Monday, August 4, 2008

It Is Well With My Soul

It was about a year ago that I heard the story behind the beloved hymn for the first time and now I can't even think of the hymn without my eyes welling with tears. It Is Well With My Soul was written in 1873 by Horatio Gates Spafford and tonight, instead of a snippet from The Heart's Journey Home, I'm going to tell you his story . . .

Spafford was a blessed man and enjoyed a wonderful life. He had a lovely wife, Anna, a son, whose name isn't documented, and four beautiful daughters, Tanetta, Maggie, Annie, and Bessie. A successful lawyer who'd invested heavily in real estate in the rapidly growing city of Chicago, he was able to provide his family with a very comfortable lifestyle. Best of all, he was a Christian and a close friend to evangelist Dwight L. Moody, but as is the case with most Christians (to varying degrees, of course), his faith would soon be tested.

The first blow came with the death of his son in 1871. I haven't found much documentation on what exactly happened, but all accounts state that while Spafford and his wife were grieveing for their son, Chicago was devastated by a great fire in October 1871. The fire burned from Sunday evening to early Tuesday, killing hundreds and destroying about four square miles of the city. It was categorized as one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century. One look at this picture of the aftermath, and I'd have to agree! Obviously, this fire ru­ined Spafford fi­nan­cial­ly, destroying almost everything he owned.

Two years later, in 1873, Spafford decided his family should take a vacation and get away from the devastation that they were still recovering from. Knowing that his friend, Dwight L. Moody, would be preaching in England in the fall they made that their destination. Delayed because of business, he sent his wife and his daughters ahead of him. On November 21, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. Somehow his wife, Anna, survived. On arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford beginning "Saved alone." Can you imagine the emotions they both were feeling as the parents of these beautiful girls? As a husband and wife going through yet another crisis and on opposite sides of the ocean?

Finally, sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spaf­ford traveled to be with his wife in England his ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died. I ask you, what would you have done in that moment? Me? Scream, maybe. Shake my fists at the heavens and shout how unfair it was that my babies had died what I'm guessing to be an agonizing, terrifying death in the middle of the Atlantic. But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Spafford wrote the words to It Is Well With My Soul. What a wonderful testimony and legacy he left for us Christians that while his heart was breaking with an intensity I can't begin to imagine, he wrote the lyrics to a song that speaks of the eter­nal hope that all be­liev­ers have, no mat­ter what pain and grief be­fall them on earth!

It has several verses, too many to include all of them, but for those of you that don't know it, here are the lyrics to the first two verses. I promise you'll never think of this song the same again:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has 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.

Which leads me to PRAYER CONCERNS: Part of the reason I chose to tell you Spafford's story tonight is because I received two prayer concerns today that are deeply disturbing to me. The first is a 2-year-old boy named Tyler. My sister who is an x-ray tech (sorry, Jules, if I got your exact title wrong) had to do a cat scan on little Tyler recently (thus, because of privacy laws we don't have his last name, but God knows him!) and they discovered that this precious little child has cancer in his liver. There are also spots on his heart and scull, and it's in his bone marrow. Apparently he started chemo yesterday but the doctors and specialists only give him a 30% chance to live. Also, a friend that I work with asked that I add his friend's 2-year-old little girl, Lilly, to the list of prayer concerns. Sweet little Lilly has just been diagnosed with lukemia. I'm sorry, but this DOES NOT make sense to me! How can something like this happen to children barely older than a baby??? Father God, I'm praying right now, with tears streaming down my face, that You heal this little boy and girl. You are the Great Physician, God! You knew Tyler and Lilly when they were in their mother's womb and You know how many hairs are on their sweet little heads. You know how to heal them! Be with Tyler's and Lilly's parent's, Father. I can't even begin to imagine what they are going through. Give them a peace that passes all understanding - the kind of peace that Spafford had even after he had lost everything. Most of all, Father God, if these families don't know You, let this trial be the reason they come to You and fall on their knees at the foot of the cross. Amen.

Whew! Sorry about that. *Wiping eyes.* I can't help it. Kids get to me.

The other prayer concern is for a young lady by the name of Amber Grant. Amber has made some bad choices and has gotten involved with a boy that has turned her away from God's truth. Her mother and father are afraid they've lost her completely. Please pray that God will reveal His grace and mercies to Amber in such a way that she will know without a doubt that it is Him calling her back. Pray that her parents will know what to say and when not to say anything at all, when to push and when to give her the space she needs to figure things out. It is so hard being a teenager today - wanting to be an adult but still so much a kid. Pray that Amber finds her way home.

Updates: My very dear friend from high school, Patty Smith, will most likely be starting chemo this Friday. Please continue to pray for her - for strength, for peace, for healing.

If you or someone you know is in need of prayer (even if it is an unspoken), please email me personally by clicking on my profile and I will be happy to post your prayer request. Also, send updates, so I can update our prayer warriors out there.


Anonymous said...

Hi sis!
As I am blowing my nose and wiping my eyes, I am so very touched. First of all, I'll start by saying that "It is Well With My Soul" is one of my favorites and it is one that the "girls" and I sang for the first time last year for our congregation. That song moves people and uplifts people. I believe that God uses people, such as the author of this song, to get His work done. And those children....those precious're right, I don't get it either. But in an effort to try to comfort our own grieving souls, as a nurse, I must say that kids are so resilient and understand things far beyond what our adult minds of reason are capable of. Their souls are far more peaceful than ours. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe it is because kids live for the day not for tomorrow or next week or next year, just today. Maybe it is because they are too young to have witnessed the pain and devestation that cancer (such a dirty word)can bestow on a family. Maybe because they are in some way closer to God and trust Him at a whole different level. At any rate, God will take care of these children, whatever the outcome, and they will feel His embrace holding them tight the entire way. Love ya sis!

Krista Phillips said...

*sigh* Such heartache and difficult stuff. i think we ALL ask from time to time why does God let bad things happen to 1.) me? 2.) babies and 3.) Good people.

I'm not sure I have an answer. Only God has it. I do know he calls us to pray, so I will definately be doing so.

I also know that he calls us to rise above the challenges and heartbreak of this world and look to Jesus.

Actually, you have really spurred me on tonight. My book # 2 is really about this whole issue. It attempts to detail one woman's struggle of Why bad things happened to her when she was a Christian? Doesn't God protect Christians???

Your story about Amber also reminds me of my book too, as the Heroine is a girl who when the storms came in, she turned her back on God and got involved in some pretty yucky stuff.

Thanks for the post. I've so been praying that God would renew my passion and give that little umph to go on another day with my writing. Somedays it all seems so much bigger than me, but there IS a reason that we right. God has a purpose for the stories he gives us and even if they only impact one life, it is so worth it.

Love ya girl, and hope all is going well! Good luck this week starting school!!

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Jen, I knew part of this story, but reading the whole thing really puts life in perspective, doesn't it? Thank you for sharing it so beautifully! And I'll be praying for all of these precious children and their parents and families, for healing of the body where needed and for wisdom and healing of the soul.