Tag Archives: Tragedy

Even When It is Not Well

Read Psalm 42

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1 NLT).

One of my favorite Christian hymns is It is Well With My Soul, written by American Lawyer and Presbyterian Church Elder Horatio G. Spafford. The story behind the hymn, at least the direct reason for it being written, is pretty well-known. Spafford was a lawyer and senior partner in a large law firm who was also friends with Dwight L. Moody who was a substantial and well-known evangelist who was the founder of the Moody Bible Institute. Spafford had also made substantial real estate investments north of Chicago in the Spring of 1871, but in October of that same year most of those investments were lost in the Great Fire of Chicago. That terrible event destroyed the city leaving nothing but ash in its wake.

Two years later, the Spafford family planned a vacation in England where their friend Dwight Moody would be preaching; however, Horatio was unable to join them due to business issues that arose that kept him from going. On the way across the Atlantic, the ship that Anne Spafford (Horatio’s wife) and their daughters were on was hit by an iron sailing vessel and killing 226 people including Horatio and Anne’s daughters, Annie (12 yrs old), Maggie (7 yrs old), Bessie (4 yrs old), and their 18-month old baby. Anne Spafford, Horatio’s wife, was the only survivor of the family members on the ship.

Things were not okay for Horatio or Anne in that moment or, I am sure, for a long time after. Things were were not well for them. This is not how things are supposed to be. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents, let alone in such a horrible way. Mothers aren’t supposed to survive while their children die. I can only imagine the depths of despair that Anne and Horatio were both going through. The worst thing that could happen to parents had just happened to them.

On the way over across the Atlantic to meet his wife, Horatio penned these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

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 has 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 the 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 pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, the sky, not the grave, is our goal; oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, a song in the night, oh my soul!

Even when it was not well with his soul, Horatio still penned those words: “For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: if Jordan above me shall roll, no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” Even when it was not well with his soul, Horatio knew that it WOULD be well with his soul, because Christ would not abandon him or his wife in that tragedy.

The truth is, Christ will not abandon us either, even when things are not well with our soul. As the hymn boasts in the face of such tragedy, Christ has regarded our helpless estate and has shed his own blood for our souls. He is not giving up on us even when we feel like giving up. Let all of us who suffer, who feel Satan and trials are surrounding us on all sides, never forget that Christ is Immanuel, God with us, and he will get us through all circumstances if we but put our faith in him.

“You can survive the storm. Your soul is stronger than the storm.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

Lord, even when it is not well with my soul, I know you are with me and that you WILL NOT abandon me. Amen.

God’s People, part 54: Filicide

Read 2 Samuel 18


“The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (2 Samuel‬ ‭19:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 54: Filicide. We’ve experienced David the shepherd. We’ve experienced David the brave giant-slayer. We’ve experienced David the warrior. We’ve experienced David the husband, David the King, David the cheater, David the murderer, and David the proud. With that said, we have yet to look at David the father. After all, David was the father of 21 children, 19 of whom made it to adulthood. The other two died, with at least one (probably both) of them dying in infancy.

Out of the 19 children, one of them was a woman named Tamar. One would think that an only daughter might be precious to the King; however, David seems to fall short in being a good dad to her. For one, she becomes one of many victims in the dysfunctional family that David has built. David’s eldest son, Amnon, ends up lusting after his half-sister (remember, David had many wives), and rapes her.

Of course, it would be wrong to relegate the rape to just being a result of lust. Rape always comes down to power, and David’s children were all vying for power, just as their father had. The children did not fall far from the tree. After raping her, the battered and broken Tamar told her brother Absolom who, in turn, brought the terrible news to David. What did David do to defend his daughter’s honor and seek justice? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Consider this the beginning of the end Absalom’s relationship with his father. In complete disgust and outrage and after taking Tamar into his home where she “remained desolate”, Absalom avenged his sister’s rape and had Amnon killed two-years later.

Following the murder, Absalom fell out of favor with this father and was exiled for three years. Alhough David had thought he had restored the trust of his son following the three year exile, Absalom had no trust or respect for his dad. He began to build support and ended up stealing the hearts of the people of Israel. After four years, Absalom declared himself king and David had to go into hiding.

We will discuss Absalom’s treachery in more detail later; however, in the end, David was able to gather his troops and plan an attack against Absalom. Again, we see that age old pattern of David’s. He orders that Absalom be captured and not killed; however, Absalom gets his hair stuck in a tree and David’s commander Joab, pursuing him, runs Absalom through and kills him. David later replaces Joab and eventually advises his son Solomon to have him killed.

We could take this account simply at face value, or we can read between the lines here. Absalom’s treachery was unacceptable and David, being the politician and king that he was, had to punish his son for plotting against him and usurping his authority. While I am sure it did grieve the king, there is little doubt that David knew that Absalom would be killed and may have even secretly ordered it.

As you can see, a life of sin amounts to a whole lot of death. David’s sins had completely and fully caught up to him and the weight of those sins had a profound and horrific effect on his family. They suffered because of his sinful and, sometimes, evil choices. His treachery toward God, the one who chose him and loved him, begot the treachery of his family. The treachery of his family led David to kill his own son, committing the horrific act of filicide.

How do we lead treacherous lives? How do we fall short of what God has called us to do. How do we harden our hearts and fail to live up to being God’s people! David was, perhaps, Israel’s greatest and most noble king; however, as you can see, he still fell way short of perfect. Yet, if God loved (and still chose) David despite all of his sins, do we have any excuse for thinking we are not loved and chosen by God? Let us put down our excuses and open our hearts, once and for all, to the love of God and loyalty to God’s purpose for our lives.


“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Saint Paul (Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬


Lord, help soften my heart and help me remove my the treachery within it. I am yours, and want to be faithful in serving your kingdom. Amen.

Loving the Unlovable

Read Matthew 5:42-48


“And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13)

back1994512The past couple of weeks have been fraught with a number of scary and tragic scenarios. A Malaysian 777 airliner went missing for no apparent reason, but the there seems to be some connection with the pilot who seemingly and purposefully took the plane off course. There was the mass shooting at Fort Hood where one of the soldiers went into the Fort armed and shot at fellow soldiers who were unarmed, killing three and wounding at least sixteen others.

There was a man who accidentally hit a ten year old boy who might have been in a group playing chicken in the road. When the man stopped his truck, got out of it and went over to he boy to see if he was alright, a mob of people attacked him and beat him to near death. Finally, just on Wednesday, a sophomore at Franklin High School in Murraysville, PA, went into his school and stabbed and/or slashed 24 people with two kitchen knives. At least five of those twenty-four were critically injured and are currently fighting for their lives.

In moments such as these, it is impossible not to hold your hand to your mouth in shock. It is hard not to question, “what is going on with this world?” We sit in horror as we watch these news stories unfold before our very eyes. We can’t help picturing ourselves and/or our loved ones in those situations. I remember when the Newtown, CT massacre happened, I couldn’t help but cry as I thought about kissing my own children before sending them to school. I fully expected them to return home (and they did), just as I am sure those parents did.

On the same note, it is also hard for us to distance ourselves from the people who perpetrate such heinous and seemingly evil crimes. We often say, “What could possibly drive a person to do such things”; however, we often don’t really reflect on it as much as we just ask the question. Perhaps we the question is a part of our process to make sense of it all, but the reality is we cannot make sense of it. This often leads us to a place where we dehumanize the perpetrator and label him or her as evil.

But the reality is far more complex than that. It is true that such acts are evil, yet are the people themselves evil? Were they born differently that you or I? Are they just “bad seeds” who were evil from the very beginning? Or are they, themselves, victims? Are they people who were crying out for help but never received any? Are they people who slipped through the cracks, for one reason or another, and unfortunately ended up spreading their misery, pain and suffering to other people?

These reflective and probing questions are not being asked to make light of what they did. Nor are they being posed to take away from the real pain, suffering, and misery they’ve caused countless people. Rather, these questions are calling us to be quick to show compassion, resolute in seeking understanding, and slow to make judgment.

These questions are ultimately asked in order to get us to reflect on an often tough, but necessary, question: What more can we do? What steps can we take to spread hope, healing, and wholeness to those in need. That is not to say that we can always prevent such things from happening; however, it is a constructive way of working toward a solution as opposed to pointing the finger at someone and calling them the devil. Christ has called us to love all people, including those wishing to harm us, and to avoid judgment. Perhaps working toward helping people struggling with inner pain and turmoil is one way we can carry that call out.


“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” – Unknown


Lord, use me in a way that brings love to those I may otherwise deem as unlovable, as we are all your children. Amen.