Some music that circles the globe is born out of great sorrow and this hymn is one of them. It happens to be one of my favorites, sung with heart and soul by many musicians. “It is Well with My Soul” moved me to tears after my son died. In fact, I couldn’t listen to any music for months. I was sitting in church when this hymn began to play and I recognized it immediately after a few beginning notes. “Oh, no,” I said to myself as tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks in spite of my attempt to blot them all. Perhaps you remember listening to this one too and have been moved by it. We begin with the story:
“Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.
At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.
In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business.
Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned. Mrs. Spafford was among the few who were miraculously saved. Numb with shock and grief, she sent a telegram to her husband with just 2 words that say it all: “Saved alone . . .”
With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul..
Philip Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many songs including Hold the Fort, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, and Jesus Loves Even Me, was so impressed with Spafford’s life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.”
It is Well with My Soul
(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.
CHORUS: It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
(2) My sin- O the joy 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!
(3) 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.
Once again God reached down to a grieving heart, after shocking trauma, and gives Spafford the calm assurance that he will see his precious children again. In his grief, God gave him the ability to pen words of faith, longing, expectation and hope from blessed promises of Scripture in spite of the horrific tragedy his family has just suffered. In pure Gospel truth the words of this ageless hymn reminds us of the hope we all have in Jesus, who will one day return just as He promised. For more than a century, the tragedy and triumph of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It is Well with My Soul.”
And Jesus said, I Am; and you will [all] see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power (the Almighty) and coming on the clouds of heaven. Mark 14:62
Search YouTube for this beautiful hymn sung by one of my favorite artists, Wintley Phipps.