I love people. I love to meet and get to know all kinds of people from all walks of life. I have found this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of life itself. The unending opportunity to engage other people from various backgrounds on an individual level. Each person carries a soul print that is unique to them – their life experiences, talents and ties as well as hopes and dreams. Every once in a while, I am challenged to enter into and partake of another person’s pain or sorrow. It is during these times that I have come to realize how much one human soul weighs. One human soul with all its joys, pain, disappointments, expectations and aspirations weighs far more than any one person is able to bear. This is why no human relationship is fully able to sustain the weight of another person’s soul. This inability is the source of disappointment and much heart ache in marriages, friendships and families.
We only have to engage intensively with another fellow human being once to quickly realize we are limited in our ability to fulfill their every need. We can help alleviate another person’s suffering, bring comfort to them and share their burdens and this we must do but we are unable to mend a heart that’s been torn apart or heal a broken soul. Even as we extend ourself to another, we ourselves must face our own internal battles of unmet needs, unfulfilled desires and unexplained loneliness.
I was extremely fortunate to have been brought up by loving parents who strived to give me the best of what they had to give. But I found that even my own wonderful parents together with their very best intentions still had shortcomings. Like me in my many relationships with others, they also found themselves falling short sometimes. None of their shortcomings mattered in the end because they had taken care to do the one most important thing which was to point me and my siblings to a Heavenly Father who could never fail. In other words, they ensured our souls were anchored so that no matter how strong the storms of life were, we would remain secure.
The only person capable of bearing the weight of a human soul is the person who created it. So when God came to earth as a man in the person of Jesus Christ, that’s just what He intended to do. He, through much suffering and pain, came to pay the huge cost of reconnecting our souls back to Himself. The crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ was especially brutal because He carried the weight of not just one but every human soul with all of its brokenness, pain, joy and aspirations. He was crushed beneath the weight of our souls. The Book of Isaiah which spoke of the death of Christ 800 years before He came to earth put it this way:
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
One of the most influential and recognizable hymns in the world today is the one penned by Horatio Spafford titled “It is Well with My Soul“. This hymn written by Spafford in the 1870s and still sung worldwide today was birth from the soul of a man who experienced the many tragedies of life. Horatio Spafford was a prominent and highly successful lawyer in the city of Chicago. He and his wife Ann, were very well known in 1860s chicago and were also close friends and supporters of the evangelist DL Moody. In 1870, tragedy struck when the Spaffords lost their only son to pneumonia at the age of four. The following year much of the city was destroyed in the Chicago fire and Spafford lost most of his fortune which he had invested in real estate just a few months prior to the fire. Two years later, the economic downturn of 1873 dealt a further blow to Spafford’s remaining fortunes. At this time, he sent his wife and four daughters to England on a ship, intending to join them shortly after for a much needed vacation and to listen to his friend DL Moody preach in England.
On November 22, 1873, while Ann Spafford and her four daughters were crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and 226 people lost their lives, including all four Spafford girls – eleven year old Anna, nine year old Margaret Lee, five year old Elizabeth, and two year old Tanetta. Anna Spafford survived the tragedy and upon arriving in England sent a telegram to her husband beginning “Saved alone.” Spafford sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters’ deaths and as he did, he wrote the lyrics for his now famous song “It is well with my soul”. The music to his lyrics was composed by Philip Bliss and named Ville du Havre after the ship on which Spafford’s daughters died. Philip Bliss himself along with his wife Lucy were among 160 passengers who died in the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster in December 1876 when a train they were traveling in fell into a ravine and caught fire while crossing a trestle bridge in Ohio.
Horatio and Anna Spafford would have 3 more children after the loss of their four girls. Once more, in 1880, they would lose their only son Horatio Goertner Spafford, this time to scarlet fever. in 1881, the Spaffords and their two remaining young daughters moved to Jerusalem where they founded a group called the American Colony which together with Swedish Christians brought much needed relief to the poor and the suffering during World War I. Horatio Spafford would die of malaria, 4 days before his 60th birthday on October 16, 1888 and the colony which he founded later became the subject of the Nobel prize winning Jerusalem, by Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf.
Horatio Spafford knew what it meant to lose what is most precious in this world yet have his soul, which is the essence of his person, remain fully intact in Christ. The song that came through his unique soul print continues to bring comfort, healing and hope to the souls of millions of people around the world today over a century after he wrote it in what must have been one of his darkest moments on earth.
LYRICS: 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 (it is well),
with my soul (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 His 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 pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to 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.