soul wellness


Early in February, I blogged in response to the release of an ‘enhanced’ version of “It is well with my soul” by Hillsong Church here in Australia and how on reflection, all was not at all well with my soul, so much so that I found myself unable to sing what is a very special song to me – and countless others for many years.

On Saturday night, I shared a message at a local Emmaus Gathering.  My theme was “Soul Wellness”.  Thought some of you might appreciate reading where things are at with me about 6 weeks on …



We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose … what then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

I’m going to let you just briefly into some of my journey these months.

Like possibly many others of you here, I’ve found these past two months a difficult time – a really difficult time indeed. You see the Brisbane flood not only impacted our own household directly, but it majorly impacted our church community and our local Oxley community.

It’s fair to say I was emotionally and spiritually shaken by all of this.  Not the easiest place or space to be in when you’re the local UC minister and supposed to be ‘strong’ and ‘on top of things’; when you’re almost expected to be that voice of calm and positivity amid the trauma around you.

Well, that’s not the way it worked out for me. Some of you are blog or Facebook friends of mine, so you’ve shared some of this with me.

I heard early in February that Hillsong Church, in order to raise money for flood relief had issued a reworked version of that 19th century American hymn – It is well with my soul.

Now – I reacted to that news somewhat surprisingly.  You see, I love that song, and the Hillsong additional lyrics added to the song.

So no problem there. The problem was, despite me downloading it on iTunes, I found I simply couldn’t sing it.  I just couldn’t.  You see – at the time, things as far as I was concerned, were far from well with my soul.

Soul, for me, is that what makes me me.  What makes me David MacGregor and not ________. It’s the fundamental essence of who I am. And on 9 February, my soul was not in a good space.

As I shared clearly, my issue was nothing to do with the song itself, nor the intentions of Hillsong Church.

The song has a special part in my recent journey, you see.  Just two years ago, Dale and I were in Nashville, for a reunion of her family.  They came from far and wide.  As you do in Nashville, we went to the Grand Ole Opry; for which the highpoint was this acapella rendition of you guessed it – It is well with my soul­ ­led by one of my favourite singers: Alison Krauss.

It was heavenly.  At that point – at that time, all seemed well with my soul.

Earlier this year, for me, and I want to suggest countless others … and might I suggest, 100s of thousands – probably millions in Japan, all is probably far from well with their souls.

In over three years of blogging and Facebooking, I had never received the amount of response I got for that Post on 9 February.

You see, this was not some sort of faith crisis for me.  Nothing like that at all.  Right through the trauma of the flood and afterwards, I was wonderfully aware of the presence and the face of God.  Yet like the psalmist of long ago, I found myself in a place of lament, not of exultation or praise.  It all affected me something crazy.  Late January, I watch cricketer Shane Watson getting a century; I start getting really teary. Go figure!

From my blog and though Facebook, I received a deal of my support for my situation; with many offering strong empathy.  Others, while feeling for my wellbeing, commented that they couldn’t think of a better song to sing, arguing that in singing that song, a person has the opportunity to be embraced by the peace and saving grace of God in Jesus, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  All could thus be well with my soul.

I had to ask myself: what’s happening here?  My response was a simple one: yes, all was well with my relationship with Christ, but not with my soul. My soul was tender … it was raw … it was unsettled.

One particular respondent shared the story behind the song.

The story concerns a guy called Horatio Spafford. Spafford was a lawyer who lost most of his savings in the Chicago fires. He and his family decided to holiday in England, but he got called away at the last minute. His wife and two daughters went on and he was to catch a later ship. As they crossed the Atlantic, their ship was wrecked.

He eventually received a telegram from his wife “saved alone”. As he crossed the Atlantic himself, as the ship neared the place where his two daughters drowned, he penned this song.

Knowing this story, our congregation, and me personally, have found this a very helpful song and example of wonderful Christian faith in the midst of tragedy.

It seems to me, a month and a half on from all of this, that things are better with my soul.   My soul is not “God”.  My soul is “me”.   It’s that part of me that God by his Spirit is seeking to change by God’s sanctifying grace. But in this part of our heaven-word journey as children of God, I still believe that there are and will continue to be times when things are not well with my soul.  There are and will be times when things are very much well with my soul.

I’m in a much better place now than not too many weekss ago.  Praise God!

What has sustained me through these times?  What has brought me closer to wellness?  Well (excuse the pun) there are no ‘whats’ in this.  This is all about ‘who’.  This is all about the power and the love of God, who in Jesus Christ loves us, dies for us, saves us, suffers for us on a cross – takieson board our own suffering, and the sin, pain and suffering … the unwellness of the world.

One passage more than any other has kept on coming back to me in these times is those marvelous words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8.  Listen to them as David brings them to us …

READING: ROMANS 8: 28-35, 37-39

Two verses in particular stand out for me:

Verse 31: If God is for us, who can be against us (or as the CEV puts it, If God is on our side …)  AND

Verse 39: Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That’s why a new Chris Tomlin worship song I first heard late last year has really spoken to me – or more accurately, God has spoken to me through this song.  The song is called Our God.  Right through the song we sing the words:

And if our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us
Then what could stand against?

These past weeks, while all has not been well with my soul, I’ve claimed those words – they’re not Tomlin’s; they’re basically straight from Holy Scripture.   I’ve chosen that song time and time again at Oxley.  I’ve played the song over and over in the car stereo.

Why?  Because, despite my soul’s state of wellness, God continues to be God.  God continues to love me, comfort me, and call me to serve him. God is bigger, stronger, wiser, more empathetic, more compassionate than anything this world can toss up – be it trouble, be it suffering, be it hard times, be it hunger or nakedness or danger or death.

God’s love is there – always – there for you and me to claim for our lives and our futures, no matter what the state of our soul might be. It’s a love that promises to never, ever, ever let us go.

David MacGregor


postscript:  I was touched by many responses I received after sharing this.  I had not set out to be any more or less honest or open than I would normally in preaching.  The feedback I got seemed to suggest that what I  voiced resonated with many others who as a result of the floods had similarly experienced a restlessness or unease within. I had somehow put in words what many were feeling.



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