Call me traditional and I will try not to laugh. Call me ‘old fashioned’ and I can’t guarantee that the world won’t implode. But, here’s my confession: I really miss old, traditional hymns at church. Don’t get me wrong; even though I’m a bit of a church music snob, I have no qualms with contemporary worship music. However, I think we’ve kinda thrown the baby out with the bathwater in our obsession to modernize and be ‘relevant.’ I might have to start a hymn series on this blog. There are too many amazing stories that should never be forgotten.
(Someone call my mother. She’s going to love this.)
Let me tell you a little story…
Back in the late 1800’s, Horatio Spafford, a high-class lawyer and investment mogul in Chicago was living the all-American dream. He and his wife Anna had four beautiful daughters and a charming home in the suburbs. Spafford was a partner in a booming law firm and a Chicago real estate investor. He was an elder at the local Presbyterian church, an active abolitionist, and a good friend of Dwight Moody – one of the most prominent evangelical ministers in history. Life was grand.
It’s easy to have a lot of faith when your cup runneth over, isn’t it?
In October 1871, a fire broke out in Chicago. For two days the city burned until rain finally squelched the flames. The Great Chicago Fire killed as many as 300 people, left 100,000 more homeless, and destroyed over $200 million dollars worth of property. Though Stafford, his family, and their private estate were safe from harm, his sizable real estate investment had burned to ashes.
In 1873, Stafford booked passage to France on the S.S. Ville de Havre. Detained at the last moment by business, Stafford remained in Chicago while his wife and children went on ahead of him to Paris. On November 21, 1873 the S.S. Ville de Havre collided with another ship and in twelve minutes sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Nine excruciating days later, Stafford received a telegram. It was from his wife. “Saved alone. What shall I do…”
In an interview with the worldwide Christian ministry Back to the Bible, missionary Elizabeth Elliot gave details of the tragedy as relayed to her from one of the Stafford’s later children.
“Mrs. Vester, who was not born until after the disaster, told me how her mother had described that terrible, black night when she and her four little girls were flung into the cold sea. Frantically, she had tried to save them. Barely she had been able to touch just with her fingertips the hem of the little gown of one of her babies, but she could not grasp it. She herself had been miraculously rescued as she floated unconscious on a piece of flotsam.”
Upon receiving word of his wife’s survival, Stafford sailed to Europe to join her. An exhibit from the Library of Congress states that as the ship sailed over the spot where the cold Atlantic claimed the lives of his daughters, Horatio Stafford returned to his cabin and penned the beloved hymn that has comforted myself and countless others during our darkest trials…
It Is Well With My Soul
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
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.
“The American Colony In Jerusalem.” The Library of Congress. Online Exhibit. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/americancolony/amcolony-home.html
Barry, Lisa. “God’s Assignment and the Grace to Accept.” Back to the Bible. http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/Gateway-to-Joy/God-s-Assignment-and-the-Grace-to-Accept.html. Online.