It Is Well with My Soul

We sang this song at FUSE this weekend, and I absolutely love it.  Someone told me tonight about the story behind this hymn written in 1873.  It's hard to imagine anyone writing something like this after such a tragedy in their life...

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful businessman in Chicago in the late 1860s, heavily invested in real estate along the shores of Lake Michigan. The disastrous Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his holdings. He immediately worked to rebuild the city and assist the many that were left homeless.

In 1873 he arranged to take his family to Europe. He was close to D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey and planned to attend their evangelistic meetings in England, then take a vacation. At the last minute, urgent business kept him home, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the S.S. Ville du Havre, planning to soon follow.

The night of November 22, 1873, the Ville du Havre, was struck by an English iron sailing vessel, the Lochearn. The ship sank in 12 minutes. Of the 273 people on board, only 47 of them survived. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Their four daughters did not survive. When she reached Cardiff, Wales, she cabled home, "Saved alone, what shall I do?"

Grief-stricken, Horatio immediately started to Europe to join his wife. En route, the captain pointed out the place where he believed the Ville du Havre had gone down. Returning to his cabin, he wrote, "It is well; the will of God be done." He later wrote the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul", based on these words.

Although Spafford in his hymn tells of the comfort that God gives, no matter the circumstance, he does not dwell on tragedy. In the third stanza he directs our attention on Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, and in stanza four, anticipates His Second Coming. As we through faith understand these things, we too can say, "It is well with my soul."

It Is Well With My Soul

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 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 has 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!

And Lord, haste the day when my 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.


Emil said...

i heard this story a few years back and it brought me to tears...such a good one.

Julie Hibbard said...

I have always had a really hard time singing this song. I'm not sure if it will ever really be well with my soul.
I SO want it to be.

ambrosia said...

This song always ALWAYS makes me cry... I want to have that kind of faith, that kind of trust and perspective...