Consistency is hard to achieve. A recipe calls for “constant stirring” and just a few minutes of failure can ruin the dish. Failure to faithfully practice will first diminish and then erase years of work to achieve a talent or ability. These lessons also apply to Bible study. Without consistent devotion to God’s word we lose the sharpness of our edge and eventually our faith. Keep reading and keep studying God’s word!
It Is Well With My Soul
Our Savior endured so much for us that it is hard to imagine or comprehend. He did so because He loved us and, in so doing, left us an example to follow. Somehow, we seem to forget that the soldier’s life is hard, and we all-too-easily find ourselves wallowing in a “pity party” as we fancy that it’s really not worth the effort. Doesn’t God owe it to us to make things easy?
All this brings us to a song that is beautifully challenging to us as Christians, and even more so when you know the story behind it. The words to the song that shares the same title as this article was written by Horatio Gates Spafford and first published in 1876… but only following a series of tragedies in his life.
In 1871 Mr. Spafford was a prominent American lawyer and senior partner in a large Chicago law firm. He seemed to have it made with a beautiful home, a loving wife, a son, four daughters and great real estate investments in Chicago. Then his four-year-old son died.
As Spafford was away in Indiana attempting to sell his large lakeshore property the Great Fire of Chicago erupted in October of 1871 and reduced not only the city but most of his investment properties to ashes. While the family home was saved, they were all but ruined financially.
1873 brought an economic downturn to the country. The family had planned to travel together to Europe but, in a late change of plans, Mr. Spafford was delayed on business concerned with zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. As his family went on ahead aboard the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel, the Loch Earn, killing 226 people. All four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife, Anna, survived and sent him a telegram, “Saved alone….”
As quickly as possible, Spafford sailed to meet up with his grieving wife. As the story goes, the Captain of the ship would point out the general location of the collision to Mr. Spafford, and the watery grave of his daughters as they passed. In the darkness of the night, from a heart filled with grief and pain, he would pen the words of the hymn, It Is Well, With My Soul.
- 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.
The song was not an instance of feeling self-indulgently sorry for self, though he, perhaps as much as anyone had reason to feel so. Nor was it about the horrible loss of a loving father. Instead, the thought turned to the Christ and His sacrifice and gift. And above all, to the hope and promise of the Savior’s return.
- Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
- Let this blest assurance control,
- That Christ hath 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 the 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.
The Refrain simply repeats, It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.
The story, however, does not quite end there. P. P. Bliss, a renowned composer, agreed to set the poem to music. In 1876, just three years later, Mr. Bliss introduced the new hymn and within a month both P. P. Bliss and his wife were killed in a fiery train wreck.
There are no graves for either the four Spafford children or Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, for no bodies were ever recovered. But, after the wreck a final song was found in the belongings of Mr. Bliss, I Will Sing of My Redeemer.
In great tragedy was born these amazing words of courage and encouragement. Just so, in the seeming great tragedy of our Savior’s sacrifice, comes the promise of His return.
May it always be well with your soul!
—Lester P. Bagley