It Is Well with My Soul
Horatio Spafford was a man who experienced unbearable loss over the course of his lifetime. As a successful attorney and real estate investor, he lost his fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Shortly thereafter, his only son was taken by scarlet fever. In an attempt to lift the family’s spirits and begin the process of emerging from all-encompassing grief, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to vacation in England. He planned to join them after tending to urgent business matters. But tragedy and heartbreak struck again as Anna and their daughters’ ship was involved in a horrible collision and sunk. All four daughters were lost. His wife’s telegram to him when she finally reached England was, “Saved alone. What shall I do?”
Spafford set sail immediately to join his wife. As he was making the crossing, the captain of the ship, aware of Spafford’s story and connection to the recent maritime disaster, sent word to the grieving father that they were passing over the spot where his children had lost their lives. The words to the now well-known hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” came to him as these words of comfort and hope washed over him:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,“It Is Well with My Soul” | Horatio Spafford
When sorrows like sea billows roll –
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to bear,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
More than likely, you have experienced great tragedy in your life. Perhaps there is more than one story in your life that has tested your faith to the very brink of unbelief. Perhaps the many issues we are facing today in the midst of this pandemic illness are creating anxieties that seem to suffocate you. And as the challenges we are experiencing in merely existing in this world (e.g. finding food, babysitters, paper products, or even just communicating with friends and loved ones) have perhaps become more than you can handle – remember Horatio Spafford. Remember the devastating loss of an entire family and his personal fortune and how he looked first to God for comfort and strength to take the next step forward.
We can find the comfort and strength we need from that same source. We know that God is present with us in all things – good or bad. We know that God cries with us in times of loss and that God is there to join us in life’s celebrations. And we know that God is with us today in these most uncertain of times.
We need God now, more than ever Beloved. And we need one another to weather this storm. Remember the words from John from this past Sunday sharing the story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well. In asking her to draw him a drink, he offers her, a stranger and an outcast among her own people, the living water of faith. Drink deeply of those living waters, knowing that the answers to all of life’s questions – whether big or small – are found there. We can find hope in the heartfelt words of Horatio Spafford; “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to bear – It is well, it is well with my soul.”