Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. – Helen Keller –
Horatio Gates Spafford was a prominent American lawyer, a devout Christian and a senior partner in a thriving law firm in mid-1800’s Chicago. By 1870, Horatio and his wife, Anna, were living in comfortable prosperity with their four young daughters in Lake View, located on the city’s North Side. And then, in October of 1871, came the Great Fire of Chicago. The Spaffords had significant real estate investments in an area reduced to ashes by the inferno. They were ruined financially. In spite of their personal misfortunes, Horatio and Anna Spafford worked tirelessly for the next two years helping victims of the blaze put their lives back together.
The Spaffords were close friends and supporters of evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899). In November of 1873, Horatio and Anna Spafford were in need of a breather, and so decided to join friends in Europe. They chose England knowing that D. L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall.
The family arrived at the docks in New York City on Saturday, November 22nd to board the steam ship Ville du Havre bound for England. As it happened, Horatio was detained on business and had to return to Chicago. He sent his family ahead planning to join them as soon as possible.
At about 2 a.m., in the eastern North Atlantic, the Ville du Havre collided with the British iron clipper Loch Earn and sank in less than 15 minutes. 226 people died, including the four Spafford daughters. Among the 61 surviving passengers was Anna Spafford. Upon arriving at Cardiff in Wales on December the 1st, Anna cabled her husband the following devastating message:
“Saved alone. What shall I do. Mrs. Goodwin children Willie Culver lost. Go with Lorriaux until answer. Reply Porclain 64 Rue Abouckir Paris.”
Horatio Spafford took the next available ship to join his grief stricken wife. Many years later, Bertha Spafford (a fifth daughter born to Horatio and Anna 5 years after the tragedy) told of how her father, while on that grim voyage, was summoned to the bridge. The Captain told Spafford that the ship was “…now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked and sank.” The waters in that area were over 2640 Fathoms (3 miles) deep.
Later that night, while sitting in the solitude of his cabin, Horatio Gates Spafford put to paper the words of a poem that would go on to become one of the most beloved Gospel songs in all of Christendom – It Is Well with My Soul.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul…”
“… Even so, it is well with my soul.”
Life can be miserable; sometimes downright tragic. I’m sure Horatio and Anna would agree. But I think they would also remind us that God does not want His children to lose heart in the face of adversity or give up over things we cannot control. “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Sometimes, you will go through awful trials in your life and then a miracle happens–God heals you.” – Shannon L. Alder
I’d like to tell you about two little words: Even and So. They don’t seem like much when you first look at them. All the same, they can be a powerful twosome in the lexicon of your daily life. Together, these two little words never feign pretense. They don’t deny reality by disguising the hardships of survival with paste on “everything is just fine” smiles. In fact, “even and so” unflinchingly recognize that sometimes life just stinks.
This linguistic dynamic duo helps us to stare courageously at the obstacles we face each day. With the assistance of their cousins – however, nevertheless, withal, still, yet, all the same, nonetheless, and notwithstanding – we can learn to shift our gaze from finite natural experiences to the infinite things yet invisible to our senses. In the process, our attention is redirected from the limits of what we know to our Creator whom by nature is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-wise. (1 John 3:20).
And that, my friend, changes everything.
- Facing situations that are difficult?
Even so, you can do anything if you believe. (Mark 9:23)
- Up against cliffs of challenge that seem impossible to climb?
Even so, God will see you through. (Hebrews 13:6)
- Are storm clouds looming and you feel too weak to pray?
Even so, God will be the strength that you need. (Philippians 4:13)
- Do you feel like an angel of darkness is harassing you?
Even so, His grace (favor) is all you need. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
- Are you confused; full of fears and doubts?
Even so, God has given you an overcomer’s spirit of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Yes indeed, they are just two little words. Even so, they can help you overcome the tribulations of life. In Brazil they say mesmo assim, in Italy, nonostante ciã², comunque, and in Greece, Akã³ma ki étsi. All over the world, in any language, the meaning is clear: in our most desperate hour, God will supply us with the strength to face anything – if we’ll only believe!
By the way, sometimes, life really does stink. Even so brethren… even so…
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656