I’ve often wondered why more churches don’t spend time singing hymns. Yes, I know that many contemporary worshippers (whatever that means) prefer and find it easier to sing choruses. In fact, often they are sung ad nauseum as though spaced repetition is the key to learning oft-shallow words. I know choruses have their place. I enjoy many of them “How Great Is Our God”, “El Shaddai” and others are some of my favorites. Nevertheless what stirs my soul is grand hymn. At our church, we are rationed one old hymn per service and it’s something I always look forward to.
It seems to me that if more people knew the history behind some of our great hymns, they would clamor to sing more of them. Their hearts would be stirred as they recall the story that birthed the words and think to themselves, “That’s where I’m at right now. I can identify with those words.”
A good example is the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, written by a Chicago attorney, Horatio G. Spafford. There is much to Mr. Spafford’s story and I’ll provide a link where you read more about it, but the part of his story that birthed the hymn was personal tragedy. In 1871, prior to the fires in Chicago, Mr. Spafford had lost his son. To add injury to that excruciating loss, having invested heavily in real estate the “great fire” virtually wiped him out financially. But it gets worse.
A couple of years after those losses, Mr. Spafford decided that he, his wife and four daughters needed some time away. So they planned to sail to Europe to assist Moody and others in their evangelistic endeavors in Great Britain. Through a series of circumstances Mr. Spafford could not leave at the scheduled time, so he sent his wife and daughters ahead with plans to follow them in a few days. Not long into the voyage, the ship carrying his family was hit by another ship and sank almost immediately. Once reaching shore his wife sent word to her husband, they were devastating words….”Saved alone.” His four daughters had drowned in the accident. It was out of this kind of agony and suffering that he penned these words
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Yes, if more people knew this story and others that surround some of the great hymns of faith, they would hunger to sing them more. Many of our great hymns were not penned from a jam session, they were penned from experiences that tested the author’s soul. After all, don’t we all – whether stricken severely or not – want to say with confidence – “It is well with my soul.” Could we? Would we? – If we had lost all of children to an early and painful death? Would it be well with our soul or would our heart be callous with bitterness and grief? Would that experience turn us toward the face of God or away from His presence in disgust and anger?
Hymns can change our lives by changing our thinking if we have an opportunity to understand their history.
Read more at Suite101: History of It is Well with My Soul: Horatio Spafford’s Praise Worship Music Immensely Inspires http://www.suite101.com/content/hymn-it-is-well-with-my-soul-a32616#ixzz0zjD97WcO