Mother Teresa was alleged to have said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much”. I think I understand how she felt. Regular readers of the humble ramblings know about Joni’s journey through breast cancer treatment. As she completed the bulk of her treatments I looked forward to the new year. Maybe 2007 would be better. But we never got to the ball dropping in Times Square before more troubles came our way. Joni noted that “bad news seems to come in waves”. I told her this was more like a tsunami. Just before Christmas we learned that one dear friend had entered hospice care. On December 27th the father of other close friends died unexpectedly. On New Year’s Eve I received a call that my Mom was not expected to make it through the night. Today I received a call that the 21 year old son of another friend had died.
As I hustled to Ohio on New Year’s Day I reflected on a difficult year past and a difficult start to the new one. For some reason a favorite old hymn came to mind. This is a song that has an amazing story. A song born out of tragedy and soul crushing grief. Horatio Spafford was a real estate investor in Chicago in the nineteenth century. His first tragedy was losing nearly all his wealth in the Great Chicago fire in 1871. Spafford was a friend of famed preacher D.L.Moody and the ministry of the great evangelist helped him to recover. Two years later, knowing that Moody was going to speak in England, Spafford decided to take the family there. At the last minute a business conflict delayed Horatio’s trip so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead.
On November 21, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. Somehow his wife, Anna, survived. On arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Horatio with the words “Saved alone”.
Can you imagine the devastation that Spafford felt? There was no internet or phones to comfort his wife. No direct plane flights to get there in hours. Horatio could only book his own ocean passage that would, ironically, pass the spot where his daughters had perished. It was in the Mid-Atlantic that Horatio Spafford penned the words to the song “It is Well with my Soul”. Imagine his anguish as you read these words.
When peace, like a river,
attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to know,
“It is well, it is well with my soul”
Chorus: It is well (it is well)
with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul
So as I face this tough patch of highway I remembered the words of Horatio Spafford.
“Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to know,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
And that has been a comfort through the sadness outlined above. It is well with the soul of our friend in hospice. It was well with the soul of the father who suddenly died. It is well with the soul of my Mom as she enters into hospice care. She rallied after that scary night and I was able to have good conversations with her. I am grateful for that chance. I am also grateful for Godly men and women who have shown us how to respond to sorrow. And unknown author once wrote that we have no right to ask when sorrow comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way. The man of many sorrows, Job, once said a very similar thing in the midst of his inconceivable grief.
His wife said, “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!” He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?” Job 2 The Message
I am pretty sure that I would not phrase it quite that way to the lovely Mrs.Burchett. But his rationale was right on. We accept so many blessings and good days as our birth rite. Jesus never promised that there would be no bad days. And the next line in Job is the bottom line.
Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.
It is important to note that Job was extremely honest with God. He clearly communicated his anger, frustration, and anguish. But he did not sin.
I hope that it is well with your soul. It helps peace to fill your heart when sorrows like sea billows roll.