A TRUE STORY OF DEEP PAIN
Anna Spafford was not conscious when she was found clinging to a small plank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in November 1873.
Just 15 minutes earlier she and her 4 daughters had been fast asleep aboard the SS Ville Du Havre en route from New York to Paris. But, the sleep of all the passengers was interrupted when the ship violently smashed into a much larger Scottish clipper, the Loch Earn.
As passengers scrambled to disembark they discovered a tragic oversight. Days earlier the lifeboats had been painted in place and were now stuck fast to the deck. Before they could be loosed the ship broke in two, causing 226 passengers and crew to perish.
Anna’s husband, Horatio intended to be with his family on this transpacific trip, but a last minute business deal delayed him in Chicago. 9 days after the sinking of the Ville Du Havre, Horatio received the first communication from his wife since she left home weeks before. The words on the telegram were not what he expected:
“Saved alone. What shall I do?” Anna.
Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship for Paris to be with his wife. Late one evening the captain of the ship called Horatio to his cabin. He told him they were passing over the spot where the Ville Du Havre sunk just a few days before.
Filled with grief, Horatio comforted himself by writing these words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way...
When sorrows like sea billows roll…
Whatever my lot though has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
THE PAIN IS REAL
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced circumstances as painful as Horatio and Anna Spafford, but I am certain that you’ve felt deep pain in your lifetime.
And I’m certain there is more to come.
The reality of pain is inescapable and no one is exempt. Still, it is not the pain that matters, but your response to it.
Joy is possible, even in the midst of deep pain, but not if you keep doing what you've always done.
You can try to ignore it. You can distract yourself with entertainment, or technology, or a vacation. But even the most thrilling distractions eventually wear off.
You can try to medicate it. Drugs and alcohol provide the illusion of escape. But they can't produce joy. Dulling the symptoms never cures the disease.
You can complain about it. But, that only makes you feel more like a victim. Complaining about your pain will not make it go away.
THE JOY IS REAL
What drove Horatio Spafford — a man filled with intense grief -- to say no matter how bad it gets… it is well with my soul? How did he find joy in the midst of deep pain?
He turned to Scripture.
Instead of allowing his circumstances to control his emotions, Horatio relied on the promises of God. His feelings of sorrow and grief were replaced by the joy that comes when you are convinced that God is actively working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). More than that, God uses trials to shape His people into His image, which is the very reason we are alive!
Horatio Spafford was comforted by the character of God. If you develop a conviction that God is as good and as capable as He said He is you will discover the kind of joy that moves you to declare:
"What ever my lot, though has taught me to say, IT IS WELL with my soul."
So, what's keeping you from true joy? If you could use some encouragement, consider reading the book of Romans today. You'll find great joy as your consider how gracious and merciful God has been. The pain of this world will never disappear, but the joy of Christ outweighs it all!