What a Friend

Ever have a flashback while singing a certain song? I often find myself singing a song and reflecting back on times that God used that particular song in my life, or remembering a special *event* from the past connected to that song. (I will always remember singing "We've Come This Far By Faith" as the first choir anthem after we helped begin a new church over 20 years ago, and I can't sing "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" without remembering commitment services at BMA camp all the summers of my youth.) But occasionally, I will hear or sing a song and feel as though I've literally gone back in time as the the thoughts and emotions from the past come flooding back.

This morning was one of those times. We began to sing a hymn, and I went from simply singing in the worship service, to being transported back in time. The problem was...I wasn't sure *what* time. I knew I suddenly felt a rush of emotions sweeping over me, remembering God using this hymn very powerfully at a difficult time in my life, but I couldn't place *when*. I vaguely remembered singing it in choir not long after my dad died....but I knew that was not the situation I was thinking of. Then suddenly, as we began to sing the third verse, it all came back. Not quite a year ago, during one of the most difficult Sunday mornings of my life. As we sang "Even when my heart is breaking, He, my comfort, helps my soul," I remembered tears streaming down my face as I struggled to choke the words out through my quivering chin and breaking voice. I remembered clinging to those words like a lifeline that day and through difficult days following.

Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.


Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a Strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.


Jesus! what a Help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul.


Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.


Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.


~J. Wilbur Chapman

I learned to love *hymn stories* from my dad. The words of a beloved hymn can certainly stand alone, but how much more meaningful are the words to "It is Well With My Soul" knowing that they were penned as Horatio G. Spafford was crossing the ocean at the exact spot where his four daughters perished at sea? After singing this song this morning, I decided to look up the story behind it. When J. Wilbur Chapman wrote this song in 1910, he was no stranger to sorrow. His mother died when he was 13. He lost his first wife just a month after the birth of their first child. His second wife, and mother of four more children, died three years before the writing of this song. In 1909, Chapman took a stand that made him quite unpopular in some circles, demanding that all missionaries who doubted the inerrancy of Scripture be recalled home at once. He apparently experienced a series of failures in his otherwise incredible evangelistic career during 1909 and 1910, and endured serious health problems from 1902 until his death in 1918 (although he continued to preach throughout those years.)

What an amazing blessing to be reminded that no matter what storm we are experiencing, Jesus is truly our Comfort, our Guide, our Keeper, and our Pilot, and to know that "More than all" in Him we will find.

1 comment:

Joyful Days said...

I love this song!!

Looking at the stories behind the songs is always eye-opening.