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.
How often have you sung these words? Do they mean something to you? Are you really able to say that it is well with your soul whether you are in a time of peace or a time of sorrow?
This song often brings tears to my eyes when I contemplate the depth of its meaning. The writer of this hymn felt these words with all his heart. Have you ever heard the story behind the hymn–the story of Horatio Spafford’s inspiration to write it?
“This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.” Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.”
How many of us, after suffering so much loss, could sit down and write these words – words that express complete trust in the Lord and His will?
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
Spafford found genuine comfort in his relationship with Christ. He lost much in this world – his fortune, much of his family. I’m not saying he was completely unshaken by these losses, but the words he penned indicate that he did not stop trusting the Lord with his life. Despite the loss and pain he suffered, he continued to find joy in Christ.
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!
How often do we let our petty problems obscure our trust in the Lord? We doubt Him when things get tough in life, but those are the times we desperately need Him. Do we have a faith that can survive the loss of everything dear to us and yet say, “It is well with my soul?” What is our hope really placed in? Friends? Family? Money? Happiness? Or is our hope rooted in Someone deeper and more lasting than any of those things?
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.