Mar 13, 2014

praising through pain // a new series

I am so excited to finally get the ball rolling on a series that has been on my heart the past few months. I have always loved old hymns. There is just something about their Truth-filled words that bring peace to a weary heart. Hymns like "It Is Well With Me Soul", "Amazing Grace", "Blessed Assurance", and "In Christ Alone" strengthen my trust in a God who is faithful and true, no matter the generation or era.

I remember the first time I heard the story behind one of my favorite hymns, "It Is Well With My Soul". The depth and richness of the verses dug deeper into my heart as I read about the despair and brokenness of Horatio Spafford as he penned this hymn. Over the next few years, I would delight in hearing other stories behind popular hymns because it made the songs so much more meaningful when I understood the circumstances surrounding the hymn's beginning.  

Then in late December as I listened to beautiful Christmas carols, I wondered about what stories those carols had at their core and this led me to buying a book I have had my eye on for a few months, Then Sings My Soul: The Story of Our Songs [Robert Morgan]. Soon after, I decided it would be a great series for the blog, but due to a busy schedule [and because I wanted to learn how to make a snazzy-appearing blog post title graphic], there was a longer delay to starting the series than was intended.
Better late than never, right? So without further ado, I want to present the first story in the series, which is the aforementioned hymn story that first captured my heart:

"It Is Well With My Soul"
Horatio Spafford

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.

    The famous Chicago fire of 1871 rendered Horatio Spafford void of his fortune. Subsequently, his four-year old son died of scarlet fever. Two years later, after spending time trying to rebuild the city to house the many homeless citizens of Chicago, Spafford decided to take his family -- wife and four daughters -- to Europe for vacation by cruise ship. His wife Anna was in poor health and Horatio was secretly dealing with a financial crisis. He planned for them to see a close friend, famous evangelist D. L. Moody in England, then continue on with exploring Europe with his family. Urgent business kept Spafford from leaving at the same time as his family, but he promised to see them soon. 

    That promise would never be kept, for the ship crashed into an iron sailing vessel, destroying the ship to the point of absolute wreckage. Horatio soon received a cable message from his beloved wife with the bone-chilling words: "Saved Alone".  He booked passage to join his grief-stricken wife. As they sailed passed the site of the wreckage that claimed the lives of his four precious little girls, Spafford went to his cabin, but was unable to sleep. He ended up saying, "It is well; the will of God be done". These words wrought in pain and suffering later birthed the hymn that even today brings hope and peace to those who hear it. 

    Horatio and his wife went on to have two more children, one of whom died from scarlet fever seven years after the four daughters died in the shipwreck. Countless financial troubles also riddled Horatio's story, further adding desperation and suffering. And yet, the words still brought peace. It is well with my soul.
    *  *  *  *
    I cannot even dare to try to understand the pain and devastation of losing six children in the coarse of nine years. How can someone have hope in a time like this? What does one do with a soul that is broken into a myriad of jagged pieces, never to mend again?

    Horatio Spafford seemed to understand a secret that led him to cling to Jesus through the worst imaginable days of his life. His reliance on Jesus through the deepest and darkest valley brought peace that can be found in the true source of Hope, the faithful God who loves with an unfailing love. We find shelter under His care and refuge through the storms [notice it is not refuge from storms. They still happen!]. Following Jesus does not ensure an easy or painless life; usually the opposite is true. But this does not discount or discredit God. Instead, it can showcase His amazing love for us during those dark valleys of suffering and grief. He can carry us through the mourning of the night in the the joy of the morning. And we too can declare, "though sorrows like sea billows roll . . .
     it is well with my soul"

    [see Mars Hill Church's story of this song during The Rebel's Guide to Joy series]

    Here is Chris Rice's version of this beautiful hymn

    ---- stay tuned for this weekly series! ----

    Source: R.J. Morgan. Then Sings My Soul (Book 3, 2011)


    1. This is so cool! I love old hymns! I grew up in a very old, traditional church, so I have a ton of them stored in memory. Now we go to a more modern, contemporary church, and they do sing the hymns (to new music which is awesome!) but it's so funny to me that my hubs who didn't grow up in church doesn't have this memory bank of all these awesome songs! I loved reading about this hymn!

      1. Thanks, Meg! I love old hymns too! There is so much richness to the lyrics! I really like the revamped ones too! We sing those kind of hymns at our church too!

    2. yay!! I'm so excited for this series! I can't wait to read all about these.

      This is definitely my most favorite hymn. I think because of how powerful it is and it's story. Anyone who has gone through some dark times can relate. It's somewhat comforting, as much as we don't want it to be, to know that we aren't alone in our struggles.

      Knowing the full story of what happened to Spafford's family, this line is super incredible and powerful! "though sorrows like sea billows roll . . ." Wow!! I can only imagine the desperation and sadness he felt. He and his wife, were strong people.

      1. Wow, thanks, Jess! You're right, that line is super powerful to me too! Those beautiful words were born out of pain and suffering. He must have had moments when he wondered why. But through his suffering, the world now has a song to glorify God amidst their own billowing sorrows.

    3. This story is one of my favorites! I love being able to sing the hymn knowing what the author was going through. God is so good! Thanks for linking this up with the Faith and Fellowship blog hop! :-)

      1. Thanks Susannah! Yes, I love knowing the story behind the hymn too! It draws so much more depth out of the song!

    4. So excited for you to be starting your first series Elena! Looking forward to reading more, and isn't it just awesome how rich the stories are behind many of these hymns? I saw this on the YouTube the other day, and it reminded me of you and your love of hymn history:

      1. Thanks, Nat!! I love that video! Amazing Grace is definitely on my list! And yesss, I LOVE how rich the history behind the hymns are, which adds layers upon layers of the already deep lyrics full of Biblical truth!

    5. Watched the movie about this. Def a must watch! :)


    I love to hear your thoughts!

    Elle Alice