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It Is Well With My Soul

Image credit: Twicepix via Photopin, CC

By A. Keating:

At some time or another, we all feel overwhelmed by some loss or setback beyond our control. When disaster strikes, it seems to be human nature to dwell on the negative, rather than to look for the silver lining in that cloud that casts a deep shadow on our soul. I’ve been there, and I’ve found that if I turn to introspection, life seems bleak indeed.

It is possible, though, to stay positive no matter what, as many people throughout history have proven. One such person is Horatio Spafford (1828-1888), the author of the well-known hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” That is one of my favorite hymns, in part because of the story behind it.

Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in Chicago. He and his wife Anna, who had one son and four daughters, were good friends of the famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody and his songwriter and composer assistant Ira Sankey.

Shortly before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Spaffords’ son died and the family went into deep mourning. After the fire ravaged the city, Spafford found himself financially ruined. He had invested heavily in downtown Chicago real estate, which was now gone.

Two years later, he decided to take his family to England, where they could vacation and also help Moody and Sankey, who would be holding revival meetings at the time. Spafford booked trans-Atlantic passage for himself and his family on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, but at the last minute was unable to go himself due to business. He sent Anna and their four daughters ahead, and promised to join them shortly.

Mid-Atlantic, the Ville Du Havre collided with another ship and it sank within 12 minutes. Anna was rescued from a floating piece of debris, but their daughters Tanetta, Maggie, Annie, and Bessie were among the 226 people who lost their lives that day. When Anna arrived in Wales, she sent a telegraph to her husband that began “Saved alone.”

Spafford booked passage on the next ship heading to England. As the ship crossed the area where his daughters had died, the words to a song began to come to him. He left the deck and went to his cabin, where he penned the lyrics to the hymn that has since soothed many desolate souls. Every time I hear it, I am reminded of Horatio Spafford’s example of faith and trust in the face of unspeakable loss, and I can’t help but feel ashamed for the times I’ve bemoaned my losses, which were nothing compared to his. Then I say, along with him, “It is well with my soul.”


It Is Well with My Soul

Lyrics by Horatio Spafford; music by Philip Bliss

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.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (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 hath 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 His 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.


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.



“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”–Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

Photo credit: Twicepix via Photopin, CC

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