It Is Well With My Soul
Those who know me would know at a glance that this is the title of one of my favorite hymns of the church. What also excites me are the stories behind the song that inspired the author to pen such beautiful lyrics. Perhaps the title, “It is Well with My Soul,” is an affirmation to the question we may be asked or we may ask ourselves—is it well with my soul?
There are times and situations in all of our lives when things happen and we feel that we cannot function any longer and somehow the Lord, with the help of our fellow believers, helps us through and we rejoice again.
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.”
The words were written during the tragic times in the life of Horatio G. Spafford. Spafford, father of five children, was an exceptional man. He built a successful law firm in Chicago following the Civil War. Deeply spiritual, he spent time daily studying the Word of God. He also was friends with some of the most influential Christian leaders of his time, such as D. L. Moody and Phillip Bliss, an influential evangelist who wrote some of the greatest hymns of that time. These men helped Spafford through many difficult times during his life. His only son, just a lad, contracted pneumonia and died, the first of many tragedies.
As an attorney for doctors, Spafford became wealthy, investing much in property along Lake Michigan. On this property he owned several large buildings which were destroyed in the great Chicago fire.
Dr. Bliss continually encouraged Spafford to go to Great Britain to assist D. L. Moody in his meetings. After the great fire he agreed and made preparations to go with his wife and four daughters. Although he had great anticipation of going to Europe, something came up at the last moment, causing Horatio to stay home while his family went ahead.
After three or four days at sea, a dense fog smothered the ship, causing it to wreck. Spafford received a telegram describing the event. The ship went down in twelve minutes, and surprisingly, most of the passengers survived. However, only his wife was among them. His four daughters were lost.
Spafford sailed on the next available ship to Europe to join his lonely wife. During that voyage he was inspired to write his greatest work and testimony, “It Is Well with My Soul.” As he stood on the deck of the ship talking to God and viewing the approximate place that his daughters perished, the words of this song came to his heart:
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.
There is such insight in the lyrics of the third stanza:
My sin—O, 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.
Finally, as he envisioned being with his children again in heaven, he wrote:
And Lord, haste the day when the 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.
Horatio Spafford sent the words back to Dr. Phillip Bliss, who gracefully put music to these heartfelt words.
We all experience trials, perhaps even tragedy. But if we keep our vision on Jesus, we all can say, as Horatio Spafford wrote, “It Is Well with My Soul.”
Pastor Jake StirnemannJuly 1, 2019