Your son dies when he is only four.
Your business burns to the ground.
Then your 4 daughters drown when their ship sinks at sea.
Oh,and your spouse is on the ship when it goes down, but manages to survive and once he/she reaches dry land, sends this text:
In shock, you get on a ship to go meet your spouse. You have lost everything except him/her. You leave nothing and no one behind you. No family. No business. All of it gone in a few short years. You are decimated. Distraught. Despondent.
And on your way across the ocean to greet the only family you have left, you come to the spot where your daughters drowned and you write this:
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.
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.
Recognize this hymn? "It is Well With My Soul" is one of the most popular and revered hymns of the faith. This is not just a nice song about peace that we sing on Sundays. It is the song that Horatio Spafford wrote after he went through everything I just described above. I heard Horatio's story this morning and suddenly realized that I am the biggest, whining, ingrate that God has ever known.
I feel sorry for myself over a few tough days at work, an annoying cough, lack of sleep, and the increased cost of my homeowners insurance. Horatio buries his son, sifts through the ashes of everything he owns, says goodbye to his daughters somewhere out on the Atlantic and writes a hymn about how no matter what happens in this life, he can still be at peace because he knows that he, his son, his daughters--ALL OF THEIR SOULS--are secure with God because of what Christ has done.
Horatio was a real person with feelings, needs, hopes and sorrows. He was not a superhero or Sci-Fi hybrid human. He, just like me, bleeds, breathes and believes in Jesus, but the contrast is startling:
Horatio says: Disease can kill, wealth can burn, boats can sink, daughters can drown, but nothing can steal me or my family away from God. Therefore, in the midst of my sorrow, I can say:
IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.
Hope says: Work can drain. Ailments can strike. Bills can mount. Loved ones can fade. Words can wound. Therefore, in the midst of my sorrow, I can say: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Really? For goodness sake, stop whining!
Put it in perspective. Not when you get to dry land. Right now. In the boat. Right in the very place where you lost it all. Stand in the ashes, float over the spot where your hopes went down and then, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, put your whole faith in God and lean on Him. Then say it: It is well with my soul.
I really appreciate that Horatio didn't say,"It is well with my life." He says, "It is well with my SOUL." Thankfully, he is not one of those annoying, superficial, Poly-Ana types who when tough times come, pat you on the back and say,"Everything is going to be OK" which you know might be true, but really don't want to hear. Instead of making you feel better, their words and little patronizing back pats actually make you want to PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE and then cry while they bleed into a towel.
Nope. Horatio does not say it is well with his life, because it is NOT. He is not trying to self-talk himself back to happiness. He is not having a personal pep-talk, trying to convince himself that "Thanks to Jesus, everything is going to be peachy-keen." He says he has peace because what REALLY matters - his eternal salvation, i.e. his SOUL, is just fine! No one and nothing can touch that! He has been given a gift that moth, rust, fire, water, disease cannot destroy. And he knows it. He knows it profoundly, deeply--so much so that when the things that make him happy in this life disappear and die, he turns his tearful eyes toward the cross. There, he sees that thanks to the death that Jesus endured and conquered, that death in his life really has no power over what is truly important. Yes, death removes us from this life. It took his son too soon. It swallowed up his daughters in the murky depths. His wife was almost choked out by it, too. Yet, he knows that death actually means life. It is not the end.The body decays, but the SOUL lives on. The body is ill. Gone. The soul is well. Alive.
Forever. With Christ.
And for that reason, he can say, I can say, we all can say--
It is well with my soul!