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It Is Well With My Soul

Horatio and Anna Spafford

     And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, …
Colossians 3:15-16

Let me tell you the story of Horatio Spafford. Many of you are probably familiar with his hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.” It is one of my favorites not only because of its rich message but also because of the story behind the hymn.

Horatio and his wife Anna lived in Chicago with their 5 children. He had a successful law practice and owned some property on what would now be called Lake Shore Drive. Horatio was an elder in his church and a dedicated Christian. They led a charmed life until 1870 when their faith would be tested with the death of their 4 year old son who had contracted scarlet fever. Then in 1871 the great Chicago fire destroyed Horatio’s investments as well as his law practice. A little while after that Anna began to have trouble with her health. In hopes of helping her heal physically, as well as emotionally from the loss of her son, the family planned a trip to England. At the last minute Horatio had to deal with some business, and so his wife and 4 daughters sailed on the French steamer Ville du Havre without him.  The plan was for Horatio to follow in a day or two. On November 22, 1873 the ship was struck by a British iron sailing ship and within 12 minutes the steamer, Ville du Havre, sank in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Anna was found unconscious among some debris, but her 4 daughters (one still being a baby) drowned.

When she reached England she telegraphed Horatio saying “Saved alone, what shall I do?” After receiving her message Horatio boarded the next ship to England and when he reached the spot where the Ville du Havre sank he went to his cabin and wrote his famous hymn.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Maybe you haven’t lost your children, or maybe you have, but there are innumerable things that can rob us of peace. For some it is stress over finances, worry over a wayward child or dealing with physical ailments.  But like Horatio, there is true peace to be found.

There is a peace to be had that is genuine, deep, and lasting. It surpasses our circumstances and even our understanding (Phil 4:7). This is not a peace we muster up ourselves or can force. It is a divine peace that must be given by God himself, but one he has told us to seek in Jesus.

There are two ways in which we receive peace from Christ. First, his peace give us communion with God because his wrath and hostility have been removed through the blood of Jesus (Col 1:20). Your sins have been forgiven and your soul has been made right, forever. No matter what happens in your life you can be assured that it is well with your soul.

The peace of Christ also gives us freedom from the world and the devil (John 14:27). Because of Jesus we have the ability to experience true calmness of spirit no matter what storm rages around us.

But the only way this will happen is if we “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.” It is only here that we get to know more deeply the God who saves us. In scripture we learn that he is always with us (Matt. 28:20), that his hand is in all of our circumstances (Proverbs 20:24), and that he loves us with a passionate and tender love (John 17:22).

Let me hear what God the LORD will say,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his godly ones;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Psalm 85:8

We must be ready to hear what the Lord says and he speaks through his word.

This will not only lead to peace but also to thankfulness because when we learn more about the greatness of God we can’t help but see the sinfulness and smallness of ourselves.
We deserve hell and nothing more and yet God in his mercy and grace has given us salvation. Everything else we have is a gift that comes in and through him. God provides for us in overwhelming ways and when we learn to see God’s care for us we will grow in peace as well as in gratitude.

When the Spafford’s returned to Chicago they ended up having three more children, a son and two daughters. But trials would continue for them when their son contracted scarlet and, like his brother before him, died at age 4. Anna remembered her friend once telling her, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

Don’t let your circumstances, whether they be difficult or easy, keep you from clinging to Jesus. Only there will you find a true and lasting peace and a deep gratitude which in turn will allow you to be a strong witness to others and bring glory to God.

Looking to Jesus,

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  1. Wow, did you read what I wrote yesterday? LOL! I host a hymn challenge/devotion, and this is the hymn we are studying this week. I was writing my background information and the devotion yesterday to post this weekend! How funny we are doing the EXACT same thing this week. I guess God just sent me a confirmation that I am on the right track. LOL! Thanks for your post. I know I cried and cried yesterday as I studied the Spafford’s and the loss of their children. Hugs and blessings to you!

  2. It is my understanding that they went to Israel and lived…but regardless, this is one of my favorite hymns…have gone through lots of adversity and dealing with one right now, so was blessed with the reminder of this hymn and its history. Thank you and God Bless…

  3. So powerful! I love how God uses stories like this to show us how consistent he is in an unconsistent world. I just got goosebumps reading this story again. Peace is not from the world, it is from God.

  4. Beth Marshall says:

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  5. I love this story as well as the hymn. I hadn’t heard the part that Anna had three more children. It seems like I heard something about one of her other daughters born after the sinking of the ship, also died when another ship sunk.

    I cannot fathom loosing six children to death. From an eternal perspective it is so much worse to loose children to an eternal death because they do not accept Jesus as their personal Savior.

  6. I don’t think I have ever heard that story! So powerful!

  7. Beautiful, oh so beautiful! My heart is so full after reading this. Yes! Only God can give us that kind of peace. Life is so full of turmoil at times, we can feel close to despair…and we will if we don’t reach for that Divine hand reaching down to us.

    Thank you for this very timely reminder Jen! God bless you and yours!

  8. Kitty Hale says:

    Thank you for that post. Long one of my Mother’s favorite hymns, I never thought to look up the history (or knew that there was a history behind it). We played this at her funeral in June.
    I enjoy reading your blog every day.
    Thank you, Kitty

  9. Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and
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    Do you have any methods to protect against hackers?

  10. Very good post. I am dealing with a few of these issues as

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