"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and
all that is within me, bless His holy name" (Psalm 103:1)
As related in “On This Day”
by Robert Morgan, in November 1873, Chicago lawyer Horatio G. Spafford took his
wife and four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, to New York, and
boarded them on the luxurious French ocean liner, the S.S. Ville du Havre. The
Great Chicago Fire had destroyed everything they owned, and Spafford was sending
his girls to an English Academy until the Chicago schools (and their lives)
could be rebuilt. As he saw his family settled into their cabin, an unease
filled his mind and he moved them to a room closer to the bow of the ship. Then
he said "Goodbye," promising to join them later in
During the night, as the Ville du Havre glided over
smooth seas, the passengers were suddenly thrown from their bunks. The ship had
collided with an iron sailing vessel, the Lochearn. Water poured in and the
Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. Screams and prayers and oaths merged into a
nightmare of unmeasured terror. Passengers lost their footing, clung to posts,
tumbled through darkness, and were drenched by powerful currents of icy,
Loved ones fell from each other’s grasp and disappeared
into foaming blackness. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the
waters. The 226 fatalities included Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mrs.
Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Nine
days later, when the survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband:
He immediately booked passage to join his wife. On the
way over, during a cold December evening, the captain called him aside and said,
"I believe we are now passing over the place where the
Ville de Havre went down." Spafford went to his cabin but found it hard
to sleep. He said to himself, "It is well; the will of God
be done," and later wrote his famous hymn, based on those words:
“When peace like a river attendeth
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
There was an article in a “Daily
Bread,” where we were told of a young woman who was constantly unhappy
and told all her friends about her unhappiness. She blamed her family and kept
talking about moving out. Then one day, her face was covered with a smile, her
eyes were sparkling, and there was a spring to her step. When asked about the
change, she replied, "No, things are not different at
home; I’M the one who’s different." She had found the Lord.
You and I must be set free from the limitations of who
we are, and this can only happen in Christ Jesus. It is not our circumstances
which need to change, for improvements in this world are only temporary, anyway
– it’s you and me that need the change. Our attitudes, our very “hearts” need to
be made new, or we’re headed for a dangerous place.
When I teach in a convalescent home, I notice two kinds
of people: Those who have been softened and gentled by the Hand of our Savior,
and those who have become bitter and have withdrawn into themselves. The latter
group is in grave danger, for by rejecting the love of our Lord, we eventually
come to a state where we may not be able to receive Him (and He is our only
Mr. Spafford’s response to his terrible loss, and the
change in the woman who had been unhappy, are the results of works wrought in us
by the Risen Savior, through the Holy Spirit of God. Some time ago, I received
some difficult news – someone had responded in a manner that caused me to
experience unhappiness. In past years, I might have lashed out in anger, but
this time, I brought the matter to the Lord.
God’s answer was interesting, for He responded in a
manner that was a fulfillment of Philippians 4:6-7, which teaches, "Be
anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with prayer
and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through
Christ Jesus." The Lord softened my heart, showed me how to respond, and
filled my heart with peace.
That is precisely the kind of peace given to Mr.
Spafford, and also to the young woman. The situation isn’t necessarily changed
for us. Mr. Spafford’s daughters were still dead, the young lady continued to be
in a difficult family, and the PHYSICAL aspect of my own situation remained the
same. But we are given the peace of God, and it is well with our souls.
The aging process is real, and we’re riding on a one-way
ticket into senior citizen country. God created the aging process, because He
loves us. If people could instead be permanently strong in some way or another,
very few would turn to Him. When we are gradually (or abruptly) given convincing
evidence of our weakness (as in the aging process or through sudden illness),
some turn to Him – out of need.
Our responses to Him are frequently based in need
(battlefield conversions are quite often real conversions), and then we begin to
love the One Who responded to our situation. It was true of me. Years ago, I
came to Him out of raw need. My life had fallen apart, and only HE could put it
back together – and that’s exactly what He did.
He began rebuilding on a new Foundation, and the name of
that Foundation is Christ Jesus. I can TRUST, where previously I merely reacted,
often in a negative manner. When your ship sinks and your loved ones are gone;
when you live in negative circumstances; when you are suddenly brought from
elation into unhappiness, you need the Lord. And when you have Him, you can say
with David, the Psalmist, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and
all that is within me, bless His holy name" (Psalm 103:1).
Father, we place our trust in You, now. Come into the
dark areas of our lives, where we previously have chosen to nurse our wounds and
keep You out. We praise You, Lord, right in the middle of those painful times,
and, in love, like David, we say: "Bless the Lord, O my
soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name". Thank You, Lord –
You have rescued us – You have rescued ME! In Jesus Name. Amen.