EVANS MILLS — The news lately and understandably has been focused on one word: coronavirus. COVID-19 is a viral pandemic affecting the whole world and causing emergency medical crises as never before.
Needless to say, in light of the situation, life has become rather chaotic as well as confining for many people. Perhaps that includes you!
People are riding on a very emotional rollercoaster wondering if things will really get better. When going through a crisis, who does not look for good news to present itself in some form or fashion?
Recently, my wife shared with me a video she discovered online, which was produced by a music producer from the Nashville area. Prior to our novel coronavirus outbreak, Nashville was devastated by a tornado that seemed to come out of nowhere and with little warning. Now there’s the coronavirus outbreak to complicate matters.
What this music producer did was send out to fellow music producers, musicians and whoever else the music and lyrics to a very emotional Christian hymn titled “When Peace Like A River.” Each recipient of this hymn then recorded a verse or portion of a verse of this hymn and sent it back to the music producer who originally sent it out.
He pieced together all the segments sung by various people of this hymn and condensed it into one video. I listened to this online video and had tears forming in my eyes.
This hymn was authored by a man by the name of Horatio G. Spafford, born in New York on Oct. 20, 1828. He was a successful lawyer and businessman through the years.
But as all people have, he encountered significant tragedy in his life. He lost all of his real estate investments during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 as he owned substantial property along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Prior to this tragedy, he had a son who died. However, the circumstances that led him to compose the hymn “When Peace Like A River” involved receiving news that a ship on which his wife and four daughters were traveling to Great Britain for rest and relaxation was struck by another vessel and sunk completely within 12 minutes.
This occurred on Nov. 22, 1873. He learned that all four daughters died with only his wife surviving.
Spafford is said to have written the text and verses to this hymn while on his way to join his wife in Wales. What I haven’t mentioned is Horatio Spafford was a deeply convicted Christian. He saw God’s hand even in the midst of horrendous tragedy and heartbreak.
The tune to this hymn, composed by another man, Phillip Bliss, was named originally “Ville du Havre,” the name of the ship that sank! The translation of the ship’s name means, “It Is Well.” Horatio Spafford’s testimony of faith is evident in the verses of this hymn.
We all will face trials and heartaches in life. Therefore, what will our anchor be to steady us through these times? Reflect on these verses at this time. It is my hope and prayer you receive inspiration as I have:
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Final thought: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7 NLT)
The Rev. Steve Nagler of Evans Mills is a chaplain at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. An ordained minister with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, he previously served as a chaplain in U.S. Army from 1985 to 2005.