Joy Versus Enjoy (Part 3)

Many have testified about their dark hour of the soul when circumstances threatened to suffocate them, when their joy kept them during some of life’s most horrendous moments.   

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family—a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.

On Nov. 21, 1873, a French ocean liner  was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the liner collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, their liner slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat, and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office. 

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.” Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.

According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey. 

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.

Chorus:

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul 

Anna gave birth to three more children, one of which died at age four with dreaded pneumonia. In August 1881, the Spafford’s moved to Jerusalem. Mr. Spafford died and is buried in that city. Anna would testify to her dying day, “The joy of the Lord has carried me these many years, and I am reminded that it is joy that holds me steady when circumstances threaten to overwhelm me.”

And finally – drum roll – perhaps the premiere verse in the Bible on the subject of joy is found in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Why the repeat? Why the two-time emphasis? 

How are we to rejoice? By choice! And notice that the Apostle Paul said it twice for emphasis- just in case we didn’t get it the first time, or we happened to be going through a tough time. When we don’t feel like rejoicing, we are to make a decision to do so and act on it.

Rejoice in the Greek means to be cheerful, calm, well-off. We are to rejoice in the Lord, so we are to get our cheer from God. He’s our peace, joy, and victory. We are to rejoice in who the Lord is. He is good and He will work well in our lives.

I must admit that my tendency has been to be negative at times, so I sometimes have to work at this. Life can be hard at times, but we must focus on the good and not the bad. If we just focus on and talk about the bad stuff, this puts us in a bad mood and we become very negative, miserable, and unhappy. It steals our faith when we become negative. That’s not what God wants for us. When we choose to focus on and talk about the good things in our lives, it gives us joy and we can hold onto our peace.

We must choose to rejoice in order to serve God with gladness. We do this by focusing on God- on who He is and what He has provided for us. As we focus on this and thank the Lord for the good He has given us, it will help us keep our joy.

The prefix re in the English language means to do something again. So, rejoice means we call our joy back, we become joyful again. As we focus on God and return to our first love, we are able to rejoice. 

Have you allowed life to steal your joy? Get it back! Reclaim it. Again, I say, rejoice!

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