God and Sexual Assault

What is Peace like a River?

"Whatever my lot..."

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” John 14:27a (NIV)

In 1863, Horatio G. Spafford, wrote the words to the now well-known hymn, It Is Well with My Soul. I have listed the first verse and refrain for you to read.

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.

These words are very hard for me to understand, even though I know the story behind them. You see, Horatio G. Spafford lost a son, and his financial success, and then he lost his three daughters when they were traveling with his wife overseas.

Only his wife was left. On his way to meet his wife, Horatio, wrote these words. You can find the rest of the hymn here:


Most would tell me I cannot imagine the pain he was experiencing, but I don’t have to imagine the pain. I am living it. Horrible, gut wrenching pain. Emotional turmoil and heartache. Loss of financial stability, loss of family, loss of my life as I ever dreamed. No husband or children for me. No happy Christmases or holidays. Loss beyond what I ever imagined.

My guess is you have also experienced great loss because of your sexual abuse and assaults.

Horatio begins the hymn with the line “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way.” What comes to my mind when I picture a river is anything but peace. I picture the river in Colorado when I was in high school and we were white water rafting.

The river was fast and furious, and could take you under at any time if you fell from the raft. We were pushed and shoved against rocks and bumped along down the river. We had to bail water out of the raft to keep us afloat and not get too heavy. It was a fight against the river.

I compare it to my life as a survivor of sexual abuse and assault. The bumps and rocks, and constantly calling “bail water!” Only I have no one to call to, except God. He is the only one who can help bail me out.

I feel some people are oblivious to the fact our rafts are even in trouble, and others are  watching from the shore shouting, “I’m sorry this is happening to you! I’ll pray for you!” Yet we are in the river fighting for our lives.

So, I find this hymn hard to take. It is not well with my soul right now. I want it to be, but I am not okay with “my lot”.

I pray to God one day there will be “peace like a river” in my heart and soul. 

I pray one day you will have it too.

Father God,

I feel I am in the fight of my life and I’m barely keeping my head above water. I need You to help me survive it. I need You to let me know You will one day let there be peace like a river in my heart, so it can be well with my soul.



© 2017 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.


1 comment on “What is Peace like a River?

  1. One of my favorite hymns – especially when we consider the history of its composition.

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