Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It Is Well

I feel like I need to put some sort of disclaimer onto this post. I'm so thankful and frankly amazed that people take time out of their day to read anything I've written, so I certainly don't want to hurt or offend anyone if I say something that is contrary to an idea they may hold dear. But when all is said and done, at the end of the day, I'm writing this blog as a journal for my daughters so they'll have a written record of who they were as children, who I am as their mom, and some of the important things I want them to know.

That being said, I spent most of yesterday thinking about and praying for the Smith family and the delivery of their baby, Audrey Caroline. She was born at 4:30 in the afternoon, was loved on by her parents and family, and died at 6:45 p.m.

Two things really stood out to me yesterday. One was that even though I read a story in the Tribune about yet another Christian acting the fool and the accompanying bad press it brought, and the posturing and arrogance on the theological blogs I read sometimes were still alive and well, there was a little corner of the world where total strangers gathered around via the Internet and cried and prayed for a family and a baby who got to spend only 2 hours and 15 minutes in this world. I read all of the Smith's blog updates throughout the day, and I got chills reading all the comments: "Praying in MD" "Praying in England" "On my knees in Indiana" "Crying and praying in TN" "Praying for you all the way in Iraq" and on and on, hundreds of them. Then when Audrey was born--oh, the bittersweet joy and all the comments praising God for her loveliness and the few moments God allowed her parents to love on her. I just kept thinking, "THIS is how Christians should be."

The other thing that stood out to me (and here's the part where it might get touchy) is that some people say things they probably shouldn't when someone dies. Believe me, I'm sympathetic to it because it's the rare person who really knows what to say. But it seems when death occurs, sometimes people have some very erroneous theology they use for comfort. Many, many people commented on Audrey's total healing (which we praise God for). Many, many people commented that Audrey is now with Jesus (a praise that is so great it almost cannot be articulated--though I often hesitate to voice it to a grieving mother since frankly I think the mother would much prefer her baby to be safe with her). But many people also said things like, "God needed a little red-haired angel tonight" or "God wanted another angel in heaven." That is unbearably sad to me (and also biblically inconsistent with the personage and work of angels). The thought that our loving Heavenly Father would somehow take some mother and father's child because He "needed" a new angel (to add to the myriads of myriads at His disposal)...well, that just breaks my heart.

The truth is that suffering is a constant in this world, and sometimes it is a mystery. Some suffering we'll never understand until heaven. I certainly can't understand the death of a dearly loved little child. I can't make sense of it, can't wrap my head or heart around a reason for that kind of pain and agony.

One of Selah's signature songs is the hymn "It is Well." It's on three of their albums, and they sing it in each of their concerts. If you're not familiar with the hymn or the story behind it, it was written by a lawyer named Horatio Spafford. He and his wife, Anna, lived in Chicago in the mid-1800s. Their 4-year-old son died from scarlet fever. Then many of Spafford's business interests were burned in the Chicago Fire. Deciding that the family needed rest and vacation, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters, ages 18 months to 12 years, to England. He would follow them later. During the voyage, the ship Anna Spafford and her daughters were on collided with another. It sunk in 12 minutes, killing 226 people. Horatio received a telegram from Anna with two words: "Saved alone."

Horatio sailed from America to England to be with his wife. During the voyage, the captain came and got him, telling him that they were then passing over the area where the ship had sunk and his precious daughters' lives were claimed. Horatio Spafford went to his cabin and wrote the words to a hymn that has comforted untold thousands of grieving people since: "When peace like a river attendeth my way / when sorrow like sea billows roll / whatever my lot / Thou hast taught me to say / It is well with my soul."

The great mystery of suffering is that God can redeem suffering and use it for His glory and our good. We will still bear the scars of it, but in our greatest pain and darkest night, we can still praise Him for who He is.

While I was driving home from work yesterday, Angie Smith was delivering Audrey. As a fellow mother and sojourner on Earth, I was crying and praying for her, suffering alongside her. I felt an overwhelming need to not just be silent but to actually vocalize something to God. At that time, I was listening to Selah's "Hiding Place" album, and the song "All My Praise" came on. I lifted up my voice and sang through the tears. You can go to Audrey's site, Bring the Rain, scroll down to the music section on the lefthand side, double-click on "All My Praise," and hear Audrey's daddy sing it for yourself. This pretty much says it all.

All My Praise

I will follow You through green pastures
and sing hallelujah to Your name
I will follow you through dark disaster
and sing hallelujah through the pain

Even in the shadow of death,
I will praise You
Even in the valley I will say:

Holy, my God,
You are worthy of all my praise

You are seated on your throne in heaven
And You see all of us down here
You have promised You will not abandon
So I shall not fear

Even in the shadow of death
I will praise You
Even in the valley I will say:

Holy, my God,
You are worthy of all my praise

You made every star
And You taught it how to shine
You knew my name before there was time
Oh, this is just part of Your glorious design!
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Holy, my God
You are worthy of all my praise


Ann-Marie said...

Amen to all you said. I'll be praying for the family - and it brought tears to my eyes that you would be so connected to another sister in Christ in this way. The familial bond we Christians share is one of God's greatest gifts.

Juliet said...

Thanks for that post. When Ann-Marie was five, we lost our second baby. There are no words to describe the lost..we just trusted the hand of God in all He gives and TAKES.

Melanie said...

No one could have expressed this better. You always amaze me with your spot on posts, Alice. For a few months now I've been reading Angie's blog and I would never have learned of it if it weren't for you - thank you.

ashlee said...

speak on it sister! your words were well versed here. i think this is exactly how His church is supposed to act, gathering together to lift one anothers needs to our Holy Father. even if we are total strangers.