Peace Like a River

By Denise M. Kohlmeyer

When peace. Like a river. Attendeth my way.

I love word pictures. They are wonderful visuals that can deepen and enrich the truths of Scripture. And this particular word-picture, while not necessarily Scriptural, was still transforming for me. This beloved hymn, "When Peace, Like a River" (many know it better by its chorus, "It is well with my soul") came to mind one morning in early February while I was having my devotions.

I'd been meditating on peace for over a month, having made "Pursuing Peace" my 2016 New Year's Spiritual Resolution, based on Philippians 4:7, "And the peace of God, which transcends/surpasses all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." My heart had been crying out for peace after some life-upheavally events in 2015. I won't go into detail, but the events left my soul sore. Very sore! And I just wanted peace.

But it wasn't Philippians 4:7 that captured my attention that cold February morning as much as it was this wonderful, traditional hymn, which sadly isn't sung much in churches anymore. But in a moment of utter despair, God began to sing this inspirational song into my weary heart.
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 has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed Hs own blood for my soul.
It was a sweet, tender moment. The tears began to roll. I simply sat and let the words sooth my soul.

Later that day, these wonderful words came back to my mind. And I began to meditate on them, much like I would a Scripture verse. And I began to wonder. I wondered about rivers. I wondered why the writer, Horatio Gates Spafford (whom I had to Google), likened peace to a river, of all things? I wondered how peace is metaphorically like a river.

And what I discovered astounded me, and caused me to love this hymn all the more. However, I can't say with certainty that what I discovered is what Mr. Spafford had in mind when he penned those words in 1873, as he somberly gazed at the site where an earlier ship, carrying his wife and four daughters, had sunk on its way to England. His wife alone had survived, and he was on his way to join her.

But here are my thoughts. Take them for what they are. May they bless you as they did me!

A river begins from a source high above, called the headwaters. Thanks to mountain snow-melt, the headwaters never stops pouring forth water. The headwaters constantly and abundantly feeds the river. It never dries up.

The river, on its long journey from the headwaters, flows placidly at times, sometimes for miles and miles, meandering calmly through lush meadows, feeding the flora and fauna along the way.

At certain junctures, though, where the bank bows inwards to create an inlet, it eddies, flowing in dizzying circles, going round and round and round, going nowhere.

And at other sections along the way, the river encounters various obstacles: big boulders, felled trees, other debris. Yet it flows on — around, under, even over these seemingly-impossible barriers. It even completely covers them in its relentless pursuit to its ultimate destination. Nothing can stop the river.

Such is peace. It continually and constantly flows from the "headwaters" of heaven, where our Abba Father sits enthroned high above. From Him alone comes our peace, for He is the source of peace. Jehovah Shalom.

His peace flows in the long, placid stretches of good times, when everything is going well in our lives, with our families, at our jobs, in our hearts.

His peace flows in the whirling "eddies" of our lives, when things just go round and round and round, seemingly going nowhere and we feel like we've lost our bearings.

His peace flows when life stagnates, when nothing seems to be happening in our lives and we feel trapped and dulled by the monotony of routine, even in our spiritual walks.

But, blessedly, His peace flows especially freely around, under and over the seemingly-impossible obstacles in our lives, when hard times hit, when life takes a turn for the worse, when we suffer some type of loss (a job, a loved one, a dream), when we encounter financial hardship, marital strife or parenting problems, when our health is compromised, or some other trial and tribulation. It is in these particular times when God's peace completely covers us, guarding our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

And nothing can stop it. Like a river, His peace flows unabated. It never dries up. This, indeed, surpasses understanding. And explanation!

I love the Greek definition of peace (shalom). It is particularly profound: "To be safe, healthy, complete; signifies a sense of well-being both within and without." That last part — "signifies a sense of well-being both within and without" — is beautiful, powerful! Let those words seep into your soul.

No matter the circumstances — good, bad or indifferent — we can have a sense of well-being, within and without, because peace is always present, ever flowing from the Source up above, from Jehovah Shalom; ever flowing around, over and under us along our way in life.

Indeed, Mr. Spafford was right. When this peace, God's peace, attends our way, it IS well with our souls!

Image Credit: Sorbyphoto; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life Depression Hardships

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Published on 6-20-16