Horatio Spafford was a very successful lawyer in Chicago in the 19th Century. Apart from having a quality name, I find him a bit of an inspiration. Spafford was a well known and loved member of his community, he was a husband and father of five children. He had a lot of real estate in the city and was a very well respected business man and lawyer. In 1870, his four year old son became very ill, and sadly died of scarlet fever.
A year later, a huge fire hit Chicago destroyed everything Spafford owned in the city, leaving him totally bankrupt. He decided two years later to take his family away on holiday to London- his wife and four daughters went across first, whilst Stafford finished off some business in Chicago. The boat his family were on hit a sailing ship and sunk. His four daughters were among the 126 casualties that day. His wife sent a telegram across when she arrived in England simply saying “Saved Alone”. I just cannot imagine how devastated he must have been, he lost nearly everything.
On the journey across to England, on the same journey that had killed his four daughters, Spafford wrote a song. You might know it. The opening lines are:
“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.”
I find that incredible. Imagine writing that in his situation. It’s absolutely the last thing I would want to write.
Sometimes I make being a Christian about how I feel; what I feel like singing, how I feel like acting, how close to God I feel. I make it all about me.
Horatio Spafford realised something crucial: whatever situation, whatever the world threw at him- nothing can ever change his status in the eyes of God. We have a hope that goes beyond anything else. His hymn wasn’t one of celebration or happiness, but he knew regardless of his lot that he was firm in God.
I forget that sometimes, but I cannot sing those words without thinking of Horatio Spafford. And it humbles me to think that he could write these words in his situation. It makes me think of my Grandmother’s funeral, I was struck by the words of one of the songs she had chosen:
“No guilt in life, no fear in death; this is the power of Christ in me”
I am always blown away that she could say these words right up to her death. And again, it helps me to put things into perspective.
I hope that whatever your lot, whatever the world throws at you- that you can say this. I want to encourage you, whatever kind of week you’re having, whether you’re absolutely ecstatic or actually finding things pretty hard at the moment- that nothing can change your status in God, nothing can alter the hope we have. As Paul says in Romans 8:
” For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Josh Cockayne is a leadership parish assistant for G2 and a regular blogger. He recently graduated with a degree in philosophy and enjoys espressos and single malt whiskys.