Jesus will never let go.

On Sunday I was blessed to be a part of the worship service at Memorial Drive.  Shane asked me to tell the story of Horatio Spafford.   The following is what I shared Sunday.  In order for this to make sense you need to know I prefaced my remarks by telling the church a little bit about a seminar the church staff recently attended.  The seminar was on coping with stress.  One of the techniques they recommend is to use a scale of comparison.  Sort of like- Yikes!  I sprained my ankle.  That’s stressful.  However, it is not as stressful as breaking my ankle.  See how it works?  The scale they used at the seminar involved the body.  I don’t know why, but there you go.  On the low end of the scale you had a minor bump and on the high end it was the amputation of both arms and legs.  Since the seminar ended I’ve been thinking about the fact their scale ends at the loss of arms and legs.  You can’t go any higher which is a bummer if you are trying to deal with the stress of actually having lost your arms and legs.  There is nothing to compare it to.  Where do you go then?  Which leads to the thoughts I expressed on Sunday…

There are some events for which a person might gladly surrender their limbs to undo…like the loss of a child.  However, we know better- the exchange of limbs for life is an impossibility.

In the meantime how does a person cope with that kind of loss?

*What do you tell yourself when the heart demands to make sense of the insensible?

*What will comfort you when the plainly uncomfortable has befallen you?

*What will support you when the unbearable must be borne?

On October 8, 1871 fire ravaged the city of Chicago.  Lost  to the flames were much of the real estate holdings of a man named Horatio Spafford.  He lost a fortune.  Yet, if Horatio were allowed to deal away his arms and legs for the restoration of his riches I somehow doubt that’s a bargain he would have been willing to strike.  After all, it was only money.  And he still had his family.

In any event, just two years after the fire, Horatio had the means to treat his family to a vacation in Europe.  I imagine they were as excited to go as we would be.  Unfortunately, at the last minute unfinished business prevented Horatio from leaving as planned.  Not wanting to dampen his family’s enthusiasim he insisted they sail ahead of him.   He would simply join them later.

So, while he remained, his wife and four daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta set sail for a joyous family vacation.  Instead, on November 21, 1873 their steamship was struck by another vessel and sank.  226 souls perished at sea.

As soon as Horatio’s wife was able to send him a telegram it contained two words:  Saved… Alone.

Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta were dead.

Horatio, what would you give in exchange for the lives of your four daughters?

Really, it’s a cruel question, isn’t it?  Such an exchange is impossible.

So, what are we to do when our capacity to deal with tragedy has been maxed out?

What are we to say when the scale of comparisons has been dwarfed and rendered obsolete by overwhelming sorrow?

I’ll tell you what Horatio said…

My little girls are dead, but I still have Jesus.  And He will never let go.

Of course what he actually said was more eloquent.

When he received his wife’s telegram Horatio left for England.  According to a daughter, born after the accident, when her father’s ship reached the place where his children died Horatio stared into the gaping chasm of incomparable grief and wrote…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come- let this blest assurance control- that Christ has regarded my helpless estate… and shed His own blood for my soul.

Those words may not be familiar to you, but the sentence Horatio wrote before this one is probably something you’ve heard before…

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea bellows roll- whatever my lot- Thou hast taught me to say…



1 Comment

  1. Thanks Craig for that post…I will never sing that song the same!

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