Once a week for three summers I served as a crew member on a tall ship on my day off. The boat ran charters for Chicago skyline and waterfront excursions with groups of up to thirty-five people. Most of the cruises were three hour tours. Yes, I was a Gilligan!
On one cruise, the wind and the waves picked up a bit. There was no threat to our passengers. As we never went out in rough conditions, but it required extra communication with the crew.
The captain asked one of us to serve midship and another on the bow. The purpose was to relay commands from the stern to the bow of the ship. The more wind and waves the harder it was to hear the captain. I took the bow, my favorite spot on the ship.
As we sailed, the captain gave the order, “Ease the staysail one foot.” The midship crew member repeated it in case I didn’t hear it on the bow. I responded that I got the order, “Ease the staysail one foot, aye.”
I thought I had the sail set perfectly, but the captain has the perspective from the stern. He can see how all of the sails on the ship are in alignment and working together. The captain also has more than just me to please. He has paying customers for whom he is responsible and desires to give a safe and enjoyable experience.
After I adjusted the sail, waiting to see if it was what the captain wanted, he said, “It’s well.” Then the midship crew member repeated, “It’s well.” Then I repeated a third time to let them know I got it, “It’s well, aye.”
Suddenly this sounded familiar. I have heard “It’s well” repeated three times somewhere before. It hit me like a hurricane force wind. Oh, yeah, the song “It is Well” repeats that in the chorus.
The rest of that cruise, I reflected on what I knew of the song. It was written on a ship at sea by H. G. Spafford. He was a lawyer from Chicago. He and his wife, Anna, lost much of their real estate business in the Chicago fire in 1871. They stayed in Chicago for two years working tirelessly to help serve some of the 90,000 people who were left homeless.
Two years later, Anna and their children were sailing back across the Atlantic to England for a visit. Their ship, the Ville du Havre, was struck by another vessel and sank on November 22, 1873. Only sixty-one of the 307 passengers survived. One was Anna, but their four daughters were lost.
Spafford hurried to take the next ship possible to join and comfort his wife. The captain on his ship told him when they reached the spot where the ship sank, and more importantly to him, where his daughters perished. In his stateroom that evening, he wrote down most of the words we know today as the song, “It is Well.”
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”
It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul
“Well,” in the nautical sense, means everything is in its good and proper place. I can’t help but think that part of Spafford’s application of this term was a combination of his faith and his immediate context of being on a ship at sea. Somehow Spafford must have been wrestling with trusting the Lord at a whole new level.
How can you get to the place to be able to say that the loss of your children is well with you? From the Lord’s perspective in Heaven, he looks down on our situation and calls out, “It’s well.” It may not be ideal for you, nor is it what you would prefer, but it is exactly where it is best for everyone involved.
Your current situation is a good and proper proper place from which the Lord can lead you forward. The Lord has a plan for your life beyond anything you can imagine or comprehend from where you stand today.
“‘Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you’”Jeremiah 7:23
“we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”Romans 8:28