When the World Turns Upside Down

As we’ve experienced in the past few weeks, life can be wildly unpredictable. It seems that our world turned upside down in a matter of days as the coronavirus spread across the globe.

How do we find peace in the midst of such turbulence and uncertainty?

Horatio Spafford was no stranger to life’s unexpected challenges. As a successful Chicago lawyer, Horatio started a family with his wife Anna. They had five children.

However, in 1871 their personal world turned upside down. Their young son died of pneumonia. After investing heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline in the spring of that year, Horatio’s fortune was wiped out overnight by the Great Chicago Fire.

After rebuilding his business, Horatio planned to travel with his family to England in 1873. But unexpected business developments kept him in Chicago as he sent his wife and four daughters ahead as scheduled with plans to follow them in a few days.

Yet, as their ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean, it was struck by another vessel. The ship sank in twelve minutes and 226 of the 313 people aboard died including the four Spafford daughters.

Anna Spafford survived by clinging to a piece of the wreckage and was pulled from the water by a sailor rowing a small boat in the area that the ship went down. A larger ship picked them up and they landed nine days later in Cardiff, Wales. From there, Anna sent a heartbreaking telegram to her husband with the message, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”

Horatio immediately set sail to join his grieving wife in England. During his voyage, the captain of the ship summoned Horatio to tell him when they approached the area where the shipwreck had occurred. Reflecting on the tragic loss of his daughters, Horatio wrote the words to the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” during the voyage:

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.

We may not always be able to say that everything is well in our lives. We will face storms and may even experience tragedies.

But remember that in the middle of uncertain times, “God is not an indifferent bystander” (Hebrews 12:29, The Message). He is still faithful and good, concerned about every aspect of our lives. And though the world seems to be turned upside down, he has given us “a kingdom that is ‘unshakable’” (Hebrews 12:28, J.B. Phillips New Testament).


✍️ Credit :: Matt Rhodes
📸 Credit :: Matt Rhodes
🎨 Credit :: Matt Rhodes