It is well with Christ at the center
It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.
We have just celebrated Easter, a Christian feast that celebrates the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that also gives us a hope of our physical resurrection when the time is ripe. To be a Christian means to have the Lordship of Jesus in one’s life, this might mean daily paying obedience to Christ and his written word and living one’s daily life for Christ. The presence of Christ in a Christian believer is a very strong potent, power to face every single day. Paul knew this very well and boldly said; “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).
Sometimes and often times in reality, life is very challenging and makes it hard for one to like Paul say, I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Our daily lives are lived in the real world of despair, of gloom, of very adverse pressing issues that sometimes makes us cry loud; why me oh God, cursed is the day I was born like Job did and all sorts of lamentations. However, all these happening does not make the presence of Christ in a believer less valid, nor does it demonstrate that darkness has taken over light, gloom has taken over joy, evil has taken over good, Satan has conquered Christ and not even that it is over, the story is complete and the Christian defeated. Never!
Instead, in Christ, what seems a crisis can become a chance for the realisation of the power of Christ in a believer. The presence of God, the Emmanuel, in a believer is a great power to face the seeming gloom in life. Job went through it and ably faced that calamity that befell him, one of the worst calamities in history on an individual. But Job knew God, he knew what God can do, even in his wavering faith, he was able to refuse cursing God at his wife’s demand. Even his three friends would not move him, he rather opted for God’s vindication and later he was restored double fold.
Whenever, the story of Job is read and being used to comfort one in a similar situation, some people think it is a myth that is likely not true and find no moral strength in the story. I have gone through such a time, of course I didn’t lose sons, neither daughters, not even sheep, goats, camels, and whatever Job had lost. But I have ever had times when I felt desperate and only the power I am talking about here was sufficient to help me overcome. I will not tell my story, but have chosen to tell you the story of a nineteenth century Chicago lawyer, a strong Christian believer who had a Jobboan experience, but even amidst it, he was able to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago. He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was also a devout Christian. Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.
Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871. Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, he lost everything overnight. In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster. But the worst was yet to come.
Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story: “Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873. In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments, he had to remain in Chicago, but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre. He expected to follow in a few days.
“On November 22 the ship was struck by the Lochearn, an English vessel, and sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the survivors were finally landed at Cardiff, Wales, and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, ‘Saved alone.’” Spafford left immediately to join his wife. This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.
Spafford, like Job lost all except his dear wife, but was never moved, he continued in faith penned down his experience which later became one of the greatest classical hymns of all times. Let’s have the lyrics of this 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.
Refrain: It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath 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!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
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!
And Lord, haste the day when the 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.
My friends, realities of life will always come our way, as it did Job and Spafford. Where is your hiding place when it comes? Where is your hope when deep in midst of such a great despair? Where do you receive your strength to face it and have your life continue positively? I invite you to consider having Christ at the center of your life that all might be well with you, I invite you to have him as your hiding place and strong tower (Proverbs 18:10). Are you a Christian, rejoice that you have Christ in you, make his presence in you real by desiring a daily relationship with him? Are you considering hiving Christ in your life? Ask him to come into your life, he will (Revelations 3:20).
May it be well with you; may it be well with your soul because Christ is at the center of your life.
Julius I. Tabi.
 Story written by Dr. Hawn, a professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. Find it here http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-it-is-well-with-my-soul