It Is Well With my Soul

From the book "Lead, Kindly Light"  (Reproduced with kind permission of ‘This England’ magazine)

Horatio G. Spafford (1828 - 1888)

Horatio G. Spafford was known as a sincere, devout Christian. He was the father of four daughters, an active member of the Presbyterian Church and a loyal friend and supporter of D. L. Moody and other evangelical leaders of his day.

Previously a successful lawyer, Spafford was severely affected financially by the great Chicago fire in 1871, which also closely followed the death of his only son. In November 1873, after two years assisting the thousands affected by the fire, Spafford decided to take his entire family to Europe for a holiday, intending also to assist Moody in his evangelistic work once he arrived there.

Unexpectedly detained in Chicago due to urgent business concerns, Spafford decided to send his family ahead, aboard the S.S. Ville du Havre. Midways through the trans-Atlantic voyage, S.S. Ville du Havre was struck by the English vessel Loch Earn and eventually foundered. Spafford's four daughters: Anna, eleven; Maggie, nine; Bessie, seven; and Tanetta, two - were among the 226 who perished in the aftermath. Mrs. Spafford, one of the few who were spared, sent her husband the heart breaking telegram: "Saved alone".

Spafford immediately sailed for England to join his grief-stricken wife. As his ship passed the approximate location where his daughters had drowned, his deep sorrow, mingled with his unwavering faith in God's goodness caused him to compose the following hymn:

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, 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!

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 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.

This hymn reveals a person who had been graced by God to mourn without bitterness, to sorrow without anger, to trust without resentment, to rest in the peace of Christ which surpasses every man's understanding (PHIL 4:6). The remarkable faith exhibited by the author of this hymn is the same precious faith allotted to all the believers (2 PET 1:1) which enables them to believe steadfastly as the author did, that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose (ROM 8:28).