Hope in Times of Failure

responding to failure Jun 11, 2018

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

In the booming Chicago of the 1860s, there lived a young Christian family of six whose patriarch was a prominent lawyer and investor. All was going well for the young man and his family until the Great Chicago Fire destroyed much of his real estate. The loss was significant, but it paled in comparison to the tragedy the man would experience just two years later when his wife and daughters were in a shipwreck as they sailed from New York to England. All four daughters died in the crash. Upon arriving in England, the mother telegrammed her husband in Chicago. “Saved alone,” she said.

The husband left Chicago right away, sailing off to England to meet his grieving wife. We don’t know much about his journey across the Atlantic, but I have to imagine the man spent his days alone, grieving his loss and questioning his God. I can see him staring out the window at the sea, reading the biblical account of Job, a man like him who had been blessed with so much, only to see it all taken away from him in the blink of an eye. We don’t know much about what happened on that ship, but we do know this: As the ship crossed over the spot where the man’s daughters were now resting in peace, Horatio Spafford wrote these words:

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

Spafford had a hope that wasn’t rooted in himself, his ability to push through his suffering, or even the fact that his wife miraculously survived the crash and was waiting for him across the sea. No, as his classic hymn shows us, Spafford’s hope was rooted in something far deeper: Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. As he wrote in verse two:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

As he was sailing across the ocean mourning the loss of his children, Spafford was writing about the cross. Why? Because his hope was rooted in a God who understood his pain, a God who watched His own innocent Son die on a cross and used that event for His glory and our eternal good.

The trials you and I face personally and professionally will almost certainly pale in comparison to Spafford’s. But our source of hope is the same. If you lose your job, if you’re late to ship your newest product, if you’re forced to lay-off an employee, even if your endeavor fails entirely, you can look to the cross as Spafford did and say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.” Romans 8:28 reminds us that “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” As we go about taking risks to create culture, failure and adversity are inevitable. But we, like Spafford, have hope that God is working everything for His glory and our good.


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