Horatio Spafford, a man you’ve probably never heard of, wrote a song you’ve probably sung many times, “It is Well.”
Here are the first and last verses:
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…
And Lord, haste the day when the 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.
Something catches me there every time. Even so. What does that mean?
That’s the wrong question. I guess the right one is, Why is it there? In that particular line of that verse?
Spafford must have chosen his words very carefully. Even so is not the same as even if. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said “even if.” Even if their God did not save them in the furnace, they would still follow Him. David said “even if” his flesh and heart failed, the Lord would be his strength. Even if is good, but it is not the same as even so. Even if leaves a pause, a question. Something may happen, but it is just as well may not. But even so has a weight of certainty. A resignation. A surrendering to a higher will.
I think it’s the “so” that does it.
So it came to pass.
So be it.
So brings finality.
Every time Kurt Vonnegut writes about death in Slaughterhouse-Five, he simply alludes to the death with, “So it goes…” And he moves on to the next scene.
It’s odd, but it oddly makes sense. So it goes. So goes this life full of ups and downs where everything balances on eggshells and nothing is certain except for death. So it goes. It’s factual. Unwavering. Resigned.
And that same feeling laces the lines of the last verse in “It Is Well.” Why does it feel so…wrong?
I guess it’s because of how we’ve come to view So it goes. We don’t have to read Vonnegut to know that So it goes and even so have heavy connotations. If the only certainty we know is death, then certainties are hard to bear. They are so final, not up for debate. So out of our control.
Spafford could have written the finality of the even so in any verse—the one that describes sorrows rolling in like the sea or the one about Satan hurting us. But he didn’t. Why?
Even so is here at the end, beautifully, mercifully, when Jesus is cutting open the clouds and lowering Himself down to our level. Loving us and embodying His name: God with us. It is here at the end that Spafford gives us the gift of the even so. To tell us that this is certain. Some things might in this world, but this will. No matter what else comes to pass, this will.
The clouds will be rolled back like a scroll, a trumpet will sound, and the Lord will descend. And in the midst of our tumultuous feelings of fright and wonder, we will experience real finality. We will trade our ifs for a so, and it will be utterly and finally well with our souls.