Victory In The Face Of Defeat (Part 1)

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:  it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.  ~~C. S. Lewis

I Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

The enemy wants you defeated.  God wants you to have victory.  It is your own choice as to which side you will let win.  It is much easier to concede defeat.  It takes some effort to have victory in your life, but it is worth every bit of the effort.

Have you heard the story behind the hymn, “It Is Well?”  It is a tremendous story of victory in the face of defeat.

In the late 1860s, Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, lived in a north side suburb of Chicago with their 5 children, Annie, Maggie, Bessie, Tanetta and Horatio, Jr.  Horatio was a lawyer and also a elder in his church.  Their faith was tested in several ways over the next few years.  In 1870, their 4-year-old son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever.  Then in October of 1871, when the great Chicago fire broke out, it destroyed many of Spafford’s holdings.  Anna’s health was not good, and in 1873, to put behind them the tragic death of their son, the fire, and to benefit Anna’s health, the family planned a trip to Europe.  So in November of that year they planned to leave for their trip.  But because of a business emergency, Horatio could not leave with Anna and their daughters, so he sent them ahead and planned to sail on another ship in a few days.

On November 22, 1873, the steamer Anna and her daughters were on was struck by a British ship.  The steamer sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and only 81 of the 307 people on board survived the shipwreck.  Anna survived, but her daughters did not.  The following account is taken from the Christian History Institute.

“Anna Spafford later spoke of being sucked violently downward.  Baby Tanetta was torn from her arms by a collision with some heavy debris, with a blow so violent that Anna’s arm was severely bruised.  She flailed at the water trying to catch her baby.  Anna caught Tanetta’s gown for just a moment before another smashing blow tore the little girl out of her arms forever.  Reaching out again, all she could find was a man’s leg in corduroy trousers.  Anna, barely conscious, was then swirled about in a whirlpool before surfacing near the Loch Earn.  She instinctively clung on to a small plank and the next thing she recalled was the splash of an oar as she lay at the bottom of a small boat.  Bruised and sick, her long hair was matted with salt and her dressing gown shredded.  But the pain in her body was nothing compared to the pain in her heart as she realized that her 4 daughters had been lost in the disaster.  A young male passenger, afloat on a piece of wood, came upon Maggie and Annie, the 2 oldest Spafford children.  At his direction, each girl grasped one of his side pockets as he tried to find a board large enough to support all 3 of them.  After about 30 or 40 minutes in the water, he found a piece of wreckage and struggled to help the 2 young girls climb atop the board.  But as he watched, their weary arms weakened, and he saw their eyes close.  Their lifeless forms floated away from his own fatigue-paralyzed arms.  No clues ever surfaced about the fate of little Bessie.”

When Anna made it to shore, she telegraphed her husband, Horatio.  It stated simply, “Saved alone.”  Horatio immediately left Chicago to bring his wife home.  As they were sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the captain of the ship called Horatio to the bridge when they passed the very place the shipwreck had occurred.  That night, Horatio wrote the words to the famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”  He later wrote to Anna’s half-sister, “On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters 3 miles deep.  But I do not think of our dear ones there.  They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.”

Anna was devastated by her loss.  She was heard saying, “God gave me four daughters.  Now they have been taken from me.  Someday I will understand why.”  In her grief and despair, Anna heard a soft voice speaking to her, “You were saved for a purpose!”  It was then Anna 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.”


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