Bowen: Peace can flood our souls even in crisis

Published 5:48 pm Thursday, August 31, 2017

I was thinking of the devastation of the Houston and southern Texas flood victims as I sat to write this week. Our hearts go out even more because my wife, Marilyn— born and raised in Houston— and I spent 17 years working, schooling, teaching and raising a little girl and a little boy there.

Even now, we travel to Deer Park monthly with the gospel in our hands to work with some good people there.

So today, we— along with all of you good Georgia brothers and sisters— send prayers of blessings to all who have endured the storm. May the Lord bless them and keep them.

During a crisis, we hope that not only they, but all of us can find a way to dig down and find a little peace deep in our souls.

Immediately, I thought of a scene when we were home visiting in Georgia one July over a decade ago.

We drove up to the little town of Lanett, Alabama to visit one of my great-aunts in the hospital. My Aunt Florence was there, too, so after we visited Aunt Katherine awhile in her room, we escaped to a little waiting room in the corner of the hospital.

While we sat there together, we could look out the window from that fourth or fifth hospital floor to a stunning view. The hospital rested right beside the Chattahoochee River. From that up-high view, you could see the river for a mile winding its way through tall, elegant pines, flowing so peacefully it didn’t look as if it had a worry in the world. A thousand pines­— embedded in that deep, red Georgia clay— stood by in honor and in admiration of the majestic river.

On the way home— long after the sun had dimmed the lights on that magnificent image— I drove home alone, thinking about it. Turning on the radio to keep me company on that lonely back road, I happened upon some music that made me shake my head in wonder a bit more. It was a gospel music station, and a group was singing one of the great hymns acapella:

“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, it is well, with my soul.”

The acapella sound filling the night air was almost as awe-inspiring as the scene of the Chattahoochee I had seen an hour earlier. I thought that for a soul to be able to put those thoughts into words, there must be an ability to look through a dark night and see the next morning’s dawn ahead.

Mr. H.G. Stafford, who penned those beautiful sentiments, must have felt some of the burdens that sometimes flow our way— or, he had known those things far too well in the past.

I learned later of the inspiration behind Stafford’s great song. He wrote it in response to the loss of three of his daughters— Anna, Maggie, Bessie, and Tannetta— in a shipwreck on a voyage to Europe in November, 1873.

With sorrow flooding his soul, he makes his point a short time later as he sailed near the very spot his family’s ship had gone down.

Regardless of our circumstance­— whether it be a time that is as peaceful as the flowing of that grand ole’ Chattahoochee was that July evening, or whether sorrows “like sea billows roll”—  we can still sing on.

Whether the Lord showers us with the greatest of blessings, or whether flood waters unlike any we’ve known before ravage a lifetime of labors, we still reach down for some hope deep in our souls.

Regardless of the situation, regardless of the difficulties that lie behind or others looming ahead, we, along with Mr. Stafford, can learn to rehearse a single theme with great confidence.

It is because, you see, of a peace that is unchanging and an anchor that is unmovable, that, together, our souls can sing still on:

“It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives  and writes in Red Oak, Texas.