James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
A few days ago I received a very detailed call from a friend dealing with trials that seem nearly impossible to bear. Often the best thing a friend can do is simply listen, and while doing just that I was reminded of Horatio Spafford.
Horatio Gates Spafford was a 43-year-old Chicago Businessman who suffered financial disaster in the great Chicago fire of 1871. He and his wife, still grieving the death of their son who had died shortly before the fire, were in great need of a retreat, and decided to take their remaining children to England for a vacation. Their friend Dwight L. Moody would be preaching in evangelistic campaigns there that fall, and so Spafford arranged to send his wife and four daughters ahead of him on the SS Ville du Havre. He planned to follow in a few days.
During the voyage on the Atlantic Ocean, the Ville du Havre was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank within 12 minutes. Two hundred twenty-six lives were lost – including the Spafford’s four daughters. When the survivors were brought to shore at Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband two words: "Saved alone."
Spafford booked passage on the next ship. As they were crossing the Atlantic the captain pointed out the place where he thought the Ville du Havre had gone down. That night, Spafford penned the following words:
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.
Spafford lost his business and his children but found comfort in His savior.
This world has been called a "veil of tears", not without reason. The weight of anguish and sorrow is incalculable and may feel utterly unbearable at times. Who can understand how Horatio and his wife bore up under their excruciating losses? Yeshua (Jesus) can, because He himself bore far greater agony and sorrow, and because He rescued us from an eternity of it. If you truly know Him you also can sing, "It Is Well With My Soul."