In 1871 Horatio Spafford, a prominent Chicago lawyer, had recently lost his two-year old son. Still reeling from this emotional weight, He went from affluent to impoverished overnight, as he saw all of his real estate holdings consumed in the great Chicago fire. Two years later, still suffering from the loss of his son, he managed to recoup enough of his financial losses to book ship passage for him and his family to England in an attempt to ease the family’s anguish.
At the last minute, emergency business related to the Chicago fire forced him to delay his travels. Since the tickets had already been purchased he sent his family ahead with a promise to join them shortly. The ship was just over halfway across the Atlantic when it was struck by another vessel and sank. Spafford lost all four of his daughters in that maritime disaster (ages eleven, nine, five and two). Only his wife survived. He immediately booked passage to join his grieving wife on the other side of the Atlantic. As his ship approached the area that claimed the lives of his four daughters, Horatio Spafford took pen and paper and wrote:
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.
This has become one of the greatest hymns of the church and was inspired by tragedy I cannot even comprehend.
Horatio Spafford easily could have chosen to resent God. Just as Job sustained losses beyond measure, Spafford was challenged in his faith like no one I have ever heard of. His affliction, like Job, was the stuff of legend; almost too devastating to seem real. Except that it was real… as was his pain… as was his faith. His choice to let his faith rise above the magnitude of his affliction resulted in one of the most beautiful songs ever penned, and has comforted millions of people experiencing pain, grief, and loss.
I am challenged by the faith of these two men. While I pray I never experience the degree of affliction they experienced, I pray that when my greatest tests come that I will have the overcoming faith to know that my God has everything in control, loves me, and is holding me through the healing. In these times, that we all have or will have to face, God is showing us that He will provide peace that defies understanding. As we rest in His strength in times when our own isn’t sufficient we are drawn closer to Him. The choice in these times of trial rests with us. What will we focus on… our affliction or our faith?
This Sunday we will join in singing praises to God with these songs:
I look forward to worshipping with each of you!