Composed by Horatio G. Spafford
The following is the incredible true story behind the writing of this song.
Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) a devout Christian, was a wealthy lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a wife, four daughters and a son. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871. This was the same year of the Great Chicago Fire, and as a result of the fire, having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan, much of Spafford’s fortune was lost overnight.
Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873. Due to a last-minute unexpected business problem, he was not able to accompany them but planned to join them in Europe in a few days. On November 21, 1873, Spafford saw his wife and four daughters off on the ocean liner Ville du Harve.
After four days at sea, the Ville du Harve collided with another ship. Within minutes the ship, with 226 passengers, sunk beneath the Atlantic. A sailor, rowing a small boat around the area where the ship sunk, spotted Spafford’s wife Anna clinging to a piece of wreckage. She was pulled to safety and all the survivors were picked up by another vessel passing by and arrived in several days at Cardiff, Wales.
Upon arrival in Wales, Anna telegraphed her husband with the words “Saved alone…”. All four of their daughters had been lost at sea in this terrible tragedy. Stafford arranged to leave immediately by ship to join his wife. He and his wife had lost all of their children along with the fortune he had acquired in business.
Four days into the journey as the ship approached the area thought to be where the Ville du Harve sank, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and let him know that they were approaching the very area where the ship carrying his family went down. It is said that Spafford, in the midst of this incredible loss, penned the following while on this ship on his way to be reunited with his grieving wife:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, though has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin, not in part but in whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.
It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul). It is well, it is well with my soul.
Partial lyrics from “It is well with my soul.”
The Lord blessed Spafford in business once again and he and Anna had three more children, one of which died of pneumonia. In August of 1881, the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem. Upon his death in 1888, Horatio G. Spafford was buried in that city. The city that the Lord calls His own.
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Tom Quinn Ministries – tqministries.com 2/2021