In The Life of D.L. Moody, William R. Moody (D.L.’s son) records his father’s reflections on his experience aboard the Spree, a passenger ship that was to take him from London to New York. At some point in the voyage, the Spree’s drive shaft broke, putting a hole in the hull. The ship began to sink. Dwight Moody describes the experience:
“The officers and crew did all that they could to save the vessel. But it was soon found that the pumps were useless, for the water poured into the ship too rapidly to be controlled. There was nothing more in the power of man to do, and the ship was absolutely helpless, while the passengers could only stand still on the poor, drifting, sinking ship and look into our possible watery graves.”
After several more days on the ship, the situation seemed increasingly dire and Mr. Moody entered what he called “the darkest hour of my life.” Yet, even in that dark hour, Dwight Moody turned to God. It was in that moment that he found peace:
“I could not endure it. I must have relief, and relief came in prayer. God heard my cry, and enabled me to say, from the depth of my soul, ‘Thy will be done!’ Sweet peace came to my heart. Let it be Northfield or Heaven, it made no difference now. I went to bed, fell asleep almost immediately, and never slept more soundly in all my life. Out of the depths I cried unto my Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears. I can no more doubt that God gave answer to my prayer for relief than I can doubt my own existence.”
In reflecting on Moody’s experience at sea, I am reminded that God is with us in the midst of our troubles, and that He is not constrained by our troubles. His limits are never challenged. There is never a moment when there is nothing more He can do. God works beyond the possibilities we can imagine.
The problems of the world are not ours to solve, but to navigate faithfully.
As we continue moving through the current pandemic and its inevitable aftermath, there will be moments when all will seem lost. We are going to be uncomfortable, sad, frustrated, and confused. We will be dealing with a complex problem that will resist our best solutions. Yet, it is in our weakness that God’s strength shines through. Those who place their faith in Christ will embrace life with what I refer to in Thinking Christian as humble strength. Rather than disengaging from the world around us, “when our disposition is one of humble strength, we recognize that the problems of the world are not ours to solve, but to navigate faithfully.” Our role as members of Christ’s body is to face life’s challenges in God’s strength.
What does that mean? At the very least it means that we do battle with the right enemy. When facing an epidemic like COVID-19, we are not simply seeking to find a cure or care for those who are ill. We are fighting against anxiety and fear. We are fighting against a perspective that gives glory to the realms of politics, science, and medicine so as not to give glory to God. We are fighting to show the world the difference Christ’s resurrection makes to the way we live our lives. That fight is won by those who put on the armor of God and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.
A prayer for peace in times of trouble
Lord, give Your people Your peace that we may shine brightly in a dark world. Grant us the courage to live faithfully even in the midst of hard times. Let our fear of You be the beginning of wisdom rather than allowing the fear of the world to drive our actions. Help us to embrace our heavenly citizenship and live strangely in the midst of a world that needs to know You.
Show Your mercy and heal those who are suffering in Your fallen creation. Most of all Lord, come. Restore the world You have made and make all things new. We pray that Your will would be done. Amen.
Notes: Though pumps could not keep up with the water entering the hull breach, watertight compartments kept the Spree afloat, her stern just above the water line. She was still without power, and, in these days before radio communication, unable to send out an SOS. She was eventually spotted by another steamship and towed into port. Only one life was lost—a panicked passenger who jumped overboard.
D.L. Moody was mentioned in a poem written about the Spree: http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-foundering-of-the-steamer-spree
JAMES SPENCER, PHD is President the D.L. Moody Center, an independent non-profit organization based in Northfield, MA, and author of Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody and Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind
Photo credit: Ray Bilcliff