Be A Self-Encourager: Encouraging Yourself Through Song – “It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford

We have learned to encourage ourselves through solitude with God and through Scripture, particularly the Psalms.  Lastly, we can encourage ourselves through song.

Ephesians 5:19 shows us how to be filled with the Spirit, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

“God’s people have reason to rejoice, and to sing for joy.  They are to sing and to make melody in their hearts; not only with their voices, but with inward affection, and then their doing this will be as delightful and acceptable to God as music is to us: and it must be with a design to please Him, and to promote His glory, that we do this; and then it will be done to the Lord.”  Matthew Henry

I enjoy current gospel music.  Many songs have encouraged me and lifted my spirits, but my favorites are the enduring hymns.  They are classic and they don’t sound dated.  Two hymns in particular ministered to me the most during my journey of infertility.  I wrote about it many times in my journal.  One of them is “It Is Well With My Soul”.

The story behind the writing of “It Is Well With My Soul” is perhaps a familiar one.  Elisabeth Elliot’s Secure in the Everlasting Arms presents it in more detail than I have ever heard in the past.

The great Chicago fire of the 1870s caused Horatio Spafford, a wealthy businessman, to take stock in his life.  Wanting to know Jesus better, he decided to sell everything and move to the land where He had walked.  Shortly before the ship sailed, he was delayed by business, but took the family to New York.  For some reason he was unable to explain, he had the purser change their cabin, moving them closer to the bow.  He returned to Chicago to finish his business.  Then came a telegram: SAVED ALONE.  The ship had sunk.  Mrs. Spafford had survived.  Their four daughters had perished.  Had they been in the cabin originally reserved amidships, all five would have drowned, for it was there that the steamer had been struck by another vessel.

Mrs. Spafford described that terrible black night when she and her four little girls were flung into the cold sea.  Frantically, she had tried to save them.  Barely, she had been able to touch with her fingertips the hem of the little gown of one, but could not grasp it.  She herself had been miraculously rescued as she floated unconscious on a piece of flotsam.

During Mr. Spafford’s voyage to join his wife in France, the captain summoned him one day to the bridge.  Pointing to his charts he explained that it was just here, where they were at that moment, that the other ship had gone down.  Spafford returned to his cabin and wrote the hymn, which has comforted countless thousands.  Mrs. Bertha Spafford Vester, the fifth daughter of Horatio and Mrs. Spafford, who was not born until after the tragedy, told this story to Mrs. Elliot.  What a joy to know God blessed them with another daughter!

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 It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, Thou has 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 hath regarded my helpless estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul. 

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

My sin – O 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 with my soul.  It is well, it is well with my soul. 

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll: The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, “Even so” – it is well with my soul.

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

 ~

“It Is Well With My Soul” performed by Chris Rice

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Piano by Greg Howlett

Early in 2003, I had my final attempt at ovulation induction with IUI.  It didn’t work.  I was still struggling to accept it might not be God’s will for me to get pregnant.  Adoption was next, and IVF was not yet in the picture.

This is what I wrote in my journal on March 12, 2003 – “Weepy day.  I cried at work a little and then at home.  Greg told me not to go to church tonight, but I showered and felt better so I went.  Greg wanted to pray with me.  He told me a lot of things the Lord had laid on my heart this very day.  I had to face reality that I thought God let me down.  Greg said it was the first time he sensed from me that I doubted God.  That hurts, and I’m ashamed of feeling that way.  Janice talked to me afterward because she saw me bawling.  Teri asked Greg about me.  Greg and Janice both said I was going through the grieving of my loss and that was natural.  I want to be at peace and say, ‘It is well with my soul.’ ”

“To love God is to love His will.  That which He gives we receive.  That which He takes away we relinquish.  He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed.  It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it.  Our joy or our misery will depend on that choice.”  Elisabeth Elliot from “Whatever My Lot”, Secure in the Everlasting Arms

Our Road To IVF – Money Issues

Our road leading to IVF seemed long.  From the first time IVF was recommended as our best chance at pregnancy, it took about 3 ½ years for us to eventually proceed with IVF, mostly because of concerns about the cost.  However, with pastoral and godly counsel and much prayer, we felt God’s hand upon us, even guiding us to the center He wanted us to use.

“We will know when we need to know, not before.”
(Elisabeth Elliot in “God’s Timing”, Faith That Does Not Falter.  )

This quote describes our road to IVF.  After surgery and treatment for Stage IV endometriosis, my doctor’s recommendation was that we try to get pregnant for a year, but if not, she said our best chance for pregnancy was IVF.  We were not initially inclined to do IVF.  At first, it seemed drastic.  If it was still possible to get pregnant within that year, why jump to IVF, when it would cost $10,000 (in 2001) for a 50% chance of pregnancy?  This was something we reasoned together but did not try really communicate with our doctor to find out more.  The $10,000 would be worth it if I got pregnant, but to spend that much money and not get pregnant with one chance and then be out $10,000 seemed like a huge risk to us.  It would have been both financially and emotionally devastating.

I didn’t get pregnant on my own that year, and after seeking treatment from a different specialist, we were again advised that IVF was our best chance for pregnancy.  At the time, we wanted to try IUI since it did not seem as “invasive” and was also less expensive, although the success rate was not as high as IVF.  When IUI didn’t produce a pregnancy, we sought to add to our family through adoption and also started to read a little more about IVF.

In the spring of 2004, my sister called me about an episode that aired on Dr. Phil.  It was about a shared-risk program for IVF in Washington, D.C.  I looked it up on the internet also and found out shared-risk costs more than one traditional IVF cycle, but some programs refund 70-100% of your money, if you do not go home with a live baby after a certain number of attempts.  It sounded like something feasible for us, maybe a financial risk worth taking.  It is more like a type of insurance, since we did not have insurance coverage for infertility nor live in a state that mandated coverage.

Summertime rolled around and my husband decided to ask our pastor’s counsel about IVF.  It was like a burden lifted off of us when he talked to him.  We had a green light!  I remember asking him, “Why did you ask him about this now?  Why not a year ago?!”  The doctors always said we had “a window of opportunity”.  All I can say is…

“We will know when we need to know, not before.”

That summer the show on Dr. Phil aired again and my mother-in-law taped it for us.  After my husband’s talk with Pastor, we watched the program.  I looked it up on the internet and tried to figure out how we could make it work.  It would be costly just for traveling and lodging.  A few days later, I did a web search on shared-risk IVF and a company came up called Integramed (now known as Attain IVF.  They did a similar shared-risk program with a handful of approved reproductive centers in the U.S.  At the time there were no centers in our state, but the closest one to us “just happened” to be only four hours’ driving distance from where we lived and 5 miles from my sister’s house!  That location definitely sounded more practical and feasible.

I prayed for peace about this center.  We also scheduled an IVF consult with our doctor locally to compare options.  I prayed Psalm 102:2b “In the day when I call, answer me speedily.”  And He did!  Praise the Lord!  By the end of October, in one day – the same day – the Lord answered my prayer by closing the door on our local doctor and opening the door to the center out-of-state.

Isaiah 30:21. “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

We knew this is where the Lord was leading us.  Within two weeks, we had our first appointment.  Then we were accepted into the shared-risk program, and by January 2005, we did our first IVF.  This definitely turned out to be the best option for us because we I did not get pregnant on the first attempt, although if I had, it still would have been worth it to us.  It was God’s timing, and…

“We will know when we need to know, not before.”

Note: I am presenting our story of shared-risk as one of many financial options to have a baby.  We had our baby in 2006, and so I am sure there are now even more programs and ways to save money, raise money, get the most out of your money – all that will hopefully lead you on the road to having your baby.
Article on Affording the Cost of Infertility Treatments

OK, Lord, I Am Yours.

Besides mourning the loss of not experiencing pregnancy with our fertility treatments, my buckets of tears also represented anguish at the harsh reality that the Lord was not going to answer my prayers of having a baby the way I dreamed.  He didn’t give me my heart’s desire.

Some couples, even before they know whether or not they can have children of their own, have a heart to adopt.  Others have adopted children after their quiver seemed to be quite full of the children they gave birth to naturally.  I have even heard of some who preferred to adopt rather than have their own.  My desire was to have a baby of my own.  I am not saying that in a way to offend anyone, for I know if you adopt, that baby is your own.  But I wanted to experience it all.

The desire in my heart was not just to be a mommy but also to bear a child.  I know my husband wanted his turn to stand up in men’s prayer meeting and ask prayer for the expectant mothers, though I don’t think he ever expressed that desire out loud.  I wanted to see my name on the expectant mothers’ list in the church nurseries.  I wanted to see my belly grow as my baby miraculously grew inside of me.  I wanted to wear cute maternity clothes!  I wanted to experience the birth of my child.  I wanted to have a boy who looked like his daddy.  I wanted to give my husband a son with his bloodline; my husband and his brother were the last with their family name.  I wanted what seemingly every woman who gets married expects to happen without any delays (unless planned on her part), hurdles, or complications.  I wanted to be pregnant.

But I had to come to terms with the fact that the Lord maybe had different plans for me.  Perhaps He really was going to answer His promise in Psalm 113:9 by giving me a baby through adoption.  I had to learn to give up my desires – what I wanted – and say, OK, Lord, I am yours.  I want YOUR will.

Elisabeth Elliot, in her book Secure in the Everlasting Arms , said, “To love God is to love His will.  That which He gives we receive.  That which He takes we relinquish.  With what astonishment – of gladness or sadness – we receive some things!  With what reluctance or delight we relinquish others.  He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed.  It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it.  Our joy or our misery will depend on that choice.”