When sorrows like sea billows roll, is it well in your soul?
In the song Even If, by MercyMe, Bart sings, “It’s easy to sing when there’s nothing to bring me down, but what will I say when I’m held to the flame like I am right now. I know You’re able, and I know You can, save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.” Job in the Old Testament proclaimed the premise and theme of this song when he lamented, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 ESV)
I can think of no better example of someone whose faith was sorely tested, yet remained in love with God, than Horatio Spafford. In 1873 Spafford was trying to recover from significant financial loss due to the great Chicago fire of 1871. In an attempt to get away with his wife and four daughters to rest, Spafford booked passage aboard the Ville du Havre, a ship that was to cross the Atlantic and arrive in Europe. Some last-minute business dealings forced Spafford to send his family ahead of him, planning to board another ship and join them the following week. Enroute, the Ville du Havre collided with another ship, the Loch Earn. On the deck, Spafford’s wife Anna assembled her four daughters and led them in prayer, that if it were God’s will, He would spare them. Within minutes the Ville du Havre was overtaken by the dark waters of the Atlantic. Moments later, a sailor spotted a woman hanging on to some wreckage; it was Anna. Nine days after the incident, Anna finally arrived in Wales, where she wired her husband with only six words, “Saved alone. What shall I do?”
Upon receiving word that all four of his children had perished, Spafford boarded another ship and made his way to join his grieving wife. Spafford had just one request of the ship’s captain; that he took him to the accident location. After the captain informed Spafford of their position over the tragic site, Spafford left his room and made his way to the deck. Leaning over the railing and looking through tear-stained eyes over at the watery grave of his children, Spafford began to write lyrics for a song.
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
Over the years, Horatio and Anna Spafford continued their unrelenting pursuit of Christ, always trusting God and never abandoning hope. What about you? Have you ever experienced the kind of trials that rip your heart out? Are you familiar with grief and pain? Do you wonder how a couple, like the Spafford’s, could trust God so implicitly and love Him so unconditionally? The answer, I believe, is found in one of the lesser sang stanzas of the same song, It Is Well With My Soul, whos lines read:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come Let this blest assurance control That Christ has regarded my helpless estate And has shed His own blood for my soul
Spafford believed, really believed, that God loved him so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to suffer, bleed, and die for him and that in rising, Christ gave Spafford abundant and eternal life. Folks, I hope today you realize how much God loves you. And that you never allow the things around you to affect your love for the One above you. So, when sorrows like sea billows roll, is it well in your soul?
Scripture: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” -Philippians 4:11b ESV
Prayer: Father, during those times when I feel like the rug of my life has been ripped from under me, may I be reminded of your love. When I consider the cross and all that your Son endured for me, the shame, the beatings, the nails, the rejection, the isolation, and the pain, may I spend more time focused on that love and less time focused on the distractions to that love. Father, I am weak. I need you. Please help me stay focused on the power of your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.