“It it well with my soul” has always been a favorite of mine. Some of my earliest memories are of singing it with my grandma. But until today, I never knew the story behind it. I just assumed that it was a verse from scripture but how wrong I was.
The song was written by a man named Horatio G. Spafford. Spafford has a beautiful wife and 5 children. At a young age, his son died from pneumonia. That same year, much of Spafford’s business lost in the Chicago fires of 1871. His family continued to praise God and eventually the business recuperated. Two years later, the family traveled to Europe by ship. The original plan was for the all to travel together. However, due to a last minute complication with his business, Mr. Spafford stayed behind telling his family that he would just be a few days behind them.
Tragically, four days in to the families voyage, the ship collided with another cause the ship to sink. All child died in the wreck leaving only the wife. A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted her floating on a piece of the wreckage. He pulled her into the boat and they later were picked up by a larger vessel which eventually landed them in Cardiff, Wales. She got word to her husband about the tragedy and he immediately headed out to join her.
About four days into his voyage, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down. It is said that this is where he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul”
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.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul
Learning this history and backstory made a lasting impression on me. I can not even begin to wrap my head around the grieve, pain and heartache losing one child much less 5 children bears. And somehow in that immense sorrow, he was able to trust God and declare peace over his heart.
This song has such a new found meaning and power to it. I always thought the words “It is well” literally meant everything was good. But how wrong I was. They mean that even in the midst of chaos, death, tragedy, catastrophe, we can declare “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). It was a beautiful and needed reminder that no situation is too big or small that His peace can not cover.