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Monday, January 28, 2013

"It Is Well With My Soul" (Shelly Beach)

TITLE: It Is Well With My Soul:Meditations for Those Living with Illness, Pain and the Challenges of Aging
AUTHOR: Shelly Beach
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2012, (240 pages).

This book takes the same title of the world famous hymn by Horatio Spafford. Like Spafford who struggles a lot with the loss of his loved ones, the author struggles a lot with the loss of her mental faculties. Reflecting on her own neurological condition, whether it is stroke, aneurysm, or cancer, the author enters into a time in and out of hospitals, in and out of consciousness and unconsciousness, and face to face with the deep personal loneliness, and yet still able to experience the divine presence of God. Through her process, Beach encounters grief, anger, depression, joy, grace, and the role of advocates. She plumbs the deepest valley of despair and also experiences the high mountains of hope. The book parallels the hymn, "It is Well with My Soul" through six reflections.

The first reflection is about "Devastation, Doubt, and Deliverance," of seeing how Spafford grapples with the reality of loss and pain, and how Beach personally experiences physical pain, and how it affects faith and doubt. Each brief reflection comprises a personal journey through a particular emotion, followed by an honest appraisal of her spiritual walk with God. There is a prayer to surrender to God's mercy. Each chapter ends with two questions to grapple with the hard questions of life.   The second reflection is on the trials of pain, the temptation of doubt and denial, and the triumph of faith and belief. The third section deals with searching for meaning amid the depression, stretching one's prayer and faith as the trials are extended, and realizing the significance of hanging on to God in prayer. Life seems so unfair when after her earlier discharge from hospital in 1999, her long distance travel, her parents' health all increase her stress level, leading her toward anger and being overwhelmed. The fourth section deals with family, forgiveness, and freedom. She learns that it is only through forgiveness and gratitude that one can shape relationships. She relates how her faith in God helps her to forgive others because she had first being forgiven. Prayers of desperation are also called "Fed-Ex Prayers."

Beach learns several spiritual disciplines as well. Such as learning to notice the ordinary people placed before her each day, or the opportunity to give away material goods to bless people, or to renew past connections, and many more. Section Five talks about "help, heartache, and heaven," which is a journey trust from despondency to dependency, from feeling alone to experiencing the presence of heaven. Section Six concludes the book with the need to avoids lies, to begin legacies, and to learn to let go.  The Appendices at the back of the book offer great tips on prayer, resources for help with regards to healthcare, a bibliography of books about physical and spiritual health, how to cope with stress and tips on hospice.

We will all age one day. Each of us has to carry our own cross, travel our own journey, and experience our own ups and downs. There is no short-cut in the reality of life. To go through the trials and at the end of it all, still able to say, "It is Well With my Soul," is not simply a brave attempt to keep up a stoic front. It is a posture of quiet trust, of growing faith, and of eternal hope that is anchored on the One and Only Saviour of the world, Jesus. A book of this nature is not an easy one to write. Readers can easily sense the agony and the pain the author goes through. At the same time, there is a strong desire that believes that one day, it will all be over, and it will all be revealed that it is God who will make all things news, and all things whole.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Discovery House Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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