“When peace like a river attends my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll –
Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.
“Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul.
“My sin – O the bliss of that 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!
“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.”
(Slightly adapted from the original.)
Horatio Spafford, the writer of this hymn, was a successful businessman in the frontier city of Chicago, Illinois, in the 1870s. He had a lot of real estate in that fast-growing city. In 1871, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern, or so the story goes (though that part was later admitted to be made up by the man who started it. How the fire actually started in her barn is unknown). The city was nearly burned to the ground, along with Spafford’s holdings. He was more fortunate than many, though, because he still had his law office, his family, and a little bit left of his equity.
Even by November, 1873, many of the city’s schools had not been rebuilt, and Spafford decided he would move his family to England so his daughters could complete their education. He was planning to go with them, but something came up and he was forced to remain behind.
On the way to England, the ship his family was on collided with another ship, with the resulting death of Spafford’s four daughters. His wife, Victoria, barely managed to escape and was rescued by another ship. On that ship, she was able to send her husband a short message: “Saved, alone.”
Stafford was nearly crushed by this blow. Holdings and real estate could be replaced, but family….! There was a ray of hope in the darkness, however; he knew that God would not forsake him, no matter what happened – whether peace like a placid river was his lot, or waves of sorrow came crashing over him.
There’s more to his story, but all it does is shows that Spafford was human, and, like all believers, was a mixture of faith and foolishness. We’re like the man in Mark 9:24, who came to Jesus asking Him to heal his child, saying, “If you can do anything,…” Jesus replied, “If you can believe,…” The man replied, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
We live in perilous and uncertain times. My daughter-in-law and I had a bout with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year. And if it wasn’t COVID-19, then I never want to meet the real thing! I have never been so sick in all my years as I was during that time. Thankfully, she and I both recovered. If you have the virus or have been affected by it, my heart and prayers go out to and for you.
I haven’t heard a lot about this side of it, because we pretty much don’t believe in the providence of God any more, but I have to wonder if He’s telling us something. Many even deny that such a Being exists; we’re all just the product of time and chance and it’s nothing more than a big roll of the dice. As a nation, we’ve ignored or denied Him for several decades now and gone in ways that He forbids.
With this virus, is He trying to tell us something?
Ah, listen, this life is a mere blink of an eye in view of eternity. Choices made here, often in the heat or the stress of the moment or without really stopping to think about it, are like a stone thrown into a pond, rippling out far beyond the limits of our own lives and lapping on the shores of eternity.
And, yes, I mixed metaphors.
The point is, in spite of all he suffered and with all his imperfections, Spafford could still say, “It is well with my soul.”
There’s only one sure path forward and that’s through the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone has shed His own blood for our soul[s]. He alone is the way to salvation and eternal blessing, Acts 4:12. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14:6. No one comes to the Father or will enter Heaven except through Him.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.
May God grant it today. Amen.