“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” – Lyrics to It Is Well With My Soul.
Most people have trials in their life. They can be small, or large. Hymns often provide a sense of peace and encouragement to those grieving. “It Is Well With My Soul” certainly does. The second stanza sums it up: “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.” The story behind the hymn is hard to believe and harder to accept.
Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna were active in their church. They counted evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, among their friends. They were blest with five children, and considerable wealth. Horatio was a lawyer, and owned a great deal of property in Chicago. In 1871, the great Chicago fire destroyed all his downtown investment properties. But the tragedy surrounding the hymn didn’t end there. Horatio and Anna returned to Chicago and gave birth to Horatio Spafford who would die at three years old of scarlet fever.
In 1873, he and his family planned a vacation trip to Europe. While in Great Britain, he planned to help his good friend Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey, whom he had financially supported, with their evangelistic tour. Spafford sent his wife and four girls—ages 11, 9, 7 and 2—ahead while he finished up last-minute business in Chicago. Their ship struck another ship and sank within twelve minutes. Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband “Saved alone.”
Spafford writes a poem, reportedly, when traveling past the spot where his daughters died, wrote on the back of a telegram, words that have become a hymn of hope for millions facing sorrow. It is so poignant, so healing, so peaceful.
Spafford’s faith did not rise and lower based on his circumstances or the blessings in his life. It was based on the assurance that God is in control and although trials buffeted has life, he knew his soul was secure in Jesus Christ. Faith like that doesn’t just happen. It results from clinging to God in times of trials and grief.
- What do you like best about the song It Is Well With My Soul? Which parts of the song do you especially identify with? Why?