IT IS WELL

November 15, 2020

A few weeks ago, I had to have an MRI of my upper spine and neck region.  (I’ll tell you why later).  I was in the waiting room of the clinic when a nurse, named Rachel, came and got me and led me to a cubicle where she would take my vital signs and ask me several questions

I noticed on her desk several pictures of people whom I assumed to be her children. I found out later that they were her children.  I then assumed that the little cubicle must be her office. So I asked her, and she said, yes, this is where I spend my days, sometimes 12 hours a day.  Then I asked her another question about a piece of copy paper with a famous part of a gospel hymn. It was written with a black sharpie by her, I would soon learn.

I asked, “Rachel, did you write the portion of that hymn on the paper on your bulletin board?”  She told me she did, and I was getting ready to tell her that the churches I pastored would often sing that song just before I dismissed with a prayer.

But then Rachel asked me if I knew the origin of the hymn.  I did, but before I could say anything she began telling me the origin of the hymn.

She told me that a man named Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn in 1873. Then she told me why he wrote it. I knew all that, too, but kept quiet. She said the author, a successful attorney and real estate mogul in Chicago had lost almost all of his fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871.

Then she told me that shortly after the fire, the author’s four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. By then his family was so devastated that he thought a vacation to London would do all of them some good. So he loaded his wife and four young daughters on a ship headed to London. He told them he would have to go to London a little later as he had business he had to attend to in Chicago. Not long after, as his wife and four daughters were en route to London, their ship collided with another ship and the four daughters perished.

As soon as his wife arrived in London she sent her husband a telegram telling him what had happened. She asked him, “What shall I do?”  He told her that he would board a ship the next day and meet her in London. 

Some days into the voyage, the captain of the ship sent for Mr. Spafford to come up to the deck of the ship.  The captain told him that they were in the same spot where his daughters had perished.  Mr. Spafford then returned to his cabin and began to pray urgently.  Before he finished his prayer, his mind was flooded with the words of the hymn he would write. He immediately took his writing tablet and pen and wrote the words to the hymn.

The most famous excerpt from the hymn is:  “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll – Whatever my lot, Thou hast me to know, It is well, it is well with my soul.

What Rachel had written on the paper on her bulletin board was:  IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.

Then I told Rachel that I could hardly imagine how Mr. Spafford and his wife could handle such a tragedy as losing five children in such a short period. Then I told her how my wife and I lost our oldest son suddenly about 17 years ago, and that he was only 34 years old and left behind a wife and two young children.

Rachel was very compassionate as she consoled me.  Then she told me why she had written the words on that piece of copy paper.  She said her husband of 30 years had recently died very suddenly, and how she and her grown children were trying to cope with the grief.

As she was telling more about her story I saw great big streams of tears flowing down her cheeks. She grabbed a napkin and wiped away the tears and asked me if I would have a prayer with her. I told her it would be an honor. So we joined hands and I prayed about a one-minute prayer.  She then apologized to me for being so unprofessional as a nurse.  I told her to please not worry, as I had encountered many similar circumstances in my career.

Rachel then led me down a hallway to the room where I would get my MRI. I may never see Rachel again, but that 10-minute encounter in her little cubicle made me think of her often during the next several days.

I knew I wanted to write a blog post about the event, and this was my first opportunity to do so.

As I wrote a few notes about Rachel’s story I wondered how many times a  day she may have looked at her handwritten hymn that had brought her so much comfort. I’m sure she would have not known herself if I had asked her.

Then I began wondering about all of the great places I find comfort (and you, too, dear reader) during times of great stress or worry. My greatest source of comfort comes when I pray, read my Bible, and other great writings.

I immediately thought of a passage of scripture I have read at least a dozen times the past few months with this great plague upon all the earth and upon this recent election, of which we still don’t know all the results at the time of this writing. Also, I preached from this passage many times in my career.

I’m speaking of a passage of scripture found in 2 kings 4:8-37.  I’ve never written about this before, even though, as I just said, I have preached it many times.  So, as I write about it, I call the title of my written work, ALL IS WELL, as is the title of this post.

The story speaks clearly itself, but I may add a few thoughts of my own. That’s okay and what preachers are called to do as long as they don’t add to or take away from a topic to the point they change the intended purpose of the scripture.

The story is about the prophet Elisha, his servant, Gehazi, and a couple from the village of Shunem.

In Elisha’s travels on his way back to his home in Mt. Carmel, he often passed by the house where a woman lived which Elisha called a great woman and her husband.

The couple had once given refreshment to  Elisha and his servant and told them that whenever they were passing by to stop in for rest, and some food and good conversation.  Elisha did what she suggested, and all became good friends. One day this woman suggested to her husband that they build a room onto their house just for Elisha and Gehazi so that when they came through they could spend the night and receive refreshment. So, the room was built and Elisha asked this woman what he could do for her or what he could ask God to do for her. She was reluctant to state her greatest desire, so Gehazi spoke for her to Elisha. Gehazi told Elisha that this woman was old and had never had a child. Elisha told her that by that time the following year she would have a son, and sure enough, she did.

When the son became a young man he went one day to visit his father and the reapers. We don’t know exactly what happened but the boy grabbed his head and said to his father in pain, “My head, my head.” His father sends a servant with the boy back to the home where his mother placed him on Elisha’s bed, but the son soon died.

The woman goes to her husband and tells him she’s going to Mt, Carmel to see Elisha and requests a servant get a donkey ready so she could make the trip. Her husband asked her why she was going to go see Elisha and she simply said, “All is well.” The woman makes the trip to Mt. Carmel as quickly as possible and she sees Elisha and he asks her is all well with her. Again she answered, “All is well.”  She tells him then that her son had died. Gehazi left first to see the son and Elisha told him to place Elisha’s cane upon the top of the boy. Then the woman tells Elisha she will not leave until he goes with her to pray for her son.

When they got back home, Gehazi tells Elisha the boy is still dead. Then Elisha crawls on top of the boy and prays. Nothing happened, so Elisha got off the boy, went into the main part of the house, and walks around praying. Then Elisha goes back into his room, crawled back on top of the boy again. The boy comes to life, sits up, and sneezes seven times. Elisha tells the woman to take up her son. We don’t know much more about the family until we read another passage from 2 Kings 8: 1-6.  I won’t talk about that now but suggest you look it up.  When all is said about this first passage of scripture, we easily conclude that the woman found great solace and relief through Elisha’s prayers for her son that day.

Let me recommend a few more good reads for anyone seeking comfort from stress.  Every Christian should own a copy of Foxe’s  Book of Martyrs. It’s a hard read due to all the old English used, but it’s worth the effort to anyone who reads it.

Also, read about the Saints. The Bible mentions the saints often and most Christians acknowledge ALL SAINTS DAY on November 1st.  Our church had a special service honoring the saints that day. I’m sorry I had to miss it, but I was 60 miles away at a doctor’s office when the service took place. One of the definitive books about Saints is THE ENCLYPODIA OF SAINTS by Rosemary Ellen Guiley. I was lent a copy of that book two years ago, when I was very sick, and found so much encouragement from it as I read it.

This post is longer than usual, but I thought you would get much out of it. I pray you have.

God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley

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