Tested by Tragedy

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear —C.S. Lewis

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)

“Almighty and everlasting God, You have given grace to us Your servants, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the Eternal Trinity, to worship You in Unity. Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see You in Your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor. 13:11-12)

PRAYER FOCUS: Tested by Tragedy

H.G. and his wife Anna had it pretty good. They lived in an affluent neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. He was a successful lawyer who had added to his substantial earnings by making a series of smart real estate investments along the shore of Lake Michigan. They were dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. They were active in their church and in their community. They tithed and gave generously to a number of charities. They supported several national and international Christian ministries, including that of the renowned evangelist Dwight L. Moody. The couple had five beautiful children—four girls and a boy, H.G., Jr.

In 1870, H.G. and Anna were devastated when their only son contracted scarlet fever and died at the age of four. Shortly afterward, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 spared their home, but destroyed most of their real estate holdings. Nevertheless, they marshaled their greatly reduced financial resources to bless their community—they fed the hungry, housed the homeless, and ministered to the grief of those who had suffered great loss.

By 1873 Anna’s health had deteriorated from the stress, so they planned a family vacation to Europe with their four daughters. At the last minute, a business emergency arose that demanded H.G.’s attention. They decided that Anna and the girls would proceed as planned, aboard the steamship Ville du Havre. H.G. would follow later, once his business problem was resolved.

During the night of November 22, 1873 the S.S. Ville du Havre collided with a British iron sailing ship, the Loch Earn. The Ville du Havre foundered and sank within twelve minutes. Of the 313 passengers and crew, only 87 survived. Anna was among the survivors retrieved from the cold dark waters. All four daughters perished.

Anna was utterly devastated. She was inconsolable. Many of the survivors became so concerned they put her under what we would now call a suicide watch. Somewhere in the midst of her grief and despair, Anna heard a soft voice speaking to her, “You were saved for a purpose!”

Nine days later, in Cardiff, Wales, Anna telegraphed her husband, “Saved alone. What shall I do…”

H.G. left Chicago as soon as he received the telegram. He boarded the next ocean vessel to Europe to meet his beloved and grieving Anna. Once underway, he asked the captain of the ship to notify him as they were approaching the spot where the Ville du Havre was lost.
Several nights later, the Captain called H.G. to the bridge to inform him that, “A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place…the water is three miles deep.”

H.G. went out on deck, and for a long time stared at the dark and deadly sea. Returning to his cabin, alone, Horatio G. Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Horatio and Anna Spafford returned to Chicago and started over. They had three more children.

In 1881 they emigrated to Israel, where they settled in the old section of Jerusalem. They served the needy, helped the poor, cared for the sick and took in homeless children. They lived out the remainder of their lives showing the love of Jesus to their neighbors.

Anna Spafford wrote, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

In this week’s Lectionary, we are presented with some truly awesome scriptures, including the Creation (Genesis 1:1-2:4), the Psalm that asks, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him and the son of man, that thou visitest him—for Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour” (Psalm 8). But we draw our focus on the closing words of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 13:11-12): “Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”

It’s Monday Morning. This week, let us heed the Apostle’s words. Encourage each other. Live in peace. And may the God of love and peace be with you in all you’re going through.

IT IS WELL (sung by Chris Rice)

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 (it is well), with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

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