“In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was all over, 300 people were dead and 100,000 were homeless. Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. A lawyer who had invested much of his money into the downtown Chicago real estate, he’d lost a great deal to the fire. And his one son (he had four daughters) had died about the same time. Still, for two years Spafford–who was a friend of evangelist Dwight Moody–assisted the homeless, impoverished, and grief-stricken ruined by the fire.
After about two years of such work, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation. They were to go to England to join Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades, then travel in Europe. Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business, but sent his family on ahead. He would catch up to them on the other side of the Atlantic.
Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, the
Loch Earn, and sank within 20 minutes. Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters–Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie–were killed. Horatio received a horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long: “saved alone.”
Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife, and the two finally met up with Dwight Moody. “It is well,” Spafford told him quietly. “The will of God be done.”
Though reports vary as to when he did so, Spafford was led during those days of surely overwhelming grief to pen the words to one of the most beautiful hymns we know, beloved by Christians lowly and great.” That hymn was titled, “It Is Well With My Soul.” —from geocities.com /cott1388 /spafford.html
It Is Well With My Soul speaks to a subject rarely breached in Christian hymnals, the theme of suffering. In keeping with the author’s circumstances, the song begins, “When peace like a river, attendeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll.” Spafford writes amidst his tears, not about how bad life is and how he longs for something better, but about joy. He writes further, “That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.” Despite all the loss and sorrow, Spafford still looks to Christ, because Christ suffered far worse for him.
Job speaks to suffering. It is the one human emotion we all have in common. Job is met by four successive servants who tell him his fortune is being destroyed, all in the space of a few minutes. “Then Job arose, rent his [cloak], shaved his head, fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.” (Job 1:20) Job suffered despite being a believer. God is no guarantee for comfort, but He is a guarantee for peace amidst suffering. “In all of this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:22)
I don’t know what you are going through today, but I do know of someone who suffered even worse that Job. He suffered, not only because He was righteous, but also because He loves you. Jesus suffered whipping and nails piercing his flesh. Jesus suffered the incredible wrath of God, God’s anger over all sin, including yours, so that you might live. Please believe in Jesus. Be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and live the life of a Follower of Christ. I encourage you today to make that decision, for the rest of your life hangs in the balance. Jesus said, “Come unto me all of you who are weary and heavily laden (with work and trouble) and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Are you feeling that the world is dumping on you? Let Jesus lighten your load.