It is exhausted with my soul.
It is anxious with my soul.
It is bored with my soul.
It is fine with my soul.
Most days, all of these seem more fitting than the words from the 1876 hymn: “it is well with my soul.” Many find these words to be of great comfort when they are in a place of unimaginable sadness. They serve as a reminder that even when things are not well – when I am hurting, grieving, far from happy – my soul is steadfast because it knows there is a greater hope still. This kind of wellness brings an overwhelming, nonsensical joy that doesn’t often look like happiness or optimism; rather, it is a confidence, a contentedness, an assurance that I am held in His hands, and because of that, it is well. It is so very well.
But what about when things aren’t falling apart? When things are actually good? When we are genuinely happy? It certainly makes more sense that these would be times of abundant joy, of soul wellness. But more often than not, it seems that when we are in this state of good, we fail to acknowledge it. “It is well with my soul” is heard far less from those who are thriving. Maybe it’s because we are so used to not needing for much that wellness doesn’t feel like anything special, maybe it’s because living “woe is me” is more enticing, maybe it’s because we are waiting for something to go wrong, or maybe it’s because we are unable to fathom that things aren’t awful for a change. I have been guilty of all of these. I am often blind to my own wellness, and because of this, I have missed out on opportunities to live in joy.
Think about that cold (or colds) you get every year. As soon as it hits, you try to remember what it felt like to be healthy. You cling to comfort and seek out joy. And when you are restored to full health, you are so grateful and happy and positive that you will never take your ability to breathe through your nose for granted ever again. You know you are well because you know what it feels like to be unwell. And you are so thankful. Until the fresh wellness wears off and it just becomes your every day normal again.
Things don’t have to suck for your soul to be well. It is well when you are wrought with despair, and it is well when you are brimming with happiness.
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 many of us are quick to cling to God when we are walking through dark valleys. We cover ourselves in the promise of His hope and strength, and He becomes our everything. But it seems that when we are walking on the mountaintops, we forget that God is still just as present. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Nothing has changed except our circumstances. And maybe, our focus.
A few weeks ago, I shifted my focus toward gratitude and worship, and it has pointed my gaze back to the Father. I have purposefully devoted my time to those things that make me come alive and fill my life with meaning, and I have fallen in love with Jesus all over again. It is changing me.
I did some obvious rediscovery of passions and reorganizing of priorities. Here are some notable shifts, and each has, in some ways, led to the next:
- Worship. Nothing special, just good ole fashioned praise time with my Jesus and my bub, occasionally featuring hubby on the guitar. Placing Him where He belongs restored so much order in my life and brought me to a place of great thankfulness.
- Bullet Journal. THIS THING IS SO GREAT. It has given me an opportunity to plan, write, and paint like crazy. So much freedom of expression here. AND I started a monthly gratitude log that has helped me reflect on all the many blessings I have been given, which has made me so much more prayerful and worshipful. Highly recommend.
- Blogging. Bullet Journaling helped lead me back to this place of writing and sharing. I would write and write in my journal and then close the it up, so I decided it would be better for me to share. I was right. It has been an amazing outlet and such a freeing gift to open my life’s book.
- Confidence. Strangely, putting my thoughts and struggles out there for all to see has made me more comfortable and confident in who I am. I don’t feel like I have these big secrets anymore. And I don’t have to hide behind a mask of perfection, because I would no longer be fooling anyone. I’m doing crazy things like advocating for myself, asking for help, and just straight up talking to people.
- Socializing. Social situations are not my favorite. I don’t love meeting new people, because I feel I have to impress them and that can be exhausting. But last week was staff orientation for the new school year, and I wasn’t totally terrified. I talked to people FIRST – like initiated conversations, more than once. It was nuts!
- Spiders. I killed one.
- Going back to work. This was a BIG one. I was dreading the day I’d have to leave my baby. Plus, last year was really hard, and I didn’t love it. I was negative about it all summer long, and then all these aforementioned items happened, and I became so excited to return to school as a part-time special education teacher. Like REALLY weirdly stoked. I still don’t love leaving D after spending almost 5 months inseparable, but we are doing it, and are both okay. It has been a total treat to spend my mornings doing what I love most to return home in the afternoon to be with who I love most.
- Running. Injury-prone me has been working hard to stay injury-free postpartum, and though I wasn’t able to prevent it entirely, I have been on the mend. Running is just the best. It brings me to life.
As it stands now, my life is not easy nor perfect, but I have chosen to prioritize the things that are life-giving, to more fully worship the One who made me, and to boldly and transparently share who I am with those who will listen. For real. It has made all the difference.
“You seem really happy lately,” my husband says to me as I work on my computer, our baby taking a nap.
“I am!” I replied.
After realizing what I had just admitted, we both waited for the BUT. It didn’t come. And I found myself in an unfamiliar place where complaints were far from sight, and I was soaking in the deep “it is well with my soul” joy.
It is a sweet place to be.
What makes you come alive? What fixes your gaze on Jesus?