A Song of Faith

Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

For several mornings in a row, I awakened with the strains of an old hymn immediately on my lips.

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.

The irony was that my soul was actually feeling pretty tattered that week. My beloved grandma’s health was failing, and her death seemed imminent. After 101 years on this earth, this resilient, funny woman who had always been the center of our family was slipping away from us. The heavy prospect of her loss filled me with grief even as the words of that hymn stubbornly filled my head.

Grief is something nearly all of us are experiencing these days. The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed all sorts of loss in our lives. There are the daily things that stack up as the months wear on: the dependable routines now shattered, the cherished time planned with family and friends put on hold, vacations and events cancelled, our church life changed, even our children’s education thrown into disarray.

Much of the loss during this pandemic is especially profound. For some, there have been furloughs or job losses and frightening economic hardship. For many, the job they still have is now fraught with risk as they labor on the pandemic’s frontlines or have no option but to report to work and simply hope for the best. And then there are those who have suffered the unfathomable deaths of their loved ones from COVID, lives and families forever changed. All of this is layered upon other griefs we may feel about the current state of our nation politically and socially, and the heap of uncertainty this pandemic still delivers every day.

Loss and grief run deep in this pandemic season. The toll on our collective spirits is real. I read somewhere recently that the only cure for grief is to actually grieve. So we must acknowledge that these sufferings are part of this present moment, that our spirits are understandably weighed down. We must allow ourselves to grieve, even as we look to the resurrection promise of our faith and trust in new life to come.

On the day my Grandma passed from this life into the next, I sat at her bedside, held her hand, and quietly sang the hymn that had refused to leave me for days: “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: it is well, it is well with my soul.” Even while my heart broke and my voice quivered, I sang with confidence, because I knew that for her all would indeed be well. Her Creator was ready to receive her, and her suffering was about to end.

Days later that hymn still nags at me, its words rising within me unbidden nearly every morning. Some days they’re harder to sing than others. But I’ll keep singing them nonetheless. For in joy and in sorrow, no matter how long and stumbling the path, I know that God walks with us, and all will indeed be well.

Grace and peace,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

I welcome your comments and questions. Please contact me at sharip@uccmn.org.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023