IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL
You are married to the love of your life, you have five beautiful children, you are at the pinnacle of your career, and your savings account is abundant. Everything you want or need is at your disposal. Under circumstances like that, it is easy to say, “It is well with my soul”.
But what if, not once, not twice, but several times, tragedy struck? What if, by no fault of your own, life as you knew it was turned upside down?
Horatio Spafford was a devout Christian, a prominent Chicago lawyer, and a successful businessman. Spafford, being a wealthy man, had invested much of his riches in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. He and his wife, Anna, had four beautiful daughters, and one son. To the Spafford’s, life was not only good, it was blessed. But no matter how great our faith, it does not spare us from adversity.
In 1870, just as Horatio was at the peak of his career and financial success, the Spafford’s faith was tested by tragedy. Their four year old son, Horatio Jr., succumbed to scarlet fever, leaving the parents devastated.
The following year, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of Chicago and most of Spafford’s holdings, leaving their finances nearly depleted. Fortunately, their home had been saved.
In 1973 the Spaffords planned a trip to Europe, hoping to put behind the tragic loss of their son and the fire. The day they were to set sail, Horatio had a business emergency and could not leave. Not wanting to disappoint his wife and daughters, he sent them on ahead and promised to join them in a few days.
While under way, the steamer Ville du Havre was struck by a British iron sailing ship, the Lockhearn. It only took the Villa du Havre twelve minutes to sink. Only 81 of the 307 passengers and crew members survived the tragic shipwreck. Anna was one of the survivors plucked from the sea by the crippled Lockhearn crew. An American cargo ship, the Trimountain, arrived in time to save the survivors of the Ville du Havre and the the Lockhearn. Anna was taken to Cardiff, Wales where she immediately telegraphed her husband. The message was brief and heartbreaking…”Saved alone. What shall I do?” As soon as Horatio received the telegram, he immediately left Chicago to bring his wife home.
Sailing across the Atlantic, the captain of the ship called Horatio to the bridge. “A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked.”
That night, in his cabin, Horatio G. Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”. Although he was grief-stricken, his faith in God never faltered.
Following their reunion in Europe, Horatio and Anna returned to Chicago to once again, begin their lives. They were blessed with three children. In 1876 their son was born and they named him Horatio. Not as a namesake for his father, but for their lost son. When little Horatio reached the age of four, just as his brother before him, he died from scarlet fever.
Horatio and Anna decided to leave their home in America and settled in Jerusalem. There, they served the needy, cared for the sick, helped the poor, and took in homeless children. Their desire was to show the love of Jesus to those in need.
Famous hymn composer, Philip Bliss (1838-1876), was so moved by Horatio’s prose, that he composed the peaceful tune to accompany the words.
To think how such comforting words were born from the depths of such unimaginable sorrow is truly inspiring. God doesn’t always prevent tragedy, but He is always there to guide us through it.
It Is Well With My Soul
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.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
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.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.