Thursday, August 5, 2010

Praise God in the Lowest Valley

Two nights ago, a brother shared with me a "malupit" (literally translated as "cruel", but is also often used to describe"extremely good") real-life story of Horatio Spafford. He was a rich New Yorker, a prominent businessman, a devout Christian and a loving father. In 1871, he invested heavily in real estate, particularly in the Chicago lands. Little did he know that on October 8 of that year, a Great Chicago Fire would sweep through the city and destroy almost everything he had owned. What's worse was that his only son died of Scarlet Fever, also in 1871.

Two years later, Horatio decided to take his family somewhere in Europe for a vacation. But because he got bombarded with some business matters, his wife and four daughters went ahead of him. He expected to follow in a few days. While his family was crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Villa du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and it sank within 12 minutes. Anna, his wife, floated on rough seas and was the only one rescued. When she was taken to Wales, she sent a telegram to her husband saying, "Saved alone." Two hundred twenty-six people died on November 22, 1973 including Horatio's four daughters Annie 11, Maggie 9, Bessie 7 and Tanetta 2.

Horatio joined his wife immediately and sailed to the area where the ship sank. When they were near the scene of his daughters' tragic death, he went to his cabin and wrote these lines..

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.

~ 0 ~

The night when I learned of this story, I received a shocking news. The mother of my brother in Christ got into a car accident. While walking down a narrow street, she got hit by a big and sturdy car. In a matter of seconds, she lost consciousness and suffered from a ruptured spleen, punctured lungs and broken ribs. Although she's not a blood relative, I'm deeply affected knowing that a brother is suffering. And I'm sure our other brothers and sisters feel the same way and would be very willing to grieve with him.

We still don't understand God's timing. We think "it's way too soon." We don't know why she had to say goodbye so suddenly like Horatio's children. I remember what our Boksuniu (reverend's wife) told us before. She was sharing about the life of Joseph. She said that all trials must be agreed to and allowed by God for them to come to life. Even the number of our days are calculated, no more, no less. The sea billows may roll but God has set the limits to how high, how fierce the waves would be. I realized these happen because God, the infinitely smart God has planned them all. We are too minute to understand and foresee His grand purpose behind them.

Our finite minds and wavering emotions may dim this truth. We may start thinking that God's plan is not right, it should have been this way or that. We may start questioning God's existence. I hope that before doubt creeps in, we would embed His truth deep within our hearts. We can fight more effectively against these tempting thoughts when we are equipped with God's truth, as you know, Satan also has his ways (read Job).

All of us need to remember that who God is does not depend entirely on our experience of or with Him. Who God is, primarily, depends on who He said He is. And this is in the Bible. Oftentimes we try to understand God based on how we interpret our experience, but what we should be doing is interpret our experience based on our understanding of who God is.

In order to make God happy and Satan angry, we are to praise Him even if we are in the lowest valleys of our lives. We let Satan know that we are not going to give up the faith anytime. We are God's followers and not his. Furthermore, if we step back from our magnified circumstances and see the great God of wonders behind our lives, sulking can be turned to praising, and sorrows, would you believe can be turned to joy! Try it. This shift is only possible with God.

This is how Horatio praised Him, "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!" I agree. No pain, no loss, no tragedy is comparable to the blessed assurance we have in Jesus. Praise the Lord indeed!

Praise God on the highest mountains. Praise God in the lowest valleys. Everything that has breath praise the Lord!

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