Archives for posts with tag: disaster

After my weekly post a couple of days ago I have been reminded of one of the great hymns of the church that affirms the fact that faith in God is not a guarantee that one will be free from tragedy. And that disaster does not negate the value of faith. In fact, it is the confidence that God loves us that sustains us in times of loss.

As a follow up to the Thoughts for Thursday post “Even If” I offer the story of the hymn, It is Well With My Soul.

Horatio Gates Spafford was a prominent American lawyer. He and his wife were also close friends of evangelist Dwight L Moody. The Spaffords invested in real estate but they lost it during the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871. Earlier that same year the Spafford’s four year-old son died with Scarlet Fever.

After these tragedies they planned a trip to Europe. However, due to an unexpected business need, Horatio stayed behind for a few days while his wife and 4 daughters sail ahead via the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre, on November 21, 1873.

Four days later, the ship collided with another vessel. The ship sank in 12 minutes carrying with it 226 passengers including the Spafford’s children. Unfortunately, only Anna survived among his family.

After being rescued Anna sent a telegram to her husband saying, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Not long after Horatio sailed out to join his grieving wife. As he passed near the spot where his daughters died, he penned “It Is Well With My Soul.”

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.
Refrain:
It is well 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.
(Refrain)

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!
(Refrain)

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.
(Refrain)  

Text: Horatio G. Spafford  Music: Philip P. Bliss
Tune: VILLE DU HAVRE, Meter: 11 8.11 9 with Refrain

Jamie Jenkins

Why is my life filled with so much pain and struggle? What have I done wrong to deserve this? If I just had enough faith, this would not have happened! These and other comments reflect a misunderstanding of faith and life.

There are people who believe that faith in God will prevent tragedy and adversity. They espouse the understanding that God watches over God’s people and will shield them from all harm. They have scripture on their side and they quote verses like 2 Samuel 22:3 “My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield and my salvation’s strength, my place of safety and my shelter.” Or “God is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

There are many more similar expressions of confidence that God looks out for God’s own- and I believe them too. But we have to consider the whole of the Bible and not just select verses.

The Bible contains many strong assertions that God will protect and prevent people of faith from suffering disaster. There are many examples where that is dramatically demonstrated and the faith of God’s followers is affirmed. Stories in the Bible and history contain details of people who trusted God and were spared. The Hebrew Children is an excellent example. King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace but they were rescued without even the hair on their head being burned.

Trust God and everything will be alright! But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood the possibility that they would not be spared. With that awareness they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us… But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The story of Job is an interesting one. In spite of the fact that he had lost many of the things that were important, he refused to stop trusting God. He said, “Even if God killed me, I’d keep on hoping.” What about the Apostle Paul. It has been said that he is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the origins of Christianity and he certainly did not have an easy life.

Ok, so faith does not always prevent adversity but God will deliver those who put their trust in Him. Right? Yes but perhaps not exactly as we would wish.

Chapter 11 of The Book of Hebrews chronicles the exploits of many “heroes of faith.” Their mighty and miraculous deeds are listed and the writer suggests there are too many such people and stories to mention them all. But the record shows that there were others who were tortured, imprisoned, stoned, and persecuted in ways too horrible to mention. “Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised” (Heb. 11:39-40 MSG).

“When disaster strikes, or calamity becomes the norm, there is no human logic that can explain all of the questions, ‘Why?’  There are things that, quite frankly, seem to make no sense at all.  Much of our human suffering appears arbitrary and senseless…One day every person faces eternity through death; better to believe in God through His son Jesus, and at least have the assurance of eternal life.  The trials of this life are temporary, even though they may seem to drag on forever.  Faith becomes the reality and evidence of what eternity will one day make vivid and real.”**

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “ For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NRSV).

It is important to maintain faith in a loving and powerful God Almighty. To believe that all things are possible if you believe. At the same time one must realize that faith does not guarantee a victorious outcome in this earthly life. The words to a song by Mercy Me captures what I am trying to say.

I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t my hope is You alone.

They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain. Good thing. A little faith is all I have right now. But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul.”

Regardless of circumstances the important thing is to come to the end of this earthly journey and be able to say, “I have finished my course. I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith.” Then you can be assured that you will receive God’s approval and the prize will be worth the journey (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Jamie Jenkins
*”Even If” by MercyMe- writers: Bart Millard, Ben Glover, Crystal Lewis, David Garcia, Tim Timmons

**Why Should I Believe In A God Who Doesn’t Seem To Help? by Craig Blumel

 

 

Dinah Washington won a Grammy Award in 1959 for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance with a song entitled What a Difference a Day Makes.  It was originally written in Spanish by Maria Grever. The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams in 1934. The most successful early recording, in 1934, was by the Dorsey Brothers, although it was first recorded in English by Cleveland crooner Jimmie Ague.(http://www.songswithearlierhistories.com/what-a-difference-a-day-makes/)

What a Difference a Day Makes

In the song things changed dramatically in a twenty-four hour period. Lonely nights and dreary days are transformed into sunshine and flowers. A rainbow appears where once there were stormy skies. According to the song, all of this changes “Since that moment of bliss that thrilling kiss.” Romance!

Aileen Quinn in Annie (1982)

The idea of drastic and instant positive change is also sounded in the song Tomorrow from the Broadway musical production of Annie. The title character lives in a miserable orphanage run by the terrible Miss Hannigan. But good fortune comes Annie’s way when she is given the opportunity to spend the Christmas holidays in the home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Annie repeatedly sings “Just thinkin’ about, tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow, till’ there’s none.” The song pronounces an optimistic view of life as she continues, “When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely, I just stick out my chin, and grin, and say, ‘Oh, the sun’ll come out tomorrow so you gotta’ hang on till’ tomorrow come what may.”

It is true that things can change dramatically overnight, or in the blink of an eye. Adversity can be overcome. Failure can become success. Defeat can be transformed into victory.

But all change that comes quickly is not positive. Health can deteriorate. Fortunes can be lost. Relationships are destroyed. Lives can be snuffed out. In an instant!

It is important to maintain a positive attitude. But things do not always work out like we hoped and planned. When positive thinking comes up short, when the difference a day makes is devastating, what do you do? Where do you turn?

Wisdom of the ages suggests that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present[a]help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). David, the King of ancient Israel gives good advice: The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock. I take refuge in him! He is my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety” (Psalm 18:2).

Jamie Jenkins