Theology Thursday: Hope, an Anchor for the Soul

Dr. Shelley Hogan

river leading toward gathering of birds and horizon

Life is often unpredictable and at any given moment we face times of great joy or great struggle and it can seem that plans we had in place for life are displaced by events beyond our control. For many, this year has been uncertain and unsettling and if we are not careful, this can produce emotional distraught and despair. When the storms of life rage, hope is an antidote for despair and an anchor that holds us in uncertain waters.

Hope Amid Heartache

Reflecting on the impact of hope as an anchor, the words of a timeless hymn resonate within our hearts. The hymn It is Well with My Soul, states:

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.

These words demonstrate the truth that even in trials our souls can be at peace. To understand the full impact, here is the story behind the song. Horatio Spafford, the song's author, was a successful attorney and real estate investor who lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Around the same time, he lost his four-year-old son to scarlet fever.

Thinking a vacation would help, he sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England with plans to join them after he completed business at home. Sadly, tragedy struck when the vessel his family was on sunk. All but 81 of the 307 passengers and crew lost their lives, including Spafford's four daughters. Anna survived and when she arrived in England, she sent a telegram to her husband that began: "Saved alone. What shall I do?"

Horatio immediately set sale for England. Crossing the Atlantic, the captain of the ship called him to the bridge to show him the place where the shipwreck that took his children had occurred. In that moment, the words of this hymn came to his heart and mind.

Hope as an Anchor

This story is just one example of the great provision of grace and hope that God offers to us in times of uncertainty. To access it, we need only to turn our thoughts toward Him. As Paul shared with the church at Philippi, "I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I'm trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ's explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty" (Philippians 4: 12-13).

Hope Assures Help

Be encouraged, no matter what the current circumstances present, keep looking up. God is present in every situation and though the facts may be overwhelming, the truth is God is not surprised or overcome by these trials and He promises peace. Meditate on the words of Psalm 46 and stay anchored in hope.

God, you're such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You're a provided help in time of trouble-more than enough and always available whenever I need you. So, we will never fear even if every structure of support were to crumble away. We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes, moving mountains and casting them into the sea. For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves cannot erode our faith in you (Psalm 46: 1-3).

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