I’m not necessarily a big hymn fan but I must admit that one of my favorite songs is “It Is Well With My Soul”. If you are unfamiliar with the tune, it is a song of praise and appreciation for peace that reaches the soul. The beauty of the song’s lyrics captivated me the first time I heard it.
A few years ago I learned about the origin of the song. It was written by Horatio Spafford in the late 19th century. Interestingly, Horatio was not a professional musician or poet. He was a lawyer from Chicago with a successful practice, a lovely home, a beautiful wife, and four healthy children. He was a devout believer in Christ and student of The Word. During the high point in his career, the family suffered through the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The family survived but their real estate investments were decimated. They worked tirelessly for two years to serve and minister to the refugees of the fire. Weary from the ordeal, Horatio made arrangements to take his wife and four daughters on a vacation to Europe. Urgent business arose requiring him to stay in the city a little longer so he sent his family ahead. Their ship was struck by another boat at sea and was sunk. His wife was found alive floating on debris. However, all four of his daughters drowned. As he sailed across the ocean to retrieve his wife, the captain called him to his cabin and informed him they were floating above the very spot where his daughters died. It was during this trip he wrote the lyrics to the hymn:
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.
Another stanza reads:
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
I’ve suffered loss in my life but nothing like losing a child. Horatio and his wife, Anna, lost all four of their children in a sudden and tragic event. Yet, while he sailed over the ocean where the bodies of his daughters were entombed, he was able to pour out praise to God through lyrics. I had to wonder to myself, “How was this possible?”
Habakkuk 3:17-18 reads:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
It wasn’t that Horatio’s life wasn’t greatly impacted by the loss of his children. I’m sure he wept fiercely as any parent would. But through the tears of such great loss he was able to praise God because he knew he had something that tragedy and loss, even death itself, couldn’t touch. He had eternal salvation, a free and abundant gift given to him by God himself, a salvation he undoubtedly shared with his daughters. This salvation is not subject to ups and downs, good and bad days, gains and losses. It’s steady and constant, just like the One who gives it. This constant salvation enabled him to give constant praise. It was well with his soul even if it wasn’t the case with anything else.
Are you able to praise God at all times and situations? Are there certain circumstances that are harder than others? Is the joy of God’s salvation evident in your life?
You can learn more about the life of Horatio Spafford from the exhibit archives at The Library of Congress
Now that you have finished reading it’s time to SyncUP with God. Start by reviewing the “Weekly SyncUP Guide”. It provides 5 daily guides on scripture reading, reflection questions, life application steps, and prayers to help you have your own daily SyncUps with God for the rest of the week.
DON’T FREAK OUT…if doing all 5 this week is overwhelming, set a goal of 2 or 3 and work your way up from there. Enjoy and God Bless!