The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was one of devastating proportions, based on the time in which it took place. It resulted in almost three and a half square miles of property damage and left 300 dead and another 100,000 homeless. The story itself is dynamic, with rumors going back to being started by a single cow on a farm in Chicago. That’s a different blog for another day.
One of those that was directly affected by the fire was Horatio Spafford. A Chicago attorney with many land development projects and investments, he was left in financial ruin. That same year, he and his wife lost a young, 4-year old son to scarlet fever.
Less than two years later, he spent a little of what he had left and decided to spend a few months in Europe with his family to regroup. A few weeks before the trip, his attention to another financial matter caused him to send his wife and four daughters ahead without him, with the promise that he would catch up within a matter of weeks.
On the voyage, the ship that Spafford’s family was traveling on was struck by another vessel and sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. His wife, Anna, was found, rescued, and taken on to Wales, but all four daughters were lost at sea. So, if you’re keeping up at home, in the matter of less than two-and-a-half years, Horatio Spafford lost all five (FIVE!) children, and almost all of his earthly worth.
The last ten days since we lost our son, Kane, have been the longest and hardest of my days on earth. Through the sorrow, I find myself more appreciative and protective of the time and experience(s) I have with my wife and three older children. I have to stop myself from not wanting to let them out of my sight, as if my protection alone will ever change what God has planned.
But, to read about Spafford and losing all five of his children, makes me shudder on what my mental and spiritual state might be if put in his position. Right now, I can cruise along for most of a day, but then find something that triggers a memory of Kane and find myself in sadness again. While I know that he is in the Father’s presence, I selfishly want him to be in my presence. So, I don’t want to know how I would ever be able to function if thrust into a moment like Spafford’s.
But, then. Or more accurately: But, God.
God’s moments aren’t our moments. We aren’t ever meant to be where the focus shifts. We are meant to reflect the light of the God of the universe so that others will want to know more about its origin and seek Him.
When Horatio Spafford took his voyage across the Atlantic to go to his wife, the captain brought him to the deck near the coordinates of where his four daughters were lost at sea. A final moment, perhaps, to say goodbye. Instead, a moment that my own flesh might take for sorrow and selfishness turned into a moment for God’s glory that would last through the ages.
Remember that Spafford was an attorney. And a real estate investor. And while he was an elder in his church, he wasn’t a pastor or a songwriter, he wasn’t an orator or a missionary. But, he knew God intimately. And he was obedient.
Sailing over that fateful spot, Spafford penned the words to a timeless hymn that has provided rest, worship, and comfort for countless souls. Instead of singing with the song as you read, simply read the words. And when you read them, remember what all Spafford had endured.
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
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blessed 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 His 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 pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to 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!
I’ll be honest, there are times where I just want to feel as sorry for Greg and Jaclyn as possible. I keep asking myself, “Did this really happen? Did we really lose a son?!?” My focus gets narrowed on the circumstance. I want so badly to hear Kane’s voice that I stop listening for God’s voice. I wish so much for Kane to crawl up in my lap again that I neglect the opportunity to just crawl up in the Father’s lap and be comforted.
My prayer is that the words of this hymn describe me. That, though trials may come, I am reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for my sin and that I can say with honesty – It is truly well with my soul!
God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble – Psalm 46:1