A song that I have grown to love is called, “It is Well with My Soul.” Sounds simple. Sounds easy? Sure. Fact: It’s easier said than done. You might be thinking, “Well, Jaime, sure that’s nice and all, but I’m really dealing with some difficult things right now, and it’s just not easy, or even possible for me to trust God with all of it. I’m anxious and stressed.”
So what does that mean – “It is well with my soul…” I wanted to share the story behind the song, as it left me broken-hearted yet still encouraged when I first heard it. The song was written by Horatio G. Spafford and here is his story…
Horatio was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with his wife, Anna, and their five children. However, they were not unfamiliar with tears and tragedy. Their young son died of pneumonia in 1871, and that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to grow back and thrive.
On Nov. 21, 1873, a French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Mr. Spafford ended up needing to stay in Chicago to solve an unexpected business problem and told his wife he would join her a few days later in Europe.
About four days into crossing the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Anna quickly brought her four children up to the deck. She stood there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that would be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever was coming. The Ville du Harve sank beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic in just 12 minutes, carrying with it 226 of the passengers. The four Spafford children were among the 226 who lost their lives.
A sailor in a small row boat spotted a woman floating on a piece of the debris. The woman turned out to be Anna, Horatio’s wife. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Mr. Spafford took the next available ship to join his grieving wife. According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey…
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
How extraordinary is that story? This song… which often taps on my heart and moves me to tears, has such a deep authenticity of trust put fully in our Lord. In my mind, I imagine Horatio on that boat sobbing, heartbroken, and crying out for God to give him peace. Crying out for God to still his aching heart and rest his anxious mind. I believe God gave Horatio this song and I’m so thankful the story has been passed on over the years. No matter what life throws at you, or has you stuck in right now, God’s going to be there through it all. He won’t leave you hanging or let you take it on alone. We’ve got to remind each other and ourselves to be faithful through our trials and suffering, no matter how difficult and scary they may be.