It Is Well

I love the old hymns with a story or a personal experience that inspired the writing of the hymn.  “It Is Well With My Soul” was written by Horatio Spafford in the 1800s.  

“Horatio and Anna’s only son, Horatio Jr., died of Scarlet Fever at the tender age of four. The following year, while still mourning the loss of their son, every single one of Horatio’s investments were lost in the Great Chicago fire.

A few years later, aware of the toll these events had taken on his wife and four daughters, Horatio decided to take the family on a holiday to England where they would accompany his friend, the famous evangelist D. L. Moody, on his next crusade. Shortly before they were to set sail, a last minute business development threatened to derail the trip. Horatio persuaded his wife to go ahead saying he would follow along shortly.

In November 1873, Anna and the girls boarded the French ship, Ville du Havre. Four days into their trans-Atlantic journey, Horatio received the devastating news that the Ville du Havre had collided with the Lock Earn, an iron-hulled vessel. The Ville du Havre sunk in 12 minutes taking with her the lives of 226 of her passengers. It was the worst disaster in naval history until the sinking of the H.M.S. Titanic forty years later.

Several days later when the survivors had reached Cardiff, Wales, Spafford received a brief, six word telegram from his wife: Saved alone. What shall I do?

As soon as possible, Horatio boarded a ship to join his grieving wife. En route to England, the captain called him to the bridge and said, “a careful reckoning has been made, and I believe we are now passing the very area where the Ville du Havre sunk.” According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, her father 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

Horatio and Anna’s faith in God never faltered. He later wrote to 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….. dear lambs”.

Naturally Anna was utterly devastated, but she testified that in her grief and despair, she had been conscious of a soft voice speaking to her, “You were saved for a purpose!” She remembered something a friend had once said, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”  

It’s incredible to think such encouraging and uplifting words were born from the depths of such unimaginable sorrow. It’s an example of truly inspiring faith and trust in the Lord. Perhaps that’s why this hymn, like no other, demonstrates the power our God has to comfort our weary souls when the darkest tragedies overtake us.”  The above from

God uses this hymn to touch my heart every time I hear it.  I guess one reason is because I was going through some difficult spiritual trials when our church would sing this song. Many years later when I hear it, I think of those trials, but I am also reminded of the comfort He provided.  God’s comfort is often expressed in seemingly insignificant, everyday occurrences.  His hand is comforting us, but we may not realize it is Him.  In the same way He may use us to comfort others.  

Anna’s friend told her to, “…take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”  

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes!)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

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