Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Turning Grief into Glory


from Jen AlLee

My first thought for Sing a Song week was to be totally shallow and talk about '80s music. Shallow, but fun! However, when Pastor James shared the story of Horatio Spafford on Sunday, it steered me in a whole new direction.

Born in 1828, Spafford was a man who seemed to have it all, from extensive real estate holdings to a family he dearly loved. But tragedy was soon nipping at his heels. His only son died in 1871. While the family was still grieving, the great Chicago Fire swept through the city, destroying all their real estate investments.

In 1873, the family planned a trip to Europe, but Horatio was delayed by business so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead. But they never reached shore. Their ship collided with another. Spafford received a telegram from his wife with just two words: "Saved alone."

While sailing to meet his wife, the captain of the ship he was on brought him on deck and said "I believe we're quite close to the spot where your daughters died."

Horatio returned to his room and put pen to paper. What do you think he wrote? What kind of anguish would pour out of a man who lost all of his children? If you haven't heard this story before, the answer may surprise you.

Horatio Stafford wrote these words:

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, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

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.

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!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

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.
I hadn't heard Spafford's story before, so I was amazed. It is well with my soul. What great faith this man had to be able to remember how great God is in the midst of so much pain.

I hope this song and the story behind it ministers to you, and that all is well with your soul!

Question - Is there a special song that speaks to your soul?


  1. LOVE this story with the same freshness, with the same joy, as I did the first time I heard it.

    What incomparable riches we have to say, Praise the Lord, it is well with my soul.

    Thanks, Jen, for sharing.

  2. This is one of my favorite hymns. His story sounds much like Job. Did your pastor say anything about his life after all these tragedies? Just curious.

    By the way, thanks a lot, Jen. Now I'm going to start bawling everytime I hear it ;)

  3. I heard a pastor share this one time. It touched me than and I am touched again today.
    Blessings, andrea

  4. I'd heard this too, and I was thinking of it (along with A Walk to Remember) yesterday while reading Susie's post. Oh, to have such great faith. I'm not there yet. Just when I think I am, something happens that proves I'm not. But I'm working on it. One of these days...

  5. This one always leaves me in tears, although it is really a song full of promise and joy. It's just so strong and emotional!

  6. This story is so powerful, and though I've heard it before I'm always amazed at how strong this man's faith was. The story truly puts life in perspective.

    "Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight..."

    Thanks for sharing it, Jen, and for the link.

    Lisa, I like A Walk to Remember too. ;)

  7. Jen, thanks for sharing the story behind this hymn. I love the line 'The sky, not the grave, is our goal;' Written by a man who had lost so much but still held firm in his faith and had hope - very inspiring :-)

  8. It really puts a perspective on things, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing this.

  9. I love this hymn. When tragedy touched my life several years ago, it instantly came to mind.

    Susan :)

  10. In our small church, leading the worship is shared between different people. My daughter played piano and would do contemporary songs, one family would do old time gospel, one uses her guitar and Boom Box for HillSong worship songs. And then every 4th week, the pastor's wife would have her turn and she'd get us into the hymn book. I like the variety. The old hymns like this one takes me back to my childhood when worship was all hymn book and Sunday school was for chorus' like Jesus Loves Me.

    The new music is good but the old ones just can't be beat.

    My fav is an oldie but a goodie. It's the one I'm posting on when my turn comes... Mansion Over the Hilltop.

    Good post, Jen. I like knowing where the songwriter was when God touched them.

  11. This has always been one of my favorite hymns. Thanks for sharing this, Jen. It gave me goose bumps and brought tears to my eyes. It certainly gives a whole new meaning to that song, doesn't it? What incredible faith.

  12. I heard this story and wept then, weep now. So many songs move me, but one I often sing is "Day by Day - your mercies lord attend me, bringing comfort to my anxious soul..." and "What a friend we have in Jesus." I can still hear my Grandma singing it.

  13. Sorry I'm posting sooooo late! I was out of town the last two days with no internet access. AHHHHH!!!!

    Dina, I know Mr. Spafford wrote other hymns, but this is by far his most well known.


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