As we reflect on the Holidays this year, we are constantly reminded of the desire of humanity to have peace. We can see it reflected in many Christmas songs we hear repeated over and over again this time of year. Songs such as Silent Night, O Holy Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, the list goes on. These songs resonate with us because we desire the rest and solitude that are represented in such songs. We can picture the settings of songs like White Christmas with quiet snowfall, a crackling fire, and loved ones close by. It is a welcome change from the everyday stresses and worries of life. I believe it is one of the biggest draws of the Christmas season.
However, is it just a figurative picturesque scene that is only known in some classic Bing Crosby song or is peace actually something that is achievable? When I say peace, I am referring to that inner peace that is steady through any trial and stress. No matter the trouble, no matter the loss, can one actually have the ability to remain fearless, stress-free, and “peaceful”?
The answer can be found in the following story, which was adapted from an October 16th, 2014, article published on www.staugustine.com. It’s the story about a beautiful hymn that is a testament to the salvation one man found in Jesus through the good and bad times in his life…
Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family—a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.
On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.
About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie, and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.
Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”
Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down. He penned the following song which was later put to music by Phillip Bliss.
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.
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 the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
The key to Spafford’s inner peace and ability to be “well” within was due solely to his trust in the everlasting creator of the universe and savior of his soul Jesus Christ. Below are just a small sampling of verses from the Bible that represent what Horatio Spafford believed.
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This holiday season, as we contemplate all that is ‘scary’ in the world and all the unknowns of the coming year, ask yourself if you have that inner peace that is incomprehensible to those who do not know it. “May the LORD bless you and keep you; may the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)