Written by Leah Leach
I was driving in the car with two of my daughters the other day, listening to the Bethel Music rendition of “It is Well.” The original hymn has always been a favorite of mine and whenever I learned the story behind its composer many years ago, it had an even more significant meaning. For whatever reason, I asked my girls, “Do you want to know the story behind this song?’ Always up for a good story, they eagerly agreed.
“The man who wrote this was named Horatio Spafford. He sent his wife and four daughters on a vacation in England and was going to follow behind them. There was an accident on the boat ride and only his wife survived. When he sailed to meet her, and came to the spot in the ocean where the accident happened, he began to write . . .”
And suddenly I couldn’t talk anymore. My throat had tightened and my eyes welled up as I unexpectedly became overwhelmed with emotion thinking about this man at that spot in the ocean. In the middle of that New Jersey highway, Horatio’s story became more than just an inspiring sermon illustration. I entered into Spafford’s crisis of faith with the personal experience of how heartrending it can be.
Almost four years ago, I was standing at the edge of the ocean, terrified to let the warm waves touch my toes in the sand. I had been struggling with intense anxiety over the past year, after my dad was killed in a freak swimming accident in those same waves on our family vacation. Over that year, I knew that some day I would go back to the beach. I wanted to build new memories with my kids and have new family vacations at the beach. Now that day was here. I dreaded going back as I knew the road to future healing went through the path of my deepest darkness.
Have you ever been there? Standing at the edge of your future dreams and desires, but you have to walk through the doorway of your greatest fear to get there.
You want to get married and raise kids in a Christ-filled home that’s different than the broken home you knew, but the thought of being that vulnerable, trusting another person that implicitly, is terrifying.
You want to go back to school to pursue a profession that you’ve always wanted to do, but never got to for a myriad of reasons. But now you’re too old. Your mind isn’t as sharp, and it’s going to cost so much money.
You have a dream of planting a life-giving church in a city that you inexplicably love, seeing families transformed from the edge of divorce and addicts set free by the power of Christ, yet the idea of quitting your job, moving your family away from all you know, and starting over again is more than you can swallow.
Or maybe, like me, you had been pursuing God with all your heart, and you found that life just didn’t turn out the way you expected, leaving the image of the God you knew and trusted, shattered.
It’s at these “crisis of faith” moments when every fiber of our being is challenged to make a decision. Will we abandon our dreams and Best Friend for lack of understanding, or choose to walk ahead despite what our emotions may be telling us?
I’ve found that when the waves of doubt, fear and condemnation are threatening to crash over our future dreams and very faith, it’s in those moments that the whisper of the Lord can anchor our souls. That whisper may be found in a scripture, a promise, or an image that the Holy Spirit speaks to you at that moment.
For me at the beach that day, I felt like I was a terrified little girl wanting to hide under the covers, afraid of the monsters in the closet. And my Father came and held my hand that day, and gently walked with me into those waves of my greatest fears.
When the Lord speaks to you at those moments, however big or small, speak back out to Him. Literally declare His promises and Truth at that moment over your fears. It may be something poetic and dramatic like the lyrics of “It Is Well,” or it may be something simple like it was for me.
As I stepped back into the ocean that day, feeling my Father’s presence with me, I simply said back to the waves through my tears, “You’re not so bad.” It took me back to my child-like faith, declaring that my God was greater than anything the enemy could ever throw at me.
When I finally composed myself enough in the car to finish the story for my girls, they of course wondered why I was crying. I ended the story sharing some of my own crisis of faith with them, declaring that I, too, learned that God’s Goodness will prevail over anything that can come in our way. I pray that you, too, will know in the midst of your own crisis, the tangible promises of our Father as you declare, “It is well with my soul.”
Leah Leach lives in Philadelphia, PA where she moved with her husband, Brad, to plant CityLife Church five years ago. They have four children, Gabriella, Claire, Caleb, and Karis. She loves writing, speaking, and finding excuses to bake desserts.