Our final hymn in our summer series has one of the best known hymn stories on record. It’s author, Horatio G. Spafford, wrote the words in response to tragedies from his own life. And it’s effect has been longstanding and profound.
The story goes that Spafford, a Chicago native, needed to travel to Europe for business. In the aftermath of the great Chicago fire of 1871 he was held up with work and sent his family on ahead of him. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters was lost and only his wife survived. It is said that as he passed by the spot where his daughters died a short time later, he penned this beloved song: 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. It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.
In our lives there are countless situations where we are filled with sighs too deep for words. Most of us do not have the wherewithal to have such faith in the midst of our greatest tragedies. That is okay and God understands. Remember that God once lost a son, too.
The promise of this hymn is not that it will all get better. Contrary to what the world tries to tell us, time does not heal a wounded heart. However, God walks with us wherever we go. And when we open ourselves to that presence, we may find a measure of peace, compassion, and hope even when all seems lost.
My prayer for us this day is that we may all experience God’s loving presence among us and be able to join in Mr. Spafford’s glorious affirmation: 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, a song in the night, oh my soul! It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul!