Thursday, June 07, 2007

It is Well

Horrific tragedies have walloped the United States in recent years. A mental list in no particular order: Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech Massacre, Columbine High School Shootings, Amish shootings, and Space Shuttle explosions. The list is by no means complete, and certainly things were left off that should be listed. These are events that will be part of American History for ages to come. The sad thing is, they will be remembered only as history, unless personally affected by the loss of a loved one.

The nation grieves for a period, and then returns to business as usual. Perhaps Sept 11 is an exception, but it is not grief that is felt. It has been turned into a debate about safety and security. Already, the Virginia Tech shootings are beginning to fade from the public conscience. The emotional response felt by many is no longer there.

For those that have lost loved ones in these tragedies (and really anyone who lost a loved one) it takes much more time to heal. There is a time when visitors come by and offer words of comfort. People send flowers and cards, and maybe even bring a grieving family a meal. Then it stops. It’s not that they forget, it’s just that it’s not part of their everyday life.

For those families still grieving over a recent or not so recent loss, it may help to remember the story of Horatio Gates Spafford. The year was 1871. Horatio, father of five and friend of famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody, was helping clean up the City of Chicago after fires nearly burned the entire city to the ground (another tragedy that is now remembered as part of American History). Horatio’s only son died during this time, but he continued his relief work for another two years.

After about two years, the family decided to take a break from their relief work and take a vacation in England. They would meet up with Dwight Moody, who was there doing an evangelistic crusade. However, Horatio had business to attend to, so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him. They boarded the ship Ville de Havre, headed for England. Horatio would join his family later; at least that is what he thought.

When the Ville de Havre was off the coast of Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Only 47 people survived among the hundreds that were on board. One of the survivors was Horatio’s wife, Anna. She sent Horatio a telegram with only two words: saved alone. Their 4 daughters – Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie – were all killed. Horatio immediately left for England to be with his grieving wife.

During his time of unspeakable grief, Horatio Spafford wrote one of the most famous Christian Hymns ever written. In 1873, He penned the words to It is Well (sound). Do yourself a favor and read the hymn out lout twice, keeping the above story in mind. Oh for that same reaction when tragedy personally strikes!

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest 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, 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!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my 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.


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