Transparent Passion: Jim Elliot’s Life

May 18, 1950
Last night I went for a walk around the hills. Found myself again dedicating my clay, asking for God’s presence to be sensed more continually. Analyzed afresh and repudiated my desire to DO something for God in the sight of men rather than to BE something, even if great results are never seen. The clouds over the western hills seemed to speak to me: “What is your life? It is a vapor.” I saw myself as a wisp of vapor being drawn upward from the vast ocean by the sun’s great power and sent landward by the winds. The shedding of blessing upon earth must be as the rain, drawn up first by God, born along by His Spirit, poured out by His own means and in His place, and running down to the sea again as “water poured out.” So my weakness shall be God’s opportunity to refresh the earth. I would that it should be, just as He has shown me.

October 7, 1950
I have just come from the OU-Texas A&M football game, one of the best, I suppose, I shall ever see. A&M led out, and the score read 7-0, 7-7, 14-7, 14-14, 21-14, 21-21, and then 28-21 until the third quarter. Then O.U. failed their conversion attempt, which put the score at 28-27 with 1:55 remaining. With one minute remaining, O.U. scored a touchdown, setting the final score at 34-28. The crowd reaction was interesting to watch.
Ah, what will it be like when, not 40,000 people, but an unnumbered multitude rivet their excited attention upon the Son of God. No need for cheerleaders then! No need to tell people to stand, for all shall mourn or rejoice over Him. Wonderful day! Oh, Jesus, Master and Center of all things, how long before that final glory of Yours which is so long awaited! Now there is not much thought of You among men, but in that day there shall be thought for nothing else. Now other men are praised, but then none shall care for any other’s merits. Hasten, hasten, You who are the Glory of Heaven, take Your crown, subdue all kingdoms, and enthrall Your people!

The Sweetness of Forgiveness

“The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” – Ephesians 1:7

Could there be a sweeter word in any language than that word “forgiveness”, when it sounds in a guilty sinner’s ear, like the silver notes of jubilee to the captive Israelite? Blessed, forever blessed, is that dear star of pardon, which shines into the condemned cell, and gives the perishing prisoner a gleam of hope amid the midnight of despair! Can it be possible that sin such as mine can be forgiven, forgiven totally and forever? Hell is my portion as a sinner; there is no possibility of my escaping from it while sin remains upon me. Can the load of guilt be lifted and can the crimson stain be removed?Jesus tells me that I may yet be cleared.

Forever blessed be the atoning love, which not only tells me that pardon is possible, but that it is secured to all who rest in Jesus. I have believed in the appointed offering, Jesus the crucified, and therefore my sins are at this moment and forever forgiven through His substitutionary pains and death. What joy is this! What bliss to be a perfectly pardoned soul!

My soul dedicates all its powers to Him, who of His own love became my surety, and accomplished for me redemption through His own blood. What riches of grace does free forgiveness exhibit! To forgive all, to forgive fully and freely, to forgive forever! When I think of how great my sins were and how gracious was the method by which pardon was sealed to me, I am in a maze of wondering and worshipping affection. I bow before the throne of grace, which pardons me, I clasp the cross which delivers me, and from now on, all my days I serve the incarnate God, through whom I am now a pardoned soul.

– C. H. Spurgeon

Always Reading

Jim Elliot’s wife, Elizabeth, once said of him, “At 21, Jim began an adventure that would require the ultimate sacrifice.” That adventure, was to follow Christ toward the mission field of Equador, and ultimately, martyrdom at the hands of the Auca Indians he loved so much.

A big personal part of that adventure for Jim was that he was always reading; at least, the evidence is there that this was true.When one reads Jim’s life, especially his journals, one thing that stands out is his perpetual habit of reading. He was always using, consistently and fruitfully, Bible study aids, such as word studies of the Old and New Testaments, lexicons, and other books that helped him understand Hebrew and Greek word usages and meanings. In addition, he was always reading a good book. Sometimes he even read authors and books that were not particularly spiritually helpful because he thought he would learn something that would help him. “Always reading” seemed to be his plan and practice. The richness of his reading life-style can be seen particularly in his journal entries, where he was always referring to his discoveries.

Journal entry, February 7, 1948 – Genesis 44-45 on Jacob’s life — In Benjamin, Jacob’s life was ‘bound up’ (44:30) So in me, God’s life is bound up in much the same sense. His nature is given to me; His love is jealous for me; all His attributes are woven into the pattern of my spirit. What a God is this! His life implanted in every child. Thank you, Father, for this. Love through me today.

” ” August 7, 1948 – 2 Samuel 11 on David’s life — Uriah the Hittite was a man who declined offered ease because the soldiers of his God dwelt in tents and open fields. This was David’s error: ‘When kings go out to battle . . . . David tarried at Jerusalem.’ (vs. 2) How often is this the history of Christian failure. The time comes for forward marching and some Christians are laying on beds of self-interest. In such a context, Satan sees to it that a Bathsheba is not far away. David’s tarrying in Jerusalem meant Uriah’s death in the thickest of the fight. Lord, don’t let me be found so reluctant because of my selfishness.

October 18, 1949 – In David Brainerd’s account of the Forks of the Delaware awakening [among the Indians], the Holy Spirit began evident conviction at a time which surprised Brainerd, for he was sick, discouraged, and cast down, at the time little expecting that God had chosen the hour of his weakness for the manifestation of His strength. Brainerd said, ‘I cannot say I had any hopes of success, yet that was the very time when God saw fit to begin His glorious work’. So God ordained strength out of weakness, whence I learn that it is good to follow the path of duty, even when in the midst of darkness and discouragement.

November 11, 1949 – I am spending this drizzly afternoon reading The Pilgrim Church by W. H. Broadbent. I see clearly now that anything, whatever it might be, if it is not rooted in divine grace, is not of God.

November 17 – Finished The Pligrim Church today. Noted again the importance of biography and history in learning God’s ways. Anthony Norris Groves was a pioneer missionary in India. I must read his memoirs if I can get them.

December 5, 1949 – “Give attendance to reading”; Finished a short biography of Allan Smith, missionary on the Paraguayan and Amazon river systems; then I prayed to be sent out soon with definite steps of guidance for my path. Having finished Gaussen’s Theopeneustia last week, I began S. J. Andrew’s Christianity vs. Anti-Christianity in their Final Conflict. It is prophetic and clarifying to some big present-day issues.

January 18, 1950 – Just finished reading F. W. Krummacher’s The Suffering Savior. I found it stimulating to my imagination and warming to my heart. The emotional unwritten backgounds he interprets from the text are helpful and encouraging to the use of sanctified, imaginative powers. He lacks accuracy in one or two points of interpretation, it seems to me, but on the whole has written a spiritually edifying work.

February 4, 1950 – I have just this moment finished reading Amy Carmichael’s Gold Cord. How can I express the effect it has had on me? Ah, what a sham I am carrying on in the name of spirituality! I talk well, but, oh God of the thorny crown, please privilege me to walk Thy path of royalty.

ALWAYS READING. The truth is, Jim Elliot in his days of preparation for the mission field, was a student, an athlete, a part-time substitute school teacher, an itinerant evangelist, a mountain climber, and a number of other things. Always active in those early days of preparation, long before he went to Equador, he was a disciplined young man in pursuit of godliness. But mixed through it all was a thread woven throughout the fabric of his life style–the discipline of reading. Private reading to stir his heart and to equip him further in the pursuit of God. He once wrote, “Spent the entire day–6 to 8 hours–just reading.” In addition to the Bible, his first book, a different book was always daily at some point in his hands.

Is a book often in our hands? We ought to be often reading. Under the blessing of the Spirit, it will produce continuing godliness and growth. Let us be always reading!

— Mack Tomlinson

The Beautiful King

“Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty.” – Isaiah 33:17

The more you know about Christ, the less will you be satisfied with superficial views of him; and the more deeply you study his transactions in the eternal covenant, his engagements on your behalf as the eternal Surety, and the fulness of his grace which shines in all his offices, the more truly will you see the King in his beauty. Be much in such outlooks. Long more and more to see Jesus. Meditation and contemplation are often like windows of agate, and gates of carbuncle, through which we behold the Redeemer. Meditation puts the telescope to the eye, and enables us to see Jesus after a better sort than we could have seen him if we had lived in the days of his flesh. Would that our conversation were more in heaven, and that we were more taken up with the person, the work, the beauty of our incarnate Lord. More meditation, and the beauty of the King would flash upon us with more resplendence.
Beloved, it is very probable that we shall have such a sight of our glorious King as we never had before, when we come to die. Many saints, in dying, have looked up from amidst the stormy waters, and have seen Jesus walking on the waves of the sea, and heard him say, “It is I, be not afraid.” Ah, yes! when the tenement begins to shake, and the clay falls away, we see Christ through the rifts, and between the rafters the sunlight of heaven comes streaming in.
But if we want to see face to face the “King in his beauty”, we must go to heaven for the sight or the King must come here in person. O, that he would come on the wings of the wind! He is our Husband, and we are widowed by his absence; he is our Brother dear and fair, and we are lonely without him. Thick veils and clouds hang between our souls and their true life: when shall the day break and the shadows flee away? Oh, long-expected day, begin!
– C. H. Spurgeon

The Doctrine of Suffering

Suffering is such a big part of life.

From the cradle to the grave, the human experience is one of almost continual suffering. Therefore, it is indispensable that we correctly view suffering. Most of us suffer our suffering and don’t know how to use it for our good and God’s glory. We must have a view of suffering shaped by the Bible rather than a view shaped by personal feelings or, even worse, given to us by the world.

It may not have crossed your mind that the Bible presents a doctrine of suffering, but it does. The statements of Scripture on the topic, when examined separately and then correctly synthesized, produce a comprehensive teaching.

One text of Scripture stands out in this grand doctrine of suffering. It is Psalm 119:71, 75:

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes . . . I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

Not only is suffering a huge part of life but it is a great perplexity. Why must we suffer? But even more difficult—why must we suffer by the hand of a good God? We could feel more confident tackling the question why suffering by the hand of a bad devil. But David did not say suffering came to him by way of Satan, but by way of the Lord. In His faithfulness to us, God afflicts us. In other words, in His goodness to us, He makes us suffer.

How do we account that a holy, loving, compassionate, and good God can permit it? The problems this presents are many, and I do not pretend that we can understand all these questions and their complexities. However, I do believe that the Bible can bring clarity to these issues, which will help us to suffer well.

C. S. Lewis wrote a small book titled A Grief Observed. 

It is a random journaling of his grief after the death of his wife Joy, and in it he spoke of a good God afflicting His children.

The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably [relentlessly] he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.

Then Lewis asks—“But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us?” Lewis answers with a profound depth of wisdom.

Take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.

Either way, we’re [in] for it.

Finally, Lewis asks an insightful question that demonstrates our own inconsistency when thinking or talking about the goodness of God,

What do people mean when they say, “I am not afraid of God because I know He is good?” Have they never even been to a dentist?

What Lewis and the Bible want us to know is that you cannot define goodness as pain-free.

For most people, if it hurts it isn’t good. But the Bible differs with that opinion and shows that one of the most loving acts of God is the introduction of pain into the life of one of His children. But our attitude of entitlement stands in the way of receiving the good delivered to us by the errand boy of pain. The moment bad news comes to us, we immediately question God’s goodness, thinking we surely don’t deserve the ill because we have been good. In our minds, it’s all a matter of rewards and punishment. If I have been a faithful servant of God, then He owes me blessing; if I have performed less than I should or badly, then I deserve suffering. Thankfully, God is not on the quid pro quo system.

It is an evidential fact that although Christians are redeemed they are not yet perfected. Martin Luther, the German reformer, called the believer a simultaneous saint and sinner. I prefer to say that the Christian is a saint who still can sin and unfortunately does. Our depravity remains, although not totally. And it is this remaining corruption that suffering aims at removing, as the furnace removes the dross. The flames cause the impurities of the precious metal to rise to the surface and the gold or silversmith extracts it.

The question is why does the Lord not perfect us immediately at the moment of conversion, as He will when we get to heaven?

Wouldn’t that solve the problem and eliminate suffering altogether? Wouldn’t that be good? At least it would be easier than the kind of goodness David and C. S. Lewis is talking about.

Well, it might make our philosophical problem with suffering go away but, in the end, it would not help us. Help for us is not making us to have heaven but making us suitable for heaven. In the wisdom of God, it is better to put us through a process of conformity rather than instantaneous conformity to Christ. Certainly, God can do anything within the confines of His character. He could suddenly transform us. But even if He perfected His children in a moment, which He will at the resurrection, perfection in heaven does not mean there is no room for growth. Our perfection doesn’t mean we become deity. We will not know everything there is to know, nor will we be all-powerful. We will forever be depending upon the Almighty.

So the saint’s perfection in heaven will be for the most part—the removal of remaining corruption, both spiritual and physical, and the removal of the ability to sin. This perfection will not eliminate the need for development. Christians will continually be expanding, growing, maturing, and learning in heaven.

Therefore, before glorification, to help us grow in our love of Christ, we need to be better aware of how gracious our Lord is to us. The point of Jesus’ parable to Simon the Pharisee was that the more a person understands his or her sinfulness, the more he or she will love the person who forgave them of their sins. Simon was as evil as the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and poured out perfume on Jesus’ feet. The Pharisee just didn’t know it, but the woman knew how much sin was forgiven.

Thus, to teach us just how great the grace we experience is, it is necessary for God to allow us to remain in a less than perfect state so we learn the depth of our depravity.

When converted, we think we are terrible sinners. But it isn’t until we have been walking with God for a while do we begin to see how terrible sin is and how deeply it runs through our natures. The more we learn of our utter weakness, the more dependent upon God and His amazing grace we become. In the end, we love more because of the process.

I get concerned when I hear professing believers quip that sometimes they wish they had lived more sinful lives before being saved so that they could appreciate God’s grace more.

Which do you think grieves the Father’s heart more, the sins of a rebel and outcast who hates the King or the rebellion of the King’s child?

“Well,” says one, “can’t God make us know all that the moment we are saved? Isn’t that the whole point of the conviction of sin that we underwent before being saved?” Yes, it is the point of conviction of sin, but to be made to understand and experience grace is not enough to make us absolutely dependent upon grace. When converted, we are saved by grace, but we’re far from living by grace alone.

Here’s a two-part question that I hope sheds light as to why God allows suffering in our lives.

Which would bring God more glory—saving a sinner and instantaneously perfecting the sinner that he or she will never sin again? Or saving a sinner and allowing him or her to still be able to sin, but with time, change them, so they do not want to sin and instead become more and more like Jesus?

If He saves sinners but leaves their corrupt flesh to remain, then they will, again and again, prove that they did not deserve salvation. The Lord will glorify His grace over and over again that He is a God that mercifully, kindly, tenderly, and patiently forbears with sinners until they enter into a state of perfection.

It is this struggle that reminds us of our sin and teaches our continual need for God’s grace. This is what brings immense glory to the Lord and proves to other sinners that they too could be recipients of such lovingkindness.

Therefore, we too can say with David that it is “good for me that I have been afflicted. . . and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

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News for all Know-It-All Theologians

Psalm 139:6
Romans 11:33
Job 36:26

What’s the news? That we don’t know much about God. Not really, not compared to what there is, not compared to what there is to know, not compared to all that He is and does. The Bible only reveals in part who and what God is; we have been shown only the “edges” of His person and ways. Yes, it is true that the Bible reveals an amazing amount of truth about who God is and what He has done in creation, progressive revelation, in providence and history, and in the person and work of His Son, Christ Jesus. An amazing amount has been revealed.

But all those who love truth and theology must remind themselves that the church, throughout church history, has been grappling with all of Scripture to see the depths and riches of the Bible, and we haven’t plumbed its depths yet, even with all our knowledge and scholarship. Nor will those depths ever be plumbed before the Second Coming of the Son of Man. We still, and always will, see through a glass darkly, and we only know in part and will always only know in part until we are with Him. So any theologian who comes across as if they have it all figured out, and always seem to have good sufficient answers for every question, the fact is, they don’t.

Psalm 139:6

There are no “know-it-alls” in the kingdom simply because there is perhaps more about God that has not been revealed than has been revealed. And even the Bible says that some revealed knowledge in Scripture is too much for us to comprehend. David says this in Psalm 139:1-6, where he says in vs. 6 that the truths found in vss. 1-5 are so wonderful, they are “too” wonderful and high for him and he cannot attain to it. The word “attain” in vs 6 is the consistent translation in most all Bible translations. It is simply a fact that the knowledge of God is exceedingly beyond our humanness to attain or comprehend it fully.

Romans 11:33

Paul says something similar here–“Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways are past finding out.” Unsearchable and past finding out; so there is a realm of the knowledge of God that the Bible gives us. That is the realm of Deut. 29:29–the “things revealed to us”, but the “secret things” that belong to the Lord are not ours; There is much truth about God, creation, providence, eternity, and much more that belong to the “secret” things, to the “past finding out and unsearchable” realms.

It is always a humbling fact to remember that we know less about God than there is to know; there is much more that we don’t know that what we do know; such knowledge is not to keep us from seeking, growing and increasing in continuing to plumb the depths of God’s Word. It simply means we should always humble ourselves and remember that we don’t know much, even with all our knowing.

Job 36:26

Job pretty well sums it up for us in 36:26– “Behold, God is great, and we know Him not.”

I like the way this verse reads in other translations–

NIV- How great is God–beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.

ESV- Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.

NASB- “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.

KJV- Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.

Holman Christian Standard Bible- Yes, God is exalted beyond our knowledge; the number of His years cannot be counted.

This has some personal implications for us.

1. Repentance
2. Humility
3. Dependence
4. Progressive Growth
5. Thankfulness

1. Repentance – We should repent of any “know-it-all” attitudes we have developed and of acting this way toward others in any capacity. We know nothing as we ought to know.

2. Humility – We should always take an attitude of true humility, living in the reality that we “know not” God yet in the way He truly is and in the way we will know him in our glorification. If we don’t know it all, why do we act like we do at times?

3. Dependence – We should cultivate conscious and continual dependence upon the Holy Spirit for His ministry of increasing us in the knowledge of God and Christ. There are vast oceans to be experience, and we are yet probably ankle-deep.

4. Progressive Growth – We can progressively know God and His truth more and more. Let us press on to know the Lord continually.

5. Thankfulness – We should be abundantly thankful that God has chosen us, included us, allowed us, and privileged us to know Him. He opened our eyes, not us. We would still be in dark Egyptian night, lost in our sins and in spiritual blindness, if God had not opened our eyes to behold to beauty and glory of God in Christ. Thankfulness that we do not yet know as we are known is a good thing.

Job 36:26, Psalm 139:6, Romans 11:33 all tell us something that really needs to shape our lives more, especially all the “know-it-all” theologians out there. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the unknowable and knowable God!

– Mack Tomlinson

When Words Discourage Us

“Many there be which say of my soul, ‘There is no help for him in God’.” – Psalm 3:2

Have you ever been discouraged and distressed because of something people said or what the voices inside you said? Such people and such voices talk most when one is in trouble about something. “Many there be which say of my soul, ‘There is no help for him in God’.” That was what the many said who were around King David in a dark hour. But he turned to the Lord and told Him just what they were saying, and then he affirmed his faith: “But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter of my head.” (vs. 3)

We cannot use these words if we are pleasing ourselves in anything, and doing our own will and not God’s will. In that case, what the many say is often true. There is no help for us in God while we are walking in any way of our own choosing. But when all is clear between us and the Lord Jesus, even if like David, we are in trouble because of something we have done wrong in the past, then those words are not true. There IS help for us in God. He is then our shield, our glory, and the lifter up of our head, and we need not be afraid of ten thousand people or ten thousand voices, for the Lord our God is our very present Help.

Twice in Psalm 3 and 4, we find David taking the very unkind words of others and putting them into a prayer. It was the wisest thing he could have done with them. The alternative would have been to brood over them or talk to others about them. But he turns like a child to his Father.

“Many say” – this is often the case. But David is not confounded. He refuses to be cast down; let the “many” say whatever they will. If only we can look up and meet His countenance, what do the words of others matter? The truth is, we SHALL experience good. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

— Amy Carmichael

Through the Wilderness

God knows best how to ripen a soul for His own presence in glory.

Trials are the opening of channels for more grace.

There is nothing in your providential lot that takes Him by surprise, though it takes you by surprise.

The Jews’ past experience was not of great use to them in their wilderness journeys. They needed always to consult with God. If you think you will get through anything because you got through things previously, then you will certainly fail. You must ask fresh counsel from the Lord always and consult Him continually.

Perhaps some Israelite, looking on the burning sands all around them and thinking of the scorching heat, begins to say, “What if this continues? What if my friend dies out here? What if the children can’t take the journey and they die?” Let us simply follow the Lord, follow the pillar of cloud and fire, and not trouble ourselves with the “ifs”.

I see that I need every day, more and more in the morning, before any business begins, I need a cup of the new wine of the kingdom–fellowship with the Most High.

Dwell in the tabernacle under the shadow of the Almighty, and not a drop of wrath shall fall on even one hair of your head. Continually walk in the light of the cloud of glory.

Often we have looked at the waves and listened to the winds, when we could have been walking with Jesus on the water.

— Andrew Bonar

The Right Kind of Bible

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path!” Psalm 119:105

In many houses you will see beautiful Bibles bound handsomely in morocco leather, with gilt edges, and full of bright pictures. I love to see a beautiful Bible in a home, especially if it is not kept too clean and unsoiled. But the most beautiful form in which a household Bible can be bound, is in the holy life of godly parents. There is no tinted, gold-edged paper so lovely as the pages God gives us on which to write our daily record.

The precepts and lessons of the inspired Word sound very sweetly when read out of a richly-covered volume–but they sound far more sweetly, when the child can spell them out of the parent’s daily life.

It is well for a parent to read to his child from the inspired page about the beauty of holiness; but it is better still when the child can see that beauty shining out transfigured in every feature of his parent’s character.

It is well for him to read of the patience, gentleness, meekness, forbearance, and love of Christ; but it is better when he exemplifies all of these traits.

It is well for him to teach the child what the Bible says about lying, profanity, intemperance, and all sins; it is better when his life proclaims all these lessons.

No family Bible is so well printed and bound, as the one that is printed on the heart, and bound up in the life of a godly parent. I would recommend to all parents this kind of Bible, and to keep the dust off it always by constant use. This is the best kind for a lamp to the children’s feet.

A beautiful Christian life is a living epistle written by the hand of God which the youngest child can read before it has learned to spell out the shortest words of the language. It is a sermon that preaches Christ all day long, seven days in the week!

There is no heresy so dangerous to childhood as heresies lived in the home!

– C. H. Spurgeon

An Eternal Perspective Through Suffering (As Seen in the Life of Horatio Spafford)

For centuries, It Is Well With My Soul has been used to lift the downtrodden soul to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The hymn is a standing favorite and go-to for many in the midst of crisis and, according to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, it was writer Horatio Spafford’s own agony that equipped him to minister so directly to others in theirs.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Anna and Horatio Spafford.

THROUGH THE FIRE

Born in 1828 in Troy, New York, Spafford later settled in Chicago where he met and married his wife, Anna. In the late 1860s, Spafford was a prominent attorney who acquired substantial wealth through real estate investments along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Those investments, however, turned to ash during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, resulting in significant financial loss for the Spaffords.

Two years later, the business and investments were reestablished and Spafford planned for his family a European holiday to coincide with their friend D. L. Moody’s speaking engagement in France. At the last minute, Spafford was detained on business so he sent his wife Anna and their four small daughters ahead to Paris aboard the French luxury liner S.S. Ville du Havre.

THROUGH THE FLOOD

Around 2 a.m. on November 22, 1873, the steamship was hit by the iron-hulled Scottish sailing vessel Loch Earn. The Ville du Havre broke in two and sank within 12 minutes. Out of 283 passengers, 57 were saved.

According to reports, Anna Spafford was found unconscious and floating on a piece of debris. She was rescued taken by vessel to Cardiff, Wales, where she cabled Horatio in Chicago with the words, “Saved alone. What shall I do…”

On the voyage to meet Anna in Paris, Horatio was summoned to the Captain’s cabin, where he was told they were passing over the place where the Ville du Havre sank and his daughters drowned. It is said he returned to his cabin and there penned the words we now sing through the fires, floods, and victories of our own lives.

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

Out of unimaginable tragedy came the words that have become one of the most treasured and influential hymns of all time.

WHY IS THIS SONG SO MEANINGFUL?

Turbulent waves of anguish and grief have been stilled with the peace-producing words of It Is Well With My Soul as the lyrics push the heart to rest in God’s sovereignty though “sorrows like sea billows roll.” Why is it so meaningful?

This song lifts our hearts to God’s flawless character and into confidence that the Judge of all the earth can do only right. The words remind us that we are no longer our own, we’ve been bought with an enormous price and we can trust our Master. God holds our lot and, because of who He is, His grace enables our hearts to sing “whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”

“Whatever my lot.” Even if, like Spafford himself, that means being stripped of all we hold dear. To lose everything and still rejoice, think also of the Apostle Paul, going so far to say, “It is well with my soul,” is something that can only be explained by the Gospel.

It doesn’t make sense on the surface, and it is not our natural default setting, but your heart can sing the Gospel in agony and anguish. But how?

HOW CAN IT BE WELL?

How could Spafford write and believe these words?

How can it be well with your soul when you lose three children to shipwreck?

How can it be well with your soul when you lose almost all your financial investments?

How can it be well with your soul when you lose all sense of normalcy in your life?

It can only be well with your soul in the moment of tragedy if your heart is locked on the One who is not only better than your circumstances but has divinely orchestrated them for your highest joy.

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

It can only be well with your soul in the middle of misery when your hope is found in the regard of Jesus Christ the Righteous. It is that “blessed assurance” which reorients our thoughts and focus and places at center the One who bore our sin and shame thereby enabling us to worship and suffer at the same time.

HOW DO WE SUFFER WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE?

We suffer with an eternal perspective by remembering the Gospel. We bake our souls in the truth that says Christ has defeated every sin and has shed His own blood for our souls.

We suffer with an eternal perspective by looking to the day when all our pains will be dissolved into gain, all our sorrows will be diffused into eternal joy, all our agonies will be disintegrated into glory, and all our death will be decomposed into resurrection.

We suffer with an eternal perspective when we remember Jesus is the Man of Sorrows who once wore our grief like a garment and now sits at the right hand of the throne of God as our High Priest.

We suffer with an eternal perspective by anticipating when the faith shall be sight and acting on God’s promise to one day completely eradicate sin and all the pain that goes with it.

We suffer with an eternal perspective when we trust Him to sustain us to the end (of all our suffering [1 Corinthians 1:8]).

We suffer with an eternal perspective as we breathe in the blissful reality that Jesus took our sin not in part but the whole and nailed it to the cross, enabling us to praise Him with our whole hearts despite the circumstances around us.

We suffer with an eternal perspective by staking our hearts in the truth that He does all things well, therefore, it is well. And that hope stands firm though the winds and waves try to convince us otherwise.

We suffer with an eternal perspective by finding hope not in this world but in the One who reigns over it and has purchased our passage through it to eternal rest.

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!

So rest.

It is well.

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