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I know a lot of people would differ with me on this point, but, to my mind at least, most modern Christian songs can’t even begin to compare to the old hymns.
But when you read them, (because I enjoy reading some of them as much as singing them,) they say so much. I like pretty melodies and I can appreciate a catchy tune, but I value most a song written with more concern for the depth of its message than for the drive of its beat, the perfection of its instrumentals, or even the tightness of its harmony.
Some hymns are especially powerful. And moving. And timeless. This one awes me every time I hear it.
You probably know the story of Horatio Spafford, the man who lost a son to illness, his investments to the Great Chicago fire, and his four daughters to a shipwreck in the Atlantic, all within four years’ time. At a time of horrific grief he penned the words to this song, which present a message of such hope and faith that it’s hard for me to believe they came as the result of anything less than a supernatural gift of peace that passes all understanding.
You may or may not know the rest of the story about Spafford. He would eventually lose a sixth child after the writing of this song and may have even, by some accounts at least, been rejected by his fellow-believers for this obvious “judgment of God” upon him. (There are always plenty of “Job’s comforters” around, aren’t there?) Regardless, Spafford wound up dying in Jerusalem thinking he was some type of messiah.
That’s hardly the happy ending we look for in stories like this, but then again, the Bible never hid the less-flattering aspects of believers’ lives, even when doing so might have seemed to give credence to the faith, so I don’t think there’s any sense in trying to candy-coat the lives of our favorite hymn writers.
And I really don’t think it retracts from the message of this song. In horrid circumstances Mr. Spafford found comfort in the promises of God in His Word and the assurance that we, too, can have; that no matter what we face in life, it can be well with our souls. And with that confidence comes an incredible measure of strength and peace, even when life seems very, very dark.
Let’s be honest: Life is hard sometimes. Very hard. And while we know God works things for good because the Bible says so, we’re also finite creatures without the natural ability to view things from His eternal perspective. It’s a handicap that breeds discouragement.
But that’s why I like this song. It looks beyond the present circumstances to the eternal truth that assures us that even when life seems completely out of control, the most important thing can be secure and steady and unchanging. What hope and joy there is in that promise!
It’s not always easy to see it. We forget it all too easily. But no matter what, if my soul is right with God, really ALL IS WELL. And what amazing comfort I find in that truth.
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