"It Is Well With My Soul"

Dear Friends,

I first heard about the life of Horatio Spafford at a Ladies' Day I attended in May, and then I read about him the following month in John Ortberg's book, 'Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you'.  Some of you may be familiar with the story but even if you are, it's one that's worth retelling.

Horatio Spafford was a committed Christian and a wealthy lawyer in Chicago in the 1800s.  He and his wife, Anna, had five children.  In 1870 their only son died of scarlet fever, aged just four years.  A year later, the estate holdings Horatio had invested in were destroyed in the great Chicago Fire.

In 1873 Horatio decided that he and his family needed a holiday to help them recover from these traumatic events.  They were to travel the Atlantic Ocean from New York to England.  At the last minute Horatio had to stay behind to deal with business but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead of him, agreeing to join them as soon as he could.

On the voyage the ship Anna and her daughters were journeying on collided with another ship.  Within minutes  their ship sank.  Many died.  Some days later Horatio received a telegram from his wife in Wales with the words "Saved alone."

Horatio boarded the next ship he could so he could join his wife.  During the journey the ship's captain called him to the bridge of the ship and told him that they were passing over the place where it was believed the ship carrying his wife and daughters had sunk.

I cannot begin to imagine the horror of all that Horatio and his wife experienced.  I wonder what my reaction would have been - they had lost everything.  Yet, Horatio's response was to praise God as he wrote the hymn. "It is well with my soul".  (I've included the words of this hymn at the end of this post)

Job was a man in the bible who underwent similar trials, yet because of his faith in God he was able to say “But he [God] knows where I am going.  And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold." Job 23:10 (NLT)

In Genesis we have the account of Joseph who suffered at the hands of his family, yet he was able to say to his brothers when he was reunited with them "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good."  Genesis 50:20 (NLT)

The psalmist wrote in Psalm 42:11 "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." (ESV)

Paul wrote to the to the Christians in Corinth about his experiences: "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed...
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" 2 Corinthians 4:8-9,17 (NLT)

Why were these people able to say and do such things in the midst of such suffering?  Because they focused on God, they chose to trust him despite their circumstances and they knew that this life was not the end for them, they knew that God had guaranteed them an eternity in heaven with him. 

You and I will face suffering and troubles in this life, but if we follow the example of these men and the ultimate example of Jesus then we will be able to say "It is well with my soul."

"And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne." Hebrews 12:1b-2 (NLT) 

To Think About:
What is your initial response when you encounter trials and difficulties?

Why do you think Horatio Spafford was able to respond as he did to personal tragedy?

What will help you to respond as Spafford and the aforementioned people in the bible did?


  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. 
    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. 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.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss 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!
  4. 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.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the 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.
Horatio G. Spafford, 1873


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