Interestingly, many of history’s best hymnists were walking through the midst of deep, deep trial. You get the opposite impression from most of their songs, such as “Like a River Glorious, “To God Be the Glory, “It is Well with My Soul,” or “Just as I Am.” That’s because these song writers were zone dwellers, and their lyrics reflect the truth contained in hearts set free by heavenly focus. Their stories are undeniable evidence of the miracle of God’s grace.
I’ve chosen four writers, only one male. For a change, we’ll let the guy go first. Mr. Spafford, you’re on:
“It is Well with My Soul” is a beloved hymn borne out of tragedy. Many of you know the story. It bears repeating because its impact is powerful. This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Horatio Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago fire which ruined him financially. In 1873, he had planned to travel with his family to Europe, but he was delayed on business because of zoning problems due to the fire. He sent his family ahead. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters sank after a collision with a sailing ship. His wife survived and sent him a telegram, “Saved alone.” Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the words to “It Is Well with My Soul” as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
Fanny Crosby was blind since infancy due to a physician’s blunder. According to all documents read, Fanny never suffered from self-pity, but she was praise-filled and looking for ways to honor her Savior. She was a prolific hymnist with over 9,000 beloved songs to her credit. Probably her best-known hymn is “To God Be the Glory.” Much of the money Ms. Crosby made from the sale of her music was given to charity.
Charlotte Elliott suffered an unidentified, debilitating illness at the age of 32 which kept her wheelchair-bound until her death at age 83. During those years of pain and confinement, she wrote poetry and over 150 hymns. Her most famous hymn is “Just as I Am.” Her written words expressed her love for her Savior and her gratitude for His sacrifice on her behalf. She was a living testimony to genuine joy.
Last, but certainly not least, is Francis Ridley Havergal. I would love to have known this woman. According to records, Ms. Havergal’s childhood was marked by frail health. When she was 18 years old, she developed a debilitating illness. She spent the next nine years unable to do much other than study the Scriptures and pray. She is credited with the following profound quote as found in “Heroes of the Faith” by Rachael Phillips:
Pain, as to God’s own children, is truly and really
only blessing in disguise. It is but His chiseling,
one of His graving tools, producing the likeness
to Jesus for which we long. I’ve never yet come
across a suffering (real) Christian who could not
thank Him for pain.
Ms. Havergal became burdened by what she perceived as a lack of genuine joy in the lives of believers. She began to write hymns, longing to be used by God to bring people to a living faith in Christ. She composed “Like a River Glorious” during one of her more serious bouts of illness.
Ms. Havergal died in 1879 at the age of 42. Her sister stated that there was a radiance on her face before she died as she sang, “Golden Harps Are Sounding,” for which she had written the words and music. I do believe she was already in the ballroom, in the presence of her Bridegroom.
Why do I share these stories? Because I want to demonstrate that grace is real. It’s thrilling to realize there’s nothing this world can throw at you that God can’t lift you above! It’s a matter of identifying the power source and plugging in – full throttle, no holds barred.
Now remember, I’ve been on the other side of grace – the dark, angry, paralyzed-by-depression side. That’s how I know for certain that grace is real. My circumstances have not changed, not at all. With God’s help, my focus has changed, and grace has made joy a reality in my life.
If you’re walking through that dark place now, hang in there. There is hope.
(Next: Neola Faith)
Joy in Jesus,