peace like a river

Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna had moved from England to the United States to build a life together.  They had 5 children: four daughters and a son.  The family settled in Chicago where Spafford began a successful law practice.

Within a matter of a few years the couple’s life began to fall apart.  Their infant son passed away without warning in 1871.  Later that same year Spafford’s law office burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire, ruining him financially.  Two years later, 1873, as they were seeking to rebuild, Anna and the girls set sail to visit family in England.  Horatio, delayed by business, made plans to follow in the coming weeks.

On its way to England, the SS Ville De Havre, the ship Anna and the girls were aboard, collided with another ship and sank.  As Anna reached the shores of Europe she telegraphed her husband two crippling words, “Saved alone.”  All four of their daughters had drowned.  Only she had survived.

While trying to make sense of all of the tragedy that had occurred and was occurring in his life, as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Horatio Spafford penned these words on a borrowed piece of hotel stationary….

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

When peace like a river attendeth my way….  What I hear Spafford describing is a beautiful portrait of a gentle river that runs along side the pathway he is travelling.  It is a river that accompanies him on his journey.  And it is a river of peace.

The Apostle Paul writes of a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  A peace that transcends reason.  A peace that even in the midst of tragedy accompanies us on our journey.  A peace that is found in Christ.

I wonder if we truly know that sort of peace?  I wonder if we experience it often?  A peace that stills anxiety.  A peace that quiets stress.  A peace that heals tragedy.  Does that sort of peace accompany you every step of the way in your journey of life?

True peace is found only in Christ.  Only in closeness with Him.  So often we find ourselves searching for calm.  Searching for serenity.  Searching for inner stillness.  What we are seeking is a peace that is only found in Jesus.  Wonderful, soothing, healing peace.

And when peace begins to overwhelm and characterize our lives – especially in those moments when we cannot explain how – we can indeed explain why.

Glory to God!


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