In her grief and despair, Anna Spafford heard a soft voice speaking to her, “You were saved for a purpose!” Just then she remembered something a friend had once said: “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”
Job and his wife suffered the loss of their children, their wealth and Job’s health. Reaching the end of her endurance his wife cried out, “Why don’t you curse God and die?”
Job answered, “Have you forgotten what God did for us. How can we take the good and not the bad along with it?”
Job and Horatio Spafford were both men of faith, great wealth and possessions. Job lived in Uz in the kingdom and Edom and Spafford lived in Chicago, Ill., two different times and two different worlds. Misfortune struck both; they lost their wealth and their children. In fact, their lives paralleled each other in numerous ways.
Job lived an irreproachable life. He was devoted to God and turned away from evil. All the people esteemed him as the greatest man in the east.
The Spaffords lived a charmed life. They had five healthy children, were dedicated Christians, did great work and were well-respected.
Because God thought so highly of Job, Satan challenged Him and said Job was “religious” and “blameless” because it paid to be good. Would Job be good if his life wasn’t perfect? God gave Satan power over Job but he was not to harm him or take his life. (Job 1:7-12)
Later, while Job’s children were having a party at the home of the older brother, servants rushed in to tell him that not only had his workers been attacked and killed and his live stock had been stolen, that a bolt of lightning had struck his sheep and the shepherds, marauding parties raided his camels and massacred his servants and that his sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine when a tornado struck the house, it collapsed and his children were killed. (Job 1:13â19)
Job ripped off his robes, fell to the ground and worshipped God. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Job suffered at the hands of Satan. He never blamed God.
“Although you incited me against Job to ruin him without cause, he maintained his integrity.” God told Satan.
Satan retorted, “He’d curse you to your face if you took away his health.”
“Very well, do what you like but don’t kill him.”
It isn’t certain just what Job’s illness was. His body was covered with painful decaying sores; he had nightmares and became disfigured. Yet, Job did not sin.
Job’s friends, older than he, came to visit. They hardly recognized him and wept when they saw him. They sat on the ground with Job and no one talked because of his suffering.
After a while, Job spoke. His existence was no longer a joy. He Questioned God and asked what he had done to deserve such punishment. He was angry but he did not curse God.
Job’s friends told him God undoubtedly was punishing him for some sin and he should be grateful that God was disciplining him. Even though Job felt unworthy and didn’t understand, he went straight to God for answers. Job asked for forgiveness, reaffirmed his faith, interceded with God on behalf of his friends and asked Him to forgive them.
Like Job, the Spaffords had everything going their way. But then, also like Job, they had their faith tested. Their four-year-old son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever.
Then, in Oct. 1871, when the Great Chicago Fire broke out, Spafford had invested much of his wealth in real estate. Not only did the blaze destroy most of Chicago but also most of Spafford’s holdings.
But, again like Job, the Spaffords did not despair. Their home had been spared and they had their four daughters. God had been good. The Spaffords used what resources they had left to feed the hungry, help the homeless, care for the sick and injured and comfort their grief-stricken neighbors. The Great Chicago Fire was a great American tragedy; the Spaffords used it to show the love of Christ to those in need.
In 1873, Anna’s health was failing. Hoping to put behind the tragic loss of their son and the Chicago fire, the Spaffords planned a trip to Europe on the French steamer Ville du Havre. God had other plans. The day they were to sail for Europe Spafford had a business emergency and could not leave. He sent Anna and the children ahead and planned to follow the next day.
Before the family could reunite, a British iron sailing ship struck the Ville du Havre and it sank in just 12 minutes, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Anna survived; but her four daughters did not.
When Anna reached Cardiff, Wales, she sent her husband a brief and heartbreaking cable “Saved alone. What shall I do …?”
Spafford left Chicago immediately to go to his wife and bring her home. Along the way, the ship’s captain told Spafford, “I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked.”
That night, alone in his cabin, Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” His faith in God never faltered.
The Spaffords returned to Chicago, where God blessed them with another son and two daughters. Tragically, this four-year-old son, also named Horatio, just like his brother before him, died from scarlet fever.
In September of 1881 the Spafford family and a few of their friends left America for Israel and settled in the old part of Jerusalem and started a work that later became known as the “American Colony.” Their only desire was to show the love of Jesus to those around them.
Spafford died of Malaria on Oct. 16, 1888, in Jerusalem. Anna continued their work until her death in 1923. The Spaffords are buried in Jerusalem.
God blessed Job in his later years more abundantly than ever; giving gave him seven sons, three daughters, 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys.
“After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years” (Job 42:16-17, NIV).
It matters not what culture, generation or financial status we have; God allows suffering. His grace and peace can sustain us, allowing for our growth and His glory.