I’ve been singing the well-known hymn, It Is Well, since I was a young child. By the time I was a teenager, I could sing most of the song from memory. The hymn was incorporated into the funeral services of both my parents, and the chorus words are beautifully painted on a wooden sign in my kitchen. I’ve been surrounded by this rich hymn of the faith for over forty years.
But only recently did the words of one of the stanzas really speak to me.
I lead worship each week at the piano, and as we sang the following lyrics, I fought back tears. While my fingers did their work, my soul was simultaneously awakened to the richness of the words that spilled from my lips:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
The rest of the day this verse penetrated my heart. It had been a very challenging and chaotic season of parenting, and, frankly, I felt like a failure, insecure about decisions made, discipline given, and conversations had. Amid the whirlwind, I allowed the rich truths held in these words to pour over me, slowly calming my frantic heart.
There are weighty trials in this life, and sometimes they shake us and cause us to question our faith.
Two of Scripture’s most beautiful words. Satan tries hard to turn us away from Jesus in our suffering and confusion, but God has made a way for us to have the assurance of his love by sending his own son to die that we might have true and inexplicable peace in the midst of the chaos.
Satan Buffets and Trials Come
The word “buffet” is unfamiliar. The dictionary defines it as “a blow especially with the hand; something that strikes with telling force.” Satan will use anything and everything to cause us to question Jesus’ love for us, and he does it with intentional force – pushing us down so hard that we assume Jesus cannot love us because we feel so battered by trials.
But the suffering in this life is as sure as the sunrise tomorrow morning, and the Bible tells us this is true (Jn. 16:33). As parents, many of these trials are connected to our children. I have walked with moms and dads who have lost a child, the deepest pain any parent will face in this lifetime. It’s gut-wrenching, and, as one mother described, “a part of my heart aches daily, even many years later.”
But there are also everyday trials parents experience that feel weighty and that induce anxiety.
Maybe you are parenting a child with special needs and feel lonely or overwhelmed because of the amount of extra care necessary. Perhaps your child struggles with an eating disorder or other emotional and physical challenges. It’s difficult to sleep at night because we worry about when or if healing might come, and we feel helpless about getting a child to that point. Or maybe you have a teen who has turned away from faith, and you’re weary of what has become a rote prayer: Lord, please change their heart.
The hymn composer, Horatio Spafford, knew suffering as a parent. His wife had sailed with their four daughters to Europe where Horatio planned to meet them. But he received a message from his wife reading, “Saved alone…” The ship sank, taking all four daughters with it.
It is in moments such as these that Satan will buffet you – he will pound so hard in an attempt to loosen your grip on the faith that once felt so secure.
Horatio Spafford knew that the only remedy to the trials that inevitably come and the buffeting that ensues is to remember Jesus’ suffering. It is in the pain that he experienced on our behalf that we remember the depth of love that Jesus has for his children.
The Blessed Assurance that Controls
In these trials, we have a choice. We can become so tired of Satan’s buffeting that we relent and hand the reins over to him. Or we can cling to Jesus and ask him to help us in our helpless state. Even at the depths of his sorrow, Spafford turns to the blessed assuranceof a sovereign and loving God. He clings to the promise that Jesus does not merely have pity on us but gave his life for us.
How can a man who suffered inexplicably, losing all four of his precious girls, say with assurance, “It is well with my soul?” Because he knew Christ loved him. He took his eyes off the ground where Satan buffeted him down and looked up to the cross where Jesus shows his unending and unwavering love.
Jesus’ suffering and death on our behalf allows us to live with the hope of eternity. This is why the hymn writer ends with such poignant words: “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!” Our hope is not in our children, our hope is not that all things will work out in the way we hope they will, but our hope is in a secure salvation and in the promise of a new and restored life to come.
But in the here and now, some of us may experience lifelong grief in parenting. I think that’s why Spafford says in the first verse, “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well.”
Jesus teaches us to trust him no matter what our circumstances are. We will be lifelong learners of this truth. But as we question, doubt, and wonder where God is, we have the blessed assurance he will never let us drown in the billowing and rolling waters. In his lovingkindness, he often allows us to look back at seasons of distress and see how he carried us through.
I often wonder if Spafford spent time in Psalm 18:16-19 where David reflects on this kind of blessed assurance from the Lord. The Psalmist says,
But me he caught—reached all the wayThe Message
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
Through seasons of parenting trials, may we be surprised, again and again, by the depth of Jesus’ love, which enables us to say through our tears, “It is well. It is well with my soul.”
Interested in hearing a more from Katie Polski? She’ll be a featured speaker at our 2023 Conference in Nashville, TN. Join us in Nashville November 4 for a one-day parent track at the Rooted Conference.