When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, though hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
By 1873, successful Chicago attorney Horatio Spafford had lost all of his holdings to the “Great Chicago Fire,” and his son to Scarlett Fever. Thinking that a long holiday after such tragic loss would do his family good, he persuaded his wife and four daughters to travel with him to England for a long vacation. While preparing to board the ship in New York that would take them across the Atlantic, Spafford was detained by important last-minute business that drew him back to Chicago. Not wanting to ruin the family vacation, Horatio persuaded his wife and daughters to go on without him.
Only nine days had passed when Horatio received a telegram from his wife, originating in Wales. The telegram read, “Saved alone.” Witnesses would later tell of finding Ann Spafford floating unconscious on a plank of wood. Ann’s last memories were of desperately trying to cling to the hands of her children, as they were ripped away from her arms by the waves. She would never know how she came to rest, unconscious, on a floating piece of wood.
Upon learning of the tragic fate of his family, Horatio immediately set sale for Wales. One morning, the captain of his ship called him to the deck with news that after a “careful reckoning” they believed to be in the exact location where his family had perished. After a few moments of silence, Horatio Spafford retreated to his cabin, and penned the words to the well-known hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.”
There are moments in life when we receive terrible news. Often, it is the kind of news that most of us never expect to hear. If only someone could speak words of truth that would make the evil of such circumstances disappear, or at least lessen the grief and fear that are quickly become our very real companions. In truth, there are no words that can erase our grief, no sentiments that can bring back the lost, and no actions that can reverse a tragedy.
While we may not find the comfort that we seek in words, perhaps we can find comfort in knowing that we serve a God who is, Himself, no stranger to tragedy and to suffering. Perhaps there is comfort in knowing that we are loved by a God who grieves at the cost of such terribly evil acts, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to walking such difficult roads together with us.
In times such as these, there is comfort that comes from knowing that we do not walk this road alone. As difficult as each step may be, we walk this road hand-in-hand with one another, carried when we have not the strength to continue, by the strong arms of the God that promises never to leave nor forsake us, no matter how difficult the road ahead may be.
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.
Though sad and confused, hurt and afraid, our souls can be well indeed, because we are not, and never will be…alone.