It Is Well With My Soul

By BIll Spaans

In John 14: 27 Jesus says:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. 

These are wonderful words of assurance from the Saviour of our souls.  And it is easy to experience this peace when things are going well. But it can be more challenging when we face difficulties. Such was the case for Horatio Spafford, who wrote the lyrics to the beautiful hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”. 

The words of this hymn are as follows:

  1. “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”
  2. “Though Satan should buffet, though trial should come; Let this blest assurance control; That Christ has regarded my helpless estate; and has shed His own blood for my soul”

Refrain: “It is well (it is well); With my soul (with my soul); It is well, it is well with my soul.”

  • “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought; My sin, not in part, but the whole; Is nailed to the corss, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

The backstory to this hymn is a testament to the author’s abiding faith. Horatio Spafford was a successful attorney who lost most of his worldly possessions in the great Chicago fire of 1871.  About the same time his four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Thinking that a vacation would be good for his young family, Horatio booked passage for his wife Anna and four daughters on a French ocean liner, Ville du Havre, headed for England, with the promise that he would follow later, once he had attended to some business matters.  

Tragically, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean the Ville du Havre collided with another sea vessel, the Loch Earn. The Ville du Havre sank with a loss of 200 lives.  Of Horatio Spafford’s family only his wife Anna survived.  Their four daughters were among those who went down with the ship.

Upon hearing of the tragedy Horatio booked passage on the next available ship to England, to join his grieving wife.  When Horatio was crossing the Atlantic the captain of the ship called him to his cabin and pointed out that they were approached the approximate spot where the tragedy had occurred.  Amazingly Horatio penned the words to the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” while he was on this ship headed to England!

Hard times, and sometimes tragedy, comes to us all.  May we find Christ’s peace in those circumstances and be able to say with Horatio Spafford “it is well with my soul”.

P.S. Additional details for this story are available on the internet.  The YouTube video “It Is Well With My Soul:  Historical Origins of the Hymn & the Tune” is well worth watching.