How’s your soul? If you’re anything like me there’s probably not a simple answer to that question. Sure, we could do the typical British thing and say “I’m doing just fine thanks” and move on. But how many of us are doing ‘just fine’, honestly?
Let’s be real for a moment. In recent weeks, as the spread of Coronavirus has gained pace across the World, it has brought with it a gathering storm of uncertainty and change. The dark clouds of grief and fear seem much closer than before, and for many of us, that’s taking it’s toll on our souls.
Perhaps you sense the storm within you. Are you carrying a burden of worry? Do you feel the pain of loss? Are you lonely or disappointed, or scared?
Maybe it feels like you’re riding the waves of your emotions—one day you’re at peace and praising God for the blessings of lock-down life, and the next you just feel down for no apparent reason.
What shall we do with our restless souls?
Can I suggest we follow the example of those who have gone before us and sing to the Lord? Joining with David in the cave, Paul in prison, and the many saints who have sung through the centuries – let us sing to the Lord, to the one who says to restless souls: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
And can I suggest we join with our sister, Kathrina von Schlegel, and consider the song she wrote back in the early 1700’s? It’s called ‘Be still my soul’. (Click here to listen to a beautiful version of this song by EMU Music).
Singing this hymn the first Sunday of lockdown will be a lasting memory for me, as normality had been stripped away, and we felt the first waves of this dreaded virus. It was a sweet moment of encouragement as these words helped to stay my heart and strengthen my trust in Jesus.
I love this hymn because it gives us words to express our sorrows, but always keeping our saviour in sight.
As Kathrina dwells on the burden of loss and pain, she speaks of the Lord who is “on our side” our “heavenly friend” who cares for us and provides for us, who says he will “never leave us or forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
As she thinks of unsettling change, she speaks of Jesus who “faithful will remain”, the one who is “the same yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
As she considers the grief of losing dear friends, she thinks of her Saviour who even in loss, longs for us to know more of his love and his heart, who draws near to “soothe our sorrows and our fears”.
And in the face of all this, she looks to the day “when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,” when we will be with God, when “He will wipe every tear from our eyes” in a place where “there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Each verse of this hymn seems more poignant than the last, as you sense Kathrina’s thoughts getting more personal and more painful. Yet this hymn invites us in. For there is room in her words for each of us to insert our own specifics, bringing our own fear and sorrow to the Lord.
Most of all, I love this hymn because it leads us to Jesus, the one who alone can anchor our anxious souls.
For, as the writer to the Hebrews says:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:19-20a)
Our hope rests on Jesus. He has gone before us, he has beaten sin and death, and now he’s in heaven, where we’ll be with him one day.
If you don’t know this hope – can I encourage you to take a step forward and find out more about Jesus – this security is available to all who put their trust in him.
And for those of us who know this hope, let’s keep on singing songs like this through the crisis, and throughout our lives until we rest safely in our Saviour’s presence, where we’ll join in singing the ‘nobler, sweeter song’ of heaven.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
through every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then shall you better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul: your Jesus can repay
from his own fullness all he takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgotten love’s pure joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Kathrina von Schlegel, 1752