all things through the strength Jesus gives me, but that strength seems in scarce supply lately. We can talk all we want about “a peace that passes understanding” and about “a faith that can move mountains”, but in times like these even the strongest, most steadfast of us find ourselves wandering aimlessly and wondering where true North is.
One of the things religious people are almost universally gifted at is pretending; of shoving our struggles deeply below the surface, painting on our Amazing Grace face, and playing the part of the sure, steady, smiling saint. We join in a conspiracy of silence where fear and worry and doubt and rage are not allowed a voice.
And so when we face these faith-shaking moments, when we experience that profound not-okayness, the temptation is to hide it and muscle through, but that would be a mistake. Live a single day on this planet you’ll experience things that will bring the questions and crises, and these recent days have been all-too generous with such terrible gifts.
I wanted you to know that your sadness in these days is not a deficiency in your faith, your questions not moral flaws, your grief not a character defect.
There is no guilt to bear or shame to conceal. There is only the truth to be squarely faced and spoken clearly to those around you, and to the God you believe in (even the One you may be quite unsure of right now.)
These are difficult days so acknowledge their difficulty, but trust that other days will come, bringing more clarity and light and rest than you now have.
Eventually you will surely be tended to by peace like a river, but for now it’s perfectly okay to say it:
“It is not well with my soul.”
46 thoughts on “But What If It Is Not Well With My Soul?”
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Oh how I have wished I could just walk away from all of this, but Christ has a hold of my life, He’s mine and I’m His. That being said, I’ve gone through anger, despair, hopelessness and probably a few more feelings I can’t think of right now. I have decided to no longer call myself a Christian, but rather a Jesus follower. American Evangelical Cultural Christianity no longer represents me.
I’m done with the hate-filled memes on Facebook from believers I call friends, the indifferent and callous responses to human suffering both around the world and in our backyards, the zillion different unwritten “litmus tests” you must jump through to be “accepted” as a “true Christian,” and the Republican party take-over of American Christianity to name just a few things. Having compassion towards the hurting and disenfranchised has gone from a teaching of Jesus, to a “liberal agenda.”
But it’s so much deeper than that. It’s constantly living with the knowledge that any expressed fear or suffering or anxiety or any other “difficult” emotion or any wrestling with “where is God in all this” is continually met with either trite Chrstianese sayings at best, or outright shaming at worst. Because obviously if I’m struggling, something is wrong with MY faith, it’s clearly MY fault and somehow I’VE strayed in some way. Or, my favorite: What sin in my life do I need to repent of? There’s no incentive to be transparent, only punishment. So I sit in shamed silence, and die a little more inside each day.
How can it be that feeling the pain of the suffering of the world, and being greatly affected by it be SIN? Didn’t Jesus weep too? Everything seems so upside down and the worst thing of all is I have NO FRIENDS in my church that feel this way. It’s like everyone has “dug in” and is polarized against “those people” [“those” being anyone who disagrees or doesn’t see things as they do]. I’ve been seriously contemplating leaving evangelical Christianity in favor of “something else” but what that would be, I don’t know. I just know this isn’t working for me any more. At least today I learned I’m not alone.
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