The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Rev. Thomas Hyde
First United Methodist, Sidney 

Life and Your Soul


I spend a lot of my time helping people in the midst of a crisis. Life is not easy, and we cope with disease, accidents, bad weather, and relationships that have gone bad. You can add to the list from your own experience, or the experiences of people you love.

I recently was reminded of the story of a man named Horatio Spafford. Wikipedia tells his story. He was a successful lawyer and investor in Chicago in the 1870s. He had a wife and four beautiful daughters. Life was good! In 1871 things began to go bad. The Chicago fire of 1871 ruined him. More bad news came with the economic depression of 1873. He had planned to take his family on a trip to Europe on the steamship SS Ville du Havre, but was forced by business issues to send his family on ahead. The steamship collided with another ship, and sank, taking with it all four of his daughters. His wife Anne sent him the heartbreaking telegram “Saved alone.”

His story reminds me of the story of Job in the Bible. The story makes sure that we know that Job was a good and righteous man. Yet he lost his family, his health and all of his possessions. In one scene we find Job sitting in on a trash pile, scraping his sores with a piece of pottery. Job’s attempt to understand the eternal question “Why?” takes up the rest of the book. His friends were sure that it was his fault somehow. He must has sinned. He must have deserved his pain and agony. And in the end he finally begins to understand as he sings out “I know that my redeemer lives!”

Horatio Spafford’s response to his disastrous life was to write a poem that was set to music by Phillip Bliss. He wrote the poem on another ship as he passed the place where his family died. Here is the first verse of the great hymn, It Is Well with My Soul:

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.

Often we respond to tragedy in our own lives in anger or depression. It is only through the gift of faith that we can move ahead. And, like Job we cry out in pain and anger. Before us is the glory of Christ, the joy of forgiven sin, the promise of understanding at last.

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.

I pray that it will be well with your soul.

(Text from It Is Well with My Soul, by Horatio Spafford, 1873)


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