'It Is Well With My Soul'

By Lucy Adams | Jul 21, 2014

The Spafford family was excited about their family vacation. They would travel from Chicago to Europe in the fall of 1873.  However, when the time came, business matters in his law firm prevented Mr. Spafford from accompanying the family. He planned to join them as soon as possible.

Anna Spafford and their four daughters kissed him goodbye and settled in on the beautiful French steamer, the Ville du Havre, for the exciting journey.  As the ship slipped out of port, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie and baby Bessie waved goodbye to their father. But that would be the last time he saw them.

On Nov. 22, an English shipping vessel struck the hull of the ship that carried the Spaffords.  It was cut apart and sank quickly.  The girls were swept into the icy waters of the Atlantic with 226 other passengers and were never found.

Their mother was rescued along with other survivors.  They were taken to Cardiff, Wales, where she wired her husband a brief but heart-wrenching message: “Saved alone.”

He left immediately to join his wife.  As his ship neared the spot where the tragedy had occurred, Haratio Spafford prayed. His words were written in poem form and have become the well-known hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”  In his time of grief, this broken-hearted father spoke to his Lord, whom he had grown to love and trust.

“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 beautiful music that has carried Spaffords’ prayerful message all around the world was composed by friend and outstanding musician Phillip Bliss a few years after the poem was written.

The Spafford family had also experienced grief in the 1871 Chicago fire that destroyed all of their possessions. And again in 1880 when their only son died of scarlet fever.

The strong faith of Horatio Spafford has become a part of other peoples’ growth as a Christian. It is a great witness to the power of a loving God who can heal the brokenhearted.

Several years after these life-changing events, the Spaffords followed a dream to study biblical arachaeology in the Holy Land. They built the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.  After her husband’s death in 1888, Mrs. Spafford decided to continue living in that new homeland.

A daughter, Bertha Spafford Vester, wrote in her book, “Our Jerusalem,”“My parents established a community that welcomed travelers to Jerusalem like an oasis in the desert.”  Today, the Spafford Children Center is another vital Christian ministry of love in the heart of Jerusalem.

We are thankful that God gives enduring comfort as we sing, “It Is Well With My Soul” and remember the bedrock promise — “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Comments (3)
Posted by: Char Avrunin | Jul 23, 2014 09:24

Moving article. Thank you!

Posted by: Melinda Joyner | Jul 23, 2014 09:29

Reading this the first thing in the morning, uplifted my day's beginning!  Thank you.  Melinda Bramlett Joyner

Posted by: Rachel Robles | Jul 23, 2014 10:21

Growing up, this was (and still is) one of my favorite hymns. I really enjoyed reading the story behind it! I hate that such a tragic turn of events prompted the creation of such a beautiful hymn, but it definitely gives it more meaning. If Horatio Spafford can say "It is well with my soul" after losing most of his family, how can I not say it when dealing with the everyday struggles of life?


Thank you, Lucy :-)

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