The story behind the hymn, It Is Well with My Soul

February 25, 2024

Today at church we sang one of my favourite hymns, It Is Well with My Soul. I've always loved the song, but never considered the magnitude of its lyrics until the leader read their history aloud to the congregation.

It Is Well with My Soul was written after several traumatic events in Horatio Spafford’s life.

  • The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him (he was a lawyer) financially.
  • In 1873, Horatio had planned to travel to Europe with his family via boat, but sent them ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship and all four of his daughters died. Only his wife Anna survived. Shortly afterwards, as Horatio traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the song's words as the ship he was on passed near where his daughters had died.
  • The family later had three more children, one of whom (a son) died in infancy.
  • In 1881, the Spaffords, with two babies, set sail for Israel. They moved to Jerusalem and helped found a missionary group called the American Colony. The group later became the subject of a Nobel prize-winning book.

So, to recap their lives as parents: eight children born, six of whom died young.

I can't even fathom it.

To have the patience, hope and trust that this father had, despite the horrific circumstances he endured is a wondrous inspiration.

The original hymn manuscript penned by Horatio Spafford
The original hymn manuscript penned by Horatio Spafford

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 know,
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!

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.