When Sorrows Like See Billows Roll

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

There are those days that seem hard. Those trying times come crashing at your doorstep, and you think your life will never go well again, that is, if it ever went well. I've been there, and I still have my "hard" days. Many people have had harder lives than I have had, so I'm not going to put forth some sob story, trying to convince anyone of anything.

What this leads me to is a difference. If we all have our trials, then what makes the difference? Sure, some people may have more difficult times, but is that really the difference? If so, how do you categorize hardship? It seems too arbitrary. How do you compare pain? Short answer: This emphasis is misguided. Some people are able make tribulations turn toward triumph, and others are entrapped in seeming trivialities. Even in approaching the issue on the issue of triumph, what do we consider triumph?

What is triumph? Is it Oprah, after growing up in abject poverty and molested, building an empire? Is it the starving artist who paints a masterpiece balances public appeal and critical acclaim? Is it the hopeless romantic falling in love with someone who reciprocates? We've heard many rags-to-riches stories, so is that the definition of success?

A good friend of mine, Chris, has been impassioned by a single word, "meaningless." He would probably say that Oprah's acquired wealth will be of no use to her upon dying. Her charities will eventually end. The starving artist's paintings will decay, and his fame will fade. The lovers will perish, and their love will not be "undying," as they had hoped. Ecclesiastes is a bulwark of Chris' passion. I share the same passion, and I see it heralded in James 4:14b, "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

Now, Chris and I see this as a great reason to rejoice! Triumph is not dependent upon this fleeting life, therefore whatever it is, it is eternal. You can even see Paul intimate such a wonderful theme to the Church at Philippi, "[T]o live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21b). Let's examine Paul's motive for such a provocative statement. Recently, Paul had been imprisoned, and he was encouraging the believers in Philippi. To provide solace, he touted the providence of God. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12). Furthermore, we know see the crux of his argument: "[Now] as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." (Philippians 1:20b-23). Paul saw triumph as eternity with Christ. All the persecution is considered by Paul to be joy for the sake of the Gospel, i.e. the display of God's righteousness in the salvation of all who believe in Christ. There it is: true triumph is finding your ultimate satisfaction in God, having our greatest pleasure rest in worshipping Him and Him alone.

It Is Well With My Soul
by Horatio Spafford

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!”
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath 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 His Cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O 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 –
“Even so, it is well with my soul”
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If dark hours about me shall roll
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.