A different kind of Easter

The Rev. Steve Nagler

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.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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(12) comments


"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for what he's done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace..."

A person must walk with God, not expect God to walk for them; God helps those who help themselves.

Imagine God's anguish when, through prayer, a person tells him what she needs and thanks him for what he's done, all the while failing to contribute to resolving the predicament. In the case of the pandemic, failing to wash her hands, practice social distancing, avoid church services, etc. Her "peace," then, is God's agony.


What's the difference between me and the Abrahamic god? I'm real and I would have eliminated the coronavirus before it started. Same with rapists along with innumerable other things.


rockloper, I want the job done, meaning eliminating the virus (rapists, and more, too). Because it will take all of us, I'm willing to speak to people on their levels, according to their frames of mind, and in the contexts of their beliefs, etc. At each level, and in each frame of mind and context lies a means for people to contribute to getting the job done.


I want to see the job done as well but I want it based in reality.

Holmes -- the real one

I just thought you might enjoy this -- it's one of my favorites.



Bonafide Holmes if it weren't for social distancing I'd give you a big heartfelt hug![beam] You won't offend me. I guess I now realize this isn't the time or place for my thoughts on religion.

Holmes -- the real one

I gladly welcome that virtual hug, rockloper.

Your views on religion are informative and insightful to me -- particularly as I tend to lumber about with my antiquated and overly idealistic mindset. Please keep those thoughts coming.


Thank you, Rev. Nagler, for your words of counsel at this difficult time in our lives. I'm sure you've made a difference for many people during your ministry.

A small footnote: "Ville du Havre" translates as "City of Havre". The word "havre" means "haven."


Aren't any christians praying for this to go away?

Holmes -- the real one

I would lay odds that even some avowed atheists are praying for this to go away.

Apparently Jesus weighed in on what to do:

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."


If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.


Freely you have received; freely give.


So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

What a rebel.

I like that.


Bonafide Holmes: You know how much I respect you as a person and your opinions but I'd have to disagree with your atheist comment. Please don't hate me! [innocent] LOL

Holmes -- the real one

rockloper -- I have the utmost respect for you and for your insight. No doubt I am likely wrong about the position of atheists -- I was thinking in terms of the "no atheists in a foxhole" point of view. But that's a trope, not based in any fact, just supposition.

I consider you a friend and would never wish to offend you. Sorry for that!

In another vein, please see my (today's) comment regarding this discussion. I am troubled by the response to my previous comments.


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