Special Needs Parenting: It Is Well With My Soul

I heard an old hymn rearranged in a new way recently, and it deeply touched me. The words so powerful, so amazing, impacted me in a new way. The song had been introduced with the harrowing story of the songwriter, Horatio Spafford, and how against all the odds he was able to write such amazing words. His children dead, his finances in ruin, separated by a long ocean journey from his grieving wife, he faced much more than most of us will ever face, and yet he was able to pen the words “It is well with my soul.”

The harrowing but faith filled story of Horatio Spafford can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul

I really sensed God minister to me as I sang the words of this old hymn; see the words at the end of this blog post. I felt Him healing something in me, something that needed to be mended, to be dealt with, to be redeemed. Parenting a child with additional needs is hard; it is often full of joy too, but there are days when hope seems a long way away.  Days when we just don’t know what today will bring, let alone any future beyond that. Days when, like Horatio Spafford, everything seems to have been torn away or lies in ruins.

I heard this old hymn around the time of James’ 16th birthday in June, an important milestone for most teenagers, although for James and for us, although we marked the day and celebrated it with and for him, it seemed a hollow celebration. James had had a very tough year, during which he had been diagnosed with epilepsy to add to the autism and learning disability diagnoses he has always had. He had developed an anxiety issue around going out of the house, so hadn’t been at school since the previous July, or out of the house at all (except a couple of steps) since the previous December. His limited development had regressed over the year. Another birthday arriving just seemed like another confirmation of the struggles James was facing, and that we had faced with him together. Struggles that can sometimes weigh ever so heavily.

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Healing Balm

As I heard Spafford's story and started to sing the words of his hymn, there was a lot weighing on my soul. But as I joined in singing those amazing, affirming words with the other wonderful saints in the room, something happened in me. The words were like a balm to my soul, they broke through the pain and the worry and showed me afresh the love that Jesus has for me, for James, for each of us.  Whatever may come, whatever the future might hold, his love remains with us.

I am reminded of the words of Psalm 42 (NIV)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deepin the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long,‘Where is your God?’ Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

In singing wonderfully moving words of Spafford’s hymn, and in reading the deeply challenging words of this amazing Psalm, then with the Psalmist I can say, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God,” and I can sing “It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

There is hope, there is always hope in Jesus. There is always peace to be found in him. I pour out my soul to him and find healing, and whatever the future brings we don’t go into it or through it alone. We go together, and we go with confidence in Christ who goes with us; for if Jesus can sustain the faith and hope of Horatio Spafford, he can sustain us too. It is well, it is well with my soul…


“It Is Well With My Soul”  Horatio Spafford, 1876

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

It is well
With my soul
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 His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul 

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director for Urban Saints Church, Luton, Bedfordshire, UK. Follow his writing at https://theadditionalneedsblogfather.com