"Saved alone. What shall I do?" Those were the chilling words Horatio Spafford read in the telegram from his wife. It was November, 1873. Anna Spafford had been traveling to Europe with the four Spafford children; Mr. Spafford was to join them later. The ship the family was traveling on, the Ville du Havre, was rammed by a British iron sailing ship, the Lockhearn. Mrs. Spafford was rescued by the Lockhearn, but the four children were taken by the waves.

Mr. Spafford was a prosperous lawyer and real estate developer in Chicago until his fortunes were reduced to ashes by the Great Fire of 1871. Still reeling from that financial disaster, now Spafford faced an even greater crisis. He was a man of faith, but these were times that would try even the greatest saint.

Making the Atlantic crossing to join his wife, Spafford was shown the location of the wreck that had cost him his children. Reflecting on that moment, he wrote his wife's half-sister saying "On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs."

During the crossing, Spafford sat and wrote the words to one of the best-loved songs of all times. The first verse reads:

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 with my soul."

It's an amazing story. Most of us would have trouble reacting in such a way. When faced with loss, when dealing with grief, the common reaction is to fall back on self-pity. What enabled Spafford to respond as he did? Faith. Spafford believed that death was not the end for his dear children. He believed that the grave was a stopping point, not a destination. To him, his children lay, not beneath the cold waters, but folded safe in the arms of Jesus.

It is well with my soul
Without God, such hope is not possible. Without God, death is the end. But God has overcome death, through the history-changing resurrection of his son. We can read in the New Testament: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Do you have this hope? Do you share this faith? If not, let me tell you about the God that can fill you with peace in the most trying of times, that can trace a path of hope through the darkest hour. Write to me at tim@hopeforlife.org or leave a comment on our blog on www.hopeforlife.org.

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