One of the happiest moments in my life is communing with God on my walks along the St. John's River. At the crack of dawn before I go in to work, I would walk along the river. One morning, the whole sky was lit up and vibrant with deep orange and gold colors, and it looked like the sky was a dome so low, enclosing me, that I felt I could reach up and touch it. While other people were rushing to different buildings to their work sites unmindful of the splendor above them, I, on the other hand, stood there enraptured with face uplifted and making a slow 360 degree turn in awe and wonder at the spectacular display of nature above me. It was almost like Heaven literally came down and glory and peace filled my soul.

On another morning, the sky was tinted with various hues of purple, blue, and pink. These colors reflected on the river, and it was a most beautiful scene indeed. I couldn't tell where the river ended and the sky began. Then to my surprise fishes by the dozens, as if on cue, put on a spectacular show by jumping out of the water simultaneously, all heading west in a straight line. I watched in total amazement. Wow, I thought, that performance can never be duplicated at Sea World, and I probably will never see it performed again anytime soon.

Most of the time on my walks, the wind would be blowing some causing white caps on the St John's river, but this particular morning, the river was like a mirror, not a ripple could be found, all was quiet. Even the fishes were calm. The river was so beautiful, so peaceful, so quiet, I couldn't help but sing softly:

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.

Chorus: It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It was bittersweet how this hymn came to be written. The story is tragic. It was during the autumn of 1873 when Horatio Spafford and his family planned a wonderful trip to Europe to visit relatives and friends. This was a much needed rest for the entire family as they had earlier experienced the tragic loss of an only son. Additionally, they had lost all their properties during the great Chicago fire. However, because of a business commitment, Spafford was not able to leave at the same time with his family. He would join them later. Tragedy struck off the coast of Newfoundland. The ship his family was on collided with another vessel ripping a gaping hole in the ship's hull. The damage was so extensive that the ship plunged to the bottom of the frigid sea within twenty minutes.

In the moments before the ship sank, Anna Spafford gathered her four young girls, ranging in ages from eighteen months to 12 years old, to her side and prayed with them, holding the youngest in her arms. As the icy waters swept over the decks, the three older children disappeared and eventually even the baby was washed from her mother's arms. Alone and near death herself, Anna was spotted from a lifeboat and plucked from the sea.

When she was able to wire her anxious husband, the message was brief and poignant: "Saved Alone." Horatio Spafford boarded the next available ship and sailed to England to be with his grieving wife.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody, a close friend of the Spaffords, was in Scotland, at the time of the tragedy. He joined the bereaved couple in England. Of this meeting, he reported that the Spaffords never lost their abiding faith and trust in God in spite of the great sorrow they experienced. They made affirmation to Moody that: "It is well. The will of God be done."

The words "It is well" inspired Horatio to write a poem that was subsequently set to music by Philip P. Bliss. Here's the rest of the hymn:

Though Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

Chorus: It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin--oh, the bliss of this glorious tho't:
My sin not in part, but the whole
Is nail'd to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be roll'd back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so," it is well with my soul.

Horatio had to have the peace that only Heaven could give--the peace that passeth all understanding--to be able to go through this tragedy and still say it is well, it is well with my soul.

Unlike Horatio Spafford, many people find peace illusive. It seems they can't get off the fast and troublous lanes of life's highway. They do this and that, they amass great fortunes, they build names for themselves, but, alas, they fail to have the most important thing in the world--peace--the peace that comes from God. How can people have peace and serenity in their soul?

The foundation of all true peace is the Word of God. The knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ brings true and lasting peace. Jesus said in John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace."

"The Saviour's life on this earth, though lived in the midst of conflict, was a life of peace. While angry enemies were constantly pursuing Him, He said, 'He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone: for I do always those things that please Him.' No storm of satanic wrath could disturb the calm of that perfect communion with God. And He says to us, 'My peace I give unto you.'

"Those who take Christ at His word, and surrender their souls to His keeping, their lives to His ordering, will find peace and quietude. Nothing of the world can make them sad when Jesus makes them glad by His presence. In perfect acquiescence there is perfect rest. The Lord says, 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee.'

"Every man's experience testifies to the truth of the words of Scripture: 'The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.'...Sin has destroyed our peace...The masterful passions of the heart no human power can control. We are as helpless here as were the disciples to quiet the raging storm. But He who spoke peace to the billows of Galilee, has spoken the word of peace for every soul. However fierce the tempest, those who turn to Jesus with the cry, 'Lord, save us,' will find deliverance. His grace, which reconciles the souls to God, quiets the strife of human passion, and in His love the heart is at rest. 'He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still...So he bringeth them unto their desired haven.'

"The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven, and will diffuse its blessed influence all around. the spirit of peace will rest like dew upon hearts weary and troubled with world strife." --Reflecting Christ, Page 278.

Obedience to the Moral Law of God brings peace. Ps 119:165 says, "Great peace have they that love thy Law and nothing shall offend them."

"The requirements of God are made in wisdom and goodness. In obeying them, the mind enlarges, the character improves, and the soul finds a peace and rest that the world can neither give nor take away. When the heart is fully surrendered to Jesus, His ways will be found to be ways of pleasantness and peace." --That I May Know Him, Page 121.

Matthew 11:28 says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "There is a condition to the rest and peace here offered us by Christ. It is that of yoking up with Him. All who will accept the condition will find that the yoke of Christ will help them to bear every burden needful for them to carry. Without Christ at our side to bear the heaviest part of the load, we must indeed say that it is heavy. But yoked with Him to our car of duty, the burdens of life may all be lightly carried. And just in proportion as man acts in willing obedience to the requirements of God will come rest of spirit..." --That I May Know Him, Page 120.

"If we will come into close relation with God, if we will yield to God His own--our mind, our heart, and all that there is of us--we will indeed find peace and happiness that we can obtain nowhere else." --Upward Look, Page 307.

Then, no matter how tumultuous and treacherous the way seems to be, no matter how heavy the burdens are or how bleak the future lays, if we are anchored in the Lord Jesus Christ, we, too, like Horatio Spafford, can say: "It is well, it is well with my soul."



When Peace Like a River Midi