It Is Well With My Soul

Written by Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), Composed by Philip P. Bliss (1836-1876)

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.

One of the main reasons that It Is Well With My Soul is one of my favorite hymns is because of the powerful, emotional, inspiring story behind it. This isn’t just an old song with nice, King James words in it. This song, to me, seems like an act of trust in the Lord. Let me show you what I mean:

Horatio G. Spafford couldn’t have been happier—he had a wife, Anna Spafford, and five children: four daughters and one son. He was blessed with a successful job as a lawyer in Chicago. But, most importantly, Horatio was a strong believer in the Lord and a devout reader of the Scriptures. His friends included some of the other great Christians remembered today, such as Dwight L. Moody. It is easy to trust and serve God joyfully when the waters in life are docile, but Horatio’s faith and love for His Heavenly Father were about to be truly tested, for tragedy was lying over the horizon.

Spafford’s only son was stricken with scarlet fever and, at four years of age, died. The family grieved their loss. Close in proximity with the timing of this event, all of the real estate that Horatio owned was lost in the Great Chicago Fire. Life had become grave and hard, but the storms weren’t over. In order to take his family’s mind off of their boy’s death, Spafford planned a boat trip to Europe. Some urgent business came up at the last minute for Horatio, so he sent his wife and girls on ahead of him to visit some family. Days after their departure, he received a distressing telegram from his wife: “SAVED ALONE,” it read. His family’s ship had collided with a steamboat, and his four daughters had drowned. A lifeboat had spotted Anna and rescued her.

Upon getting this devastating news, Horatio went to Europe to be with his mourning wife. In his boat cabin on the trip there, he wrote the famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. Dwight L. Moody and another one of Spafford’s friends were in the area doing a crusade, so they dropped by to offer their comfort to the grieved couple. They were surprised to see that, despite their pain, they were saying, “It is well with my soul.”

Philip P. Bliss was so impacted by those words that Spafford had written that he put them to music. He performed the song in front of an audience of ministers that Dwight L. Moody hosted. A month later, Bliss and his wife died in a train wreck. The Spaffords had three more children: two daughters and a son. This son, once again, died from scarlet fever when he was four years old. After this tragedy, the family moved from Chicago to Jerusalem, Israel, where they remained. Horatio’s song still reminds countless believers today that whatever the circumstances may be, with Jesus on our side, we can still say, “It is well with my soul.”

I am always so inspired by stories such as that of Horatio G. Spafford. They really make you wonder, “How would I have handled that situation? Would I have really praised the Lord and responded in the same way, saying that “It is well with my soul?” I have such a great respect for the mighty men and women of God that endured hardships, trials, persecution, and tribulation all for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, leaving such a testimony and legacy for us to follow. I pray that, whatever I go through in life, I will always say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

When you comment today, tell me: Which stories of great Christian men and women inspire you? Another one of my favorites is the story of the ten Boom family! Who knows? There may be a future post including them. =)

Your friend, Marjorie

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. {James 1:2-3 NLT}


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