I just read the story of Horatio Spafford, the writer of a hymn learned from my mother as a child, “It is well with my soul” and thought it is so impactful, I just have to give an abbreviated summary. This is the story of loving and losing and in spite of it all having the faith in God to know that although He is the one who gives good things to us, he can at His perfect will take. But although much was taken from this man of God; even as he faced the ultimate loss in his life, he was able to write the following hymn which has assisted many of us in our times of sorrow or pensiveness before Christ. If you were in this man’s position, would your reaction be one of trust in God or would you rail at your Father in heaven as you try to deal with your pain and sorrow? I might faint in my solitude, but maybe you have the faith to abide totally in what God is doing in our lives.
Abbreviated Summary behind “It is well with my soul” hymnal by Horatio Spafford indicates that in 1870 Horatio and his wife Anna four years old son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever. Additionally, in October of 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire broke out Horatio faced another test of his faith. A few months before the Great Chicago Fire, Spafford being a wealthy man, had invested much of his wealth in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. Not only did the Great Chicago Fire destroy most of Chicago but most of Spafford’s holdings were destroyed although their home had been spared.
In 1873 Anna Spafford’s health was failing and hoping to put behind the tragic loss of their son and the fire and to benefit Anna’s health, the Spaffords planned a trip to Europe. The Spaffords planed to leave in November on their voyage to Europe. As sometimes happens, God had other plans for Horatio G. Spafford. The day they were to sail for Europe Spafford had a business emergency and could not leave. Not wanting to disappoint his wife Anna and their daughters he sent them on ahead and planned to follow on another ship in a few days. On November 22, 1873 the steamer Ville du Havre was struck by a British iron sailing ship, the Lockhearn. The steamer Ville du Havre, with Anna Spafford and her daughters aboard, sank within twelve minutes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Only 81 of the 307 passengers and crew members survived this tragic shipwreck.
Anna Spafford was taken to Cardiff, Wales where she telegraphed her husband Horatio. Anna’s cable was brief and heartbreaking, “Saved alone. What shall I do…” Horatio and Anna’s four daughters had drowned. As soon as he received Anna’s telegram, Horatio left Chicago without delay to bring his wife home. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean the captain of the ship called Horatio to the bridge. He informed Horatio that “A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.” That night, alone in his cabin Horatio G. Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Horatio’s faith in God never faltered. He later wrote Anna’s half-sister, “On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.”
Excerpt taken from Horation Spafford bio..
Hymn by Horatio G. Spafford
- 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.