The lyrics for the beautiful song, ‘It is well with my soul’ were written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. Spafford knew a lot about life's unexpected turns, and also experienced great losses. He was a successful lawyer and real estate investor who lost much of his business in the great Chicago fire of 1871. In that same year, he and his wife, Anna, also lost their young son to pneumonia.
In 1873 more tragedy struck. His wife and four daughters were on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic when the ship collided with another ship and went down. Horatio lost all four of his daughters. Only Anna survived. He was on the next available ship to join his grieving wife. It was on this journey that he wrote the lyrics for this song; even as he was crossing over the place where his daughters and many other passengers lost their lives.
We recently lost a dear friend in the most tragic circumstances. Reeling from the shock (ever aware of the fact that our struggling emotions pale in comparison to the family’s trauma), friends and close family are all grappling to make sense of this tragedy. In our humanity we search for answers and turn to God in exasperation. Why, Lord?
I have realised a few things during the last few days. Firstly, being able to share with close friends has been of great value. The sharing of thoughts and questions has brought more perspective, as we are all working through different emotions. The second thing was that, in the midst of all the confusion, the Lord is still the first one we need, whether it is in anguish, anger or heartbreak.
We all need an anchor. We need to know that we have a firm footing to withstand this storm. The scripture that came to me was Proverbs 18:10 – ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs to it and is safe and set on high [far above evil]’ (AMP).
The second scripture that has stood out is from Hebrews 13:18 – ‘Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way’. I realised the importance of honouring the Lord in how I support my friend and her family; what I say to her, and also to others.
Callous statements and meaningless cliches are what can cause further hurt and distance between people. The Lord understands so well what we are all grappling with, but we have a choice about what we do with all this turmoil. We can turn to Him, or against Him. The latter is the beginning of a self-destructive path.
In questioning and wrestling with the Lord, I understood what the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12 says so well: ‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known’. The words ‘It is well with my soul’, came to my mind. In this moment I knew that, even though I don’t understand, and even though it’s a very difficult journey, I am safe in Him. It is well with my soul. I can’t, and don’t, want to walk this road without Him.
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