Musicians: Nathan Baby & Jon Mallory | Soundcloud
Hymnist: Horatio Gates Spafford | Lyrics
The story behind the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” is so astonishing I could hardly believe it when I first heard it.
Horatio Spafford was an 18th-century Christian lawyer in Chicago who experienced a series of devastating mid-life tragedies. First, his young son died of scarlet fever. Then the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 decimated his city, his business, and his finances. Two years later, a major economic downturn only made matters worse.
Around that time, he and his family had planned to go to Europe for a vacation, but Horatio got tied up with zoning problems related to the Great Chicago Fire, so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead to Europe, planning to join them later.
That’s when disaster struck again.
On the night of November 22, 1873, the steamship carrying Horatio’s wife and daughters collided with another ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and sank in less than 15 minutes. Although his wife survived, all four of his daughters were lost.
Shaken by terrible grief, Horatio left for Europe to join his grieving wife. While sailing across the Atlantic, the captain of his ship called him to his cabin to tell him that they were passing over the spot where his four daughters had perished.
Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Horatio to stare out over those icy ocean waters, knowing that he would never see his children again on this side of eternity? I can’t imagine the grief that must have washed over him in that moment.
Incredibly, rather than losing hope, that experience inspired Horatio to write the words of the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”
Out of the darkest day of his life
came this beautiful hymn that we still sing today.
Horatio knew that no matter what he faced, no matter what his lot in life was, no matter what tragedies he suffered, because he was in Christ, he could confidently say, “Yes, it is well with my soul.”
And so it is with us.
Praise the Lord that our position in Christ remains unshaken by life’s storms. Satan will buffet, and trials will come, but no matter what happens, we are safe in the arms of Jesus.