My dear friend Angela Faddis died from colon cancer at age 32 leaving behind her husband Chris and her two young children, Gianna and Augustine. With the year of her death passing just over a month ago, her husband has come out with a book titled It Is Well that speaks about their beautiful faith and trust in the Lord.
Recently, I attended the book release concert featuring Chris Faddis and musician Audrey Assad. It was a beautiful night under the stars outside of St. Timothy Catholic Church where hundreds gathered.
Audrey sang the hymnal written by Horatio Spafford, “It Is Well With My Soul, “ and Christ spoke words into a mic while a slide show gave images to the crowd.
Chris’s voice came from behind the stage saying, “’It is Well,’ says the song, ‘it is well with my soul.’ How do you say ‘it is well’ when all that comes is the shrill cry of utter pain at the thought of the crisis before you?”
Then he showed this image of the Newtown shooting.
He went on to say, “How does a mother say ‘It is well with my soul,’ when she get’s the call: ‘Shots fired, many dead or wounded.’ Her children are there; she has no clue if they are safe. She won’t know for some time. How does she say it is well when all she can say is ‘Why God why?’”
Then Audrey’s fingers began playing the piano to the tune of the hymn. Her voice softly sang, “It is well with my Soul…”
Then, this image of a broken-down man showed on the screen.
Chris spoke into the mic, “How does a man sing when he loses his job for the third time and he still hasn’t crawled out of the hole of debt that was left from the last lay off? How can the words, ‘it is well’ even be uttered from his lips when all he can think is ‘Why God Why? Why can’t I have a break? Why can’t I keep a job?’”
As Chris shared his thoughts, something sharp pierced my heart. It was Chris’s words. My own husband’s company downsized a week before the concert and my husband was let go. This is not something I have even had time to share on my blog as our life has been so busy these past few months. We were shocked and confused and did not see the lay-off coming. Our lives were turned upside down when I woke up in a hospital three years ago to discover that I had died, delivered my baby, was revived, and would need to spend months in recovery. I recovered, and my little family was finally back on its feet and doing well. We were at peace for the first time in three years and then my husband was let go. Sitting in the audience that night, I came face to face with Chris’s words. How can I say, “It is well with my soul” when the darkness of fear and uncertainty has been haunting my husband and me.
I began to sing along from my seat with Audrey, as she sang again, “It is well with my soul…” A moment of silence hushed over the crowd as this next slide appeared.
Chris’s voice said, “How does a woman sing when her baby came too early? She lies there beautiful in her arms but too small, too tiny, too weak to survive. How does she sing when all she can do is hold her and hope she’ll stay a little while longer?”
I began to sob because I know the people in that photo. I know the pain they endured losing their child at 20 weeks old. How can it be well with their soul?
Audrey sang the chorus again. I saw tears fall from faces around the event venue as people sang loudly along. I wasn’t the only one being pierced by these images and words.
The next image posted.
Chris said, “How can you get past the, ‘Why God why?’ and sing, ‘it is well,’ when your spouse declares he or she no longer loves you and after years of trying so hard to heal ‘it’ and to fix ‘it’ that you don’t even know what ‘it’ is anymore, and the person who is supposed to help you ‘figure it out,’ who said ‘till death do us part’ has decided to call it quits? How do you sing? How?”
Audrey sang and my mind went deeper into thought knowing, that saying in the midst of tragedy, “it is well with my soul” sounds good in theory. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to say, but how do you really say that? What does one have to do to say that? I knew the answer. I had discovered it myself in my own past suffering and as I sat beside my friend Angela as she was dying of cancer and speaking words of trust in the Lord.
Chris showed these pictures of Angela embracing her children.
I have many pictures like this on my own camera from sitting at her bedside in the hospital during her last weeks on earth. The faces of her children trying to grasp what was happening to their mother will be forever etched in my mind. I remember my heart breaking daily at the thought that she would soon be gone.
Chris spoke about Angela, “When your wife lies in a bed riddled with a disease that silently and secretly grew inside for years before suddenly making itself known and all you can think is ‘why God why?’ How do you sing?”
Chris came from behind the screen and the crowd saw the man behind the voice as he said, “I still hear the ringing in my ears as I think of that morning. The deafening words spoken by the young doctor still bring me to my knees.”
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He shared about how they found out about Angela’s fatal cancer diagnosis.
Then he went on to say, “Just like that, our lives – at least our vision of our lives and all that we assumed was assured, crashed to the floor. Shattered pieces of glass, the only sign left of what we once knew for certain. Our love, our family, our hopes for our future, our desires and dreams—all of them no longer in our hands. All of it, in a million pieces. Frozen in time is that moment. Scattered in time are those dreams. The ringing. The glass—a million pieces. What do you say when your lover lies in a bed, hearing the same words as you? Knowing what it means, what it all likely means. Death. End. Loss. Words, they come easy for me, but not now. Not in this moment. I try, I attempt to muster some sort of comfort—no words; they don’t come.”
Chris spoke of Angela’s first response to hearing the news, “She, the one who has a hard time with words, the one who needs the comfort in this moment—she, she says the words – the only words that matter. ‘Jesus still rose, so we will trust.’ Shattered hopes, shattered dreams, a shattered life – and she says the only thing that matters in this life. Jesus still rose.
Chris continued to describe the way Angela’s faith and trust affected so many others who were drawn to the Lord through her suffering. There was purpose in her suffering, far more than they will ever know.
Can we say midst of tragedy and suffering, “It is well with my soul?” Yes! Because Jesus still rose, so we will trust. My humanness wants to reduce this statement to a feeling. Does my soul feel well? It doesn’t matter how I feel. Our faith, like love, can never be reduced to a feeling. It can be well with our souls regardless of our circumstances because we have Heaven. Angela found out about her cancer on Easter Sunday, and when she said, “Jesus still rose, so I will trust,” she meant Jesus rose…..HEAVEN IS REAL…JESUS IS LORD…so I will trust!
In my human weakness I have times of worry, anxiety, and even fear in the midst of my family’s recent struggle of my husband’s loss of job. However, I can still say, “it is well with my soul” because a lost job and uncertain circumstances won’t stop us from getting to Heaven. My soul is well when I commit to trusting in the Lord, when I pray faithfully, and when I choose good over evil in the midst of my struggle and my deepest feelings. The Lord is my rock, and my true security, not my husband’s job.
The brokenness of Chris’s heart after watching his wife Angela die before his own eyes, although heart-wrenching and sad, will not keep him from the ultimate goal…Eternity with the Lord!
It can be well with our souls even in hard-times and heartache because there is hope for a life with God in Heaven, which is the real prize.
Is it well with your soul?
It Is Well: Life in the Storm by Chris Faddis is an encounter with the living God. I encourage everyone to read this beautiful true story of heroic love and faith and allow yourself to be pierced by Chris’s words.
Check out more about how to order the book at www.itiswellbook.com. Free shipping thru 11/11/13!