Every day you have a choice. And not making that choice IS making a choice.
Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer, a contemporary and friend of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1873, the family doctor recommended a vacation for Mrs. Spafford, so the couple planned a trip to Europe by ship. Just before their departure, a matter came up that changed Mr. Spafford’s plans. Rather than ruining the family vacation, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters on ahead, promising to join them in a few days. Mrs. Spafford and the girls set sail for Europe without him.
On November 22, in a tragic, freak accident, the ship on which the women were traveling was rammed by another vessel and sank in less than half an hour. With the cold, roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean rolling above them, Mrs. Spafford and the girls were tossed from the ship as though they were tiny porcelain dolls. Mrs. Spafford was miraculously rescued, but all four girls drowned in the sea. Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband a stark message: “Saved alone.”
Horatio Spafford bought passage aboard the first ship he could find that was sailing to England. Out on the high seas, the ship passed close to the spot where the accident had claimed the lives of his four daughters. With tears pouring down his face as he looked out over the rolling waves where his daughters had died, Spafford penned these words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It’s the song that Lisa Beamer requested be sung at Todd Beamer’s memorial service on September 16, 2001. It’s the song that went through her mind when she first stepped out of the bus at the crash site in Shanksville on September 17. At that moment Lisa knew that Todd was no longer there, in that field. He was more alive than ever at that very moment, enjoying a reality in heaven more incredible than anything we could hope to imagine on earth. He was in the very presence of God himself! And that heartfelt knowledge changed the devastation of the place into peace. At that moment, without a doubt, Lisa knew that everything she and Todd had believed in and lived for was true.
How about you? Do you know, without a doubt, that everything you believe in is true? Do you live within that hope and confidence? Or do you REACT to circumstances, rather willingly ACT in hope and confidence, even in the midst of difficult and tragic times?
This holiday season, in direct contrast to the festive lights, brilliant reds and greens, and celebratory parties, our nation is also experiencing deep sadness. For the families of those who were killed or left homeless in the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. For the 20 families in Connecticut who expected their young children to be opening their Christmas stockings on Christmas morning and instead looked at photographs of their lost loved ones. For the six families whose adult loved ones, passionate about education and making a difference in the lives of children, were also murdered. And for those still living who were involved in any way in the life of the shooter who are asking themselves, What went wrong? Why didn’t we know he was so troubled? Why didn’t we help?
But there are no easy solutions, no easy answers for fixing such violence other than the fact that weather can be unpredictable and that we, as human beings, have been shown as capable of violence ever since Cain killed his brother, Abel. As long as we are on this earth, tragedy will occur—whether in the individual life of one family or in the lives of an entire community, town, or our own nation. (For a must-read, don’t miss the just released book Survival & Emergency Preparedness by former SWAT officer Jay Blevins.) But how should we respond?
We can choose—every day—how we will live. One choice is to be an inactive fence sitter: to aimlessly flip TV channels, shaking our heads at the news headlines and wondering what this world has come to, to sink into depression or anger or anxiety, choosing to believe that we can do nothing (Satan’s greatest tool is discouragement) to change our corner of the world. Another choice is to trust in God (the only true and lasting answer for our hurting world) in the midst of difficult and tragic times, and that he loves his creation and has a plan, and that YOU are a big part of that plan. Your individual, God-given talents are necessary and needed on this planet. You CAN make a difference, one life at a time if you set your compass toward that goal and never stray from the path.
The road ahead is uncertain...and, yes, even scary. But how you respond to life is your choice.
Ramona Cramer Tucker has been on the cutting-edge of publishing for over 29 years, in a wide variety of positions, including: Senior Editor, Tyndale House Publishers; Editorial Director, Harold Shaw Publishers (now WaterBrook/Random House); Editor, Today's Christian Woman magazine and Executive Editor, Virtue magazine (Christianity Today, International); and as a freelancer for Simon & Schuster, Random House, Viking-Penguin, Zondervan, Nelson, Baker/Revell, InterVarsity, David C. Cook, Howard, Barbour, Summerside/Guideposts, and other publishers. She is Adjunct Faculty for the English Department at Wheaton College and the cofounder and Editorial Director of OakTara (www.oaktara.com).