This morning I was reading in my time with God about Horatio G. Spafford, the writer of the famous hymn It Is Well. You’re probably familiar with his story, how he lost all four of his daughters in a wreck at sea, and how, when passing over the same spot where his daughters perished, he wrote that hymn. By the way, this is a guy who was ruined financially and not only lost his four daughters, but also lost his only son.
This is a hymn we would sing growing up in my home church. We would sing the song, most of it memorized and go on with the worship service. Now, I don’t want to get into a debate of traditional vs contemporary, or hymns vs praise/worship songs. That is not relevant here and I think the wrong questions anyway. What struck me as I read the song lyrics today were two thoughts: 1. context 2. story.
Spafford wasn’t setting out when he wrote these lyrics to become debated by others on whether or not we should sing hymns vs songs. In my opinion, he didn’t give a flip what you or I thought about his lyrics. He was a man that was ruined, and in the darkness of his life, he was clinging to the only One worth clinging to. He was telling his story…real, honest and raw. He was telling it in the context, in the language of his day to where people connected with it. He not only shared his story, he pointed them to Jesus and then to what awaits for those who believe and follow Jesus. He shared the gospel in his story. Imagine as the people in his day, knowing the story, knowing Spafford himself perhaps, would sing or read the lyrics in this song. I’ll be honest, every time I hear or read the 3 and 4 stanza’s of this song, I get a lump in my throat and have to choke back tears of thankfulness, awe of God and hope. It makes me want to do fist pumps and shout, “YES JESUS!!!”
So, where you live, in the context that God has placed you to breathe, work and relate, tell your story in your way. Think about the people that may hear or see it. Think about where they are at in their life. Point them to Jesus. Point them to the hope beyond that “this is not it”.
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.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.
3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
4. And, Lord, haste the day when my 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.
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