If you are a Christian then you likely are very familiar with the hymn, ‘It is Well With My Soul’. It is my absolute favorite because of the back story to it. Of course, I love the words for it’s author penned them during the worst agony any parent could suffer. Horatio was an American lawyer in the mid 1880’s. He had married Anna and they proceeded to have four lovely daughters, eleven-year-old Tanetta, nine-year-old Elizabeth “Bessie”, five-year-old Margaret Lee, and two-year-old Anna “Annie”. He wished to take his family on holiday to England but business delayed his departure so he sent his family on ahead of him. The ship carrying his family was struck by a heavy commercial iron ship. 226 souls were lost to the depths including all four of Horatio’s daughters. Anna, his wife survived to send a telegram to her husband, which simply read, “Saved, alone.”
I can only imagine the utter anguish Anna and Horatio endured when Satan stole their family. Horatio would take a ship to England and upon that journey he would pen the hymn that speaks of his love and devotion to God but also of the utter anguish he was enduring. Every time I hear this song but especially when I sing this song, I feel his grief, love, and adoration in every word. Their heartbreak mingles with my own allowing this song to become the anthem of my soul.
Horatio and Anna went on to re-build their family, having three more children. Sadly, Satan was not finished tormenting this family as he took their four year old son with scarlet fever. They did not lose their faith even though their lives continued to be filled with challenges. It is the back story, the human factor, behind this song that breathes life anew into it after so many years. It is just as meaningful to us in modernity as it was for that grieving father standing upon the ship deck being battered with ocean spray saying goodbye to his precious daughters whose resting place became the Atlantic ocean. How many have been inspired by this hymn? How many own its lyrics adopting each word as their own? How many thousands upon thousands have come to the savior just through this song and dear Horatio’s grief?
When horrible things happen to us in this life we tend to focus our anger, confusion, frustration, and outrage upon the Lord. We blame him for our anguish and turn from him but he never turns from us. He is big enough to take anything we can dish out. He became human and he knows suffering, all kinds of suffering. Personally, it is harder for me to cope with heartbreak than it is to deal with physical pain. I would rather every bone in my body be broken than have my heart break again. God knows what it is to feel his heart breaking over and over again. There is nothing that we have gone through or will go through that God has not endured; therefore, he understands exactly what we are feeling and he knows exactly what we need. When our world falls apart around us we can either fall apart with it or be like Horatio and stand firm in the knowledge that God has not let go of you, he will never let go because you are his precious child.
If you are hurting today, know that God is with you and that he is embracing you in his love. Even though you may not be able to see through the anguish at this moment, God will use this pain to create something magnificent if you allow him too. What Satan means for our destruction, God will use to shape his kingdom in love, justice, compassion, righteousness, and meaning. Like Horatio and Anna, you have to allow God to use your pain to form something good. He will not force himself upon you, no, you must invite him to take the lead. I pray daily that God will use me to bring his kingdom to fruition, to help others, to defeat Satan in any way I can. I am an infinitely minute piece of the grand plan but I know that I and you are critical to the fruition of God’s Kingdom. Just as a carter pin can be tiny, its importance is no less critical to the whole. Whatever pain you are traversing know with all confidence that if you give it to the Lord he will use it to bring something beautiful about.
It is well with my soul
by Horatio Spafford 1873
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.
Chorus: It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blesssed assurance control,
That Christ has 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, Oh my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, It is well with my soul.
Horatio and Anna could not know that they would have to say goodbye to yet another child in their future, nor could they imagine the hardship and persecutions they would endure but they sought the Lord in every step they took. Their journey should give those of faith strength to endure whatever Satan uses as a means to destroy us. These are not minor attacks upon the children of God, that deceiver took their joy, their hope, their hearts and ripped them apart with grief and anguish. There is no greater anguish for a parent than to lose their child and it definitely has the power to destroy you. Yet, it is not the only thing he uses as a tool to destroy each and every child of God.
God is more powerful, cling to him even if you feel you are too weary to raise your arms. Just reach as far as you can and Christ will firmly grasp your hand. I promise you, Christ is right there with you through every moment of pain, every tear, every fear, every angry word and every hopeless thought.
Do you know that point of total anguish where your mind, body, soul comes too where you feel that every molecule in your body is free falling or caught in a mighty vortex? You do not feel real, everything around you feels as if it is only a shadow. It is that moment when you cannot force air to go in or out of your body. It is the point where your soul has been torn and there is nothing around you but pain, suffering, and utter despair. He, Christ Jesus, will hold you lovingly, protectively in his strength, he will give you his breath so that you can breathe and when you are ready he will help you stand and take the next step.