I have been reading through the gospels in the Bible this month and have seen that Jesus' disciples know a bit about life in the aftermath. The days following Jesus' death the disciples locked themselves in a room and were devastated. In fact, when Jesus met two of his disciples on the road a few days later:
"The two followers stopped, looking very sad... They said, "About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a
prophet who said and did many powerful things before God and all the people. Our leaders and
the leading priests handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him. But we were
hoping that he would free Israel." Luke 24:17-21
They too were not only grieving the loss of a teacher, friend, and father, but also the loss of hopes and dreams.
Horatio Spafford, the writer of the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, and his story have been on my mind a lot this week. I had heard it before in Church growing up, but it means so much more now. The following is the story:
Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.
Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four
daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned. He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: "Saved alone."
On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "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."
Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.
The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul is vexed within her", she still maintains that 'It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was. (http://www.biblestudycharts.com/A_Daily_Hymn.html)
In these stories the storms of life threaten to take away all hope with their devastation but each story encourages me that there is hope in the aftermath. Horatio's song has comforted thousands: "When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, It is well with my Soul." And the disciples went on to reach thousands with Christ's story. A song I have loved through my storm is Aftermath by Hillsong United. The song, along with it's lyrics can be found:
When we hear the word aftermath, we think of devastation, which is one of the definitions. But there is a second definition of the word, found in the dictionary as follows: "A second crop/ New grass after mowing." And I am clinging to that definition of aftermath for my own life right now. That is my hope, that new grass of joy is springing up where the old was cut. A second crop is growing where the first is gone. And that is where we can be found... in the aftermath.