Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is it well?

Without a doubt my favorite hymn is It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford. I grew up in a community where hymns played a large part in my life. I sang them in high school and whenever I was at church with my grandparents. Even before I knew the story behind this hymn I always enjoyed it. The message it brings of hope and the saving grace we have already received from Jesus. That no matter what we are going through or will go through God is our ever present help and provider and we are to praise Him in all things.Psalm 146:1, "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul!" 

As I learned the history behind this hymn it took on a whole new meaning to me. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the 1860s and a personal friend of D.L. Moody. In 1870 Horatio and his wife, Anna, lost their only son at the age of four to scarlet fever. In the very next year, the Great Chicago Fire wiped out all of Spafford's recently purchased real estate and most of his business. Losing a child is probably the single greatest tragedy anyone can experience. These events alone can be enough to break a person.

I have one of the best families a person could ever ask for. Even our extended family is close and we have the some of the best times together. This song became very personal to me on September 11, 1998 as my cousin Shaun was taken from us after only 16 short years. It is a personal pain one can only know if they experience it, and I pray you do not. I will save the details for a later time.

But the Spafford's suffering does not stop there! In 1873 the Spafford family, Horatio, Anna and their four daughters  were to set sail to England for a vacation and to join Moody in his evangelism. Last minute business kept Horatio from sailing with his family and he received two words in a telegram from his wife nine days later, "Saved Alone.". The 'Ville de Havre', the ship his family was on, had collided with 'The Lochearn' and sank in 12 minutes, killing his 4 daughters and 222 other people. His wife, Anna, one of the few survivors. Upon receiving the news, Horatio boarded the next ship to England to meat his wife. As he passed over the place where the 'Ville de Havre' wrecked he penned the lyrics to this hymn, It Is Well with My Soul:

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, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my 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.

This man, in all he lost and suffered still praised God. Even when he speaks of sorrows and the tragedies that have befell him there never is a "woe is me" attitude or even anger towards God. It stuns me that this man could have this attitude. One of praise and of thanksgiving for what God has given and what God has promised us through his son, Jesus. How often do we have this attitude?

Just read over the words of the song and let them speak for themselves and to you. Is it well?