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In Everything Give Thanks!

"It is well with my soul"

We often read about the great heros of faith in the Bible and sometimes, without really trying to do it, we develop a mind-set that somehow they were different, stronger maybe, but different. After all, they are Bible characters! The truth of the matter is, they were just as human, just as fallible, and dealt with the same emotional issues that we have to deal with today. They also had to live by faith and apply the principles of the Word of God, if they were going to walk in the fullness of the blessing of God.

I believe, because of this fact, it is important for us to hear testimony of what the Lord has done and is doing in lives today. It makes a bold statement to those around us that God is still on the throne and His promises are still true. It reminds us that the same miracle working power of God that is illustrated in the Word is still taking place each and every day in the lives of ordinary people just like you and me.

If you've been a Christian for any length of time at all, you are no doubt familiar with that great hymn "It is well with my soul." Ever since I the discovered the history behind it and how this great hymn came to be, it has become one of my favorites. The one responsible for the wonderful lyrics to this long-time church standard was Horatio G. Spafford, who was described by a fellow song writer as "a man of unusual intelligence and refinement, deeply spiritual, and a devoted student of the scripture."

I believe this devotion to God's Word along with his great love and sensitivity to the Lord is what birthed this great song. In spite of the tragic, overwhelming circumstances that he and his wife would eventually go through, he was still able to give glory to God. In fact, it was the very essesence of what sustained them!

In 1870, Horatio Spafford had become a very successful Chicago lawyer. He was married to his lovely wife Anna and they had five children of whom they were so very proud. Life was good for the Spafford's until early in 1870 when tragedy struck as their only son died suddenly of scarlet fever, which naturally caused the family great sorrow and grief. As the family was reeling from this terrible emotional blow, the infamous Chicago fire of 1871 broke out and brought much of the city to ruin.

The fire affected the Spafford family in a very profound way. Horatio had done very well for himself financially up to that time and had invested quite heavily in Chicago real estate and this great catastrophic event wiped out all of his holdings and needless to say, he suffered a tremendous financial loss which served as a second emotional blow to the family.

In true Christian form, instead of sinking inward and focusing on their own pain and suffering, the Spafford's opened their home and reached out to many who had become homeless during the devastation of the great fire, and were quite instrumental in helping disillusioned thousands, who had nowhere to turn, gain housing.

Soon after getting their lives back to some resemblance of normalcy, and seeking a much needed rest with his family, Horatio was desirous to take advantage of an opportunity to help his dear friend D.L. Moody in an evangelical campaign overseas. Together with his wife and four daughters, the Spafford's booked passage for Great Britain in 1873. However, due to some last minute business dealings that needed his immediate attention, Horatio sent his family on ahead and planned to join up with them just as soon as he was able.

The ship that his family was sailing on was the S.S. Ville du Harve. On November 22nd, in the midst of the Atlantic, their ship was struck by another vessel, the Lochearn, and it sank within twelve minutes. Many days later the survivors were finally landed in Wales, and Mrs. Spafford sent a cable to her husband that simply read, "Saved alone."

Within just twelve short minutes of time, a third emotional blow struck and the Spafford family was forever changed as all four daughters were whisked away at once, leaving Horatio and Anna alone and childless. Having received the devastating news, Horatio booked passage to England where he eventually rejoined his wife. Together they began the arduous task of attempting to somehow piece their shattered lives back together again.

On their return trip to America many months later, on a cool somber night somewhere in the midst of the Atlantic, the engines of their ship fell silent. Moments later there was a knock upon the cabin door and Mr. Spafford was asked to come to the bridge where the Captain would like to have a word.

Upon entering the bridge, the Captain informed Mr. Spafford that the ship was stopped at the exact spot where his daughters had drowned and he and the crew desired to pay their respects to the family by observing a moment of silence. Mr. Spafford later related how he had been trying so hard to get past the pain and anguish, and in the Captains moment of thoughtfulness he was once again confronted with the great devastation and overwhelming pain he was trying so hard to escape from.

As he returned to his cabin, looking to the Lord for His sustaining grace, he sat down and penned the lines to this great hymn. The true comforting power of the Holy Spirit's work is evident in the midst of the great storm of emotions that was present in this man's life as he sat down to write. Immediately the grace of God is revealed in the opening line of the song which depicts the great trial both he and his wife were facing as they held fast to the Lord for their strength. "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll..." is a direct reference to the aforementioned tragedy.

How does a man continue to go forward in life without totally caving in and giving up after losing so much in just three short years - the loss of all five children as well as the previous financial and property losses. I think the following words of the song give a clue to the answer to that question, "whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say "It is well, it is well with my soul." His response to this gruesome onslaught of pain was a product of the growth and maturity that stemmed from his personal relationship and daily walk with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, it was the realization of the comforting, loving, committed and never ending presence of God that carried him through, and the wisdom to recognize that his God was bigger than any circumstance that could ever come his way.

We have a holiday called Thanksgiving that we celebrate every November here in the United States. It's a time when we pause and reflect on all that we are grateful for - our friends and family, and all that the goodness of God has brought into our lives. But we as Christians need to be thankful continually, everyday, for what we have and who we are in Christ. I love the scripture found in 1Thessalonians 5:18; "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Notice it says; this is the will of God for you. It did not say give thanks "for" everything, but in the midst of, or you could say it this way, in spite of the circumstances - give thanks. Give thanks for the Lord's presence and power that is always with us, His comfort and His ability to bring good out of dire devastation. This is actually one of His specialties!

When we do this, we are exercising the highest form of faith and humility. In a sense we are saying, "I may not understand what is going on, but one thing I do know; You O Lord are with me. I am your child and you are my God, and you will never ever leave me nor forsake me." It is a form of recognition of His Lordship over our lives that says, "Lord, I trust you, and know that you have my best interest at heart, and I know you will get me through this because you are faithful to your Word."

Placing the focus on God's grace, mercy and provision opens the door for His miraculous overcoming power to carry you through to victory. Praise is the highway that faith moves it's blessing down. The Spafford's continued in life with their focus on the Lord and God graciously granted them more children. They went on to do great things in ministry in Israel touching many, many lives, reaching out to those who were in need and comforting those who were hurting just as the Lord had comforted them. The Spafford's themselves could have went down in the shipwreck of defeat and discouragement and drown in the sea of grief and sorrow, but instead they chose to give glory to God as they remembered the key to victorious living and a life of bountiful blessing... "In everything give thanks."

It Is Well With My Soul
Music by Phillip Bliss, Words by Horatio Spafford

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

Tho' Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath 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 His cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when the 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."

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 shalt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Scan of original text of song

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Dan Downey
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Dan Downey 2000

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