Recent news stories cause us to question whether or not peace in the world will ever be possible. A Sudanese Woman has been condemned to death because of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith. Two-hundred-thirty Nigerian girls were kidnapped by an extremist group. A 22 year-old man stabbed and shot 6 people to death because he felt rejected by the object of his affection. An elderly couple in Putnam County Georgia were brutally murdered. Three are dead and three others wounded in Myrtle Beach shootings. These are but a few of today’s headlines.
Unfortunately, while we walk on this side of eternity, peaceful bliss will never be. The world in which we live is fractured, broken beyond repair as a result of sin. Yes, I know, all of creation has been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and we will live in eternal bliss when we are gathered into the loving, waiting arms of God when our time on this earth ends, but for now, we will face trials and tribulation. Life in this world will not be easy.
But the news is not all bad! In fact, we have this promise of our Lord, Jesus Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Just what is this peace that Jesus promises? It is a state of contentment with our circumstances. This doesn’t mean we are “happy” if we are suffering physically, emotionally or spiritually or that we enjoy conflict, war and strife. It may not be well with our circumstances, but through a close relationship with our Triune God, it can be well with our souls. This is the peace that passes all understanding. God is with us. God is for us. Nothing – not calamity or death can separate us from God’s all-encompassing love and presence. “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31, NRSV)
In the span of a few years, Horatio and Anna Spafford, wealthy devout Christians living in the late 19th century, lost their home and prosperity to the infamous Chicago fire of 1871. They also experienced the loss of six of their eight children (two sons of scarlet fever, four daughters to a tragedy at sea). But they continued to use what little they had left to help others and spread the love of Christ. The Spafford’s faith had not been crushed by the weight of grief and despair. Although devastated by their losses, Anna believed that God had spared her for a purpose and Horatio clung to the hope that he would be reunited with his children in heaven.
Bertha Spafford Vester, daughter of Anna and Horatio born after the tragedy at sea, had this to say of her family’s plight: “To Father, this was a passing through the "valley of the shadow of death," but his faith came through triumphant and strong. On the high seas, near the place where his children perished, he wrote the hymn that was to give comfort to so many:"*
It is Well
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.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.**
The Spaffords lived out their faith in ways that exemplified what Jesus promises to the faithful. The world with all its promise of prosperity and happiness will not bring us peace (“for I do not give as the world gives). Rather, Christ promises his presence in all circumstance (“do not let your hearts be troubled and do not fear [whatever life throws your way].)”
Praying that all will be well with my soul and yours,
** “It is Well” Horatio G. Spafford, 1873. In the public domain. Complete lyrics here.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons.