Skip to main content

On Deep Faith: It is Well With My Soul

At my church yesterday, we sang a hymn I've always found very beautiful: It Is Well With My Soul. On a whim, I decided to do a little digging to see what I could find out about the person who wrote the lyrics. I was astounded by what I learned.

stormy ocean

Horatio Spafford was a prominent attorney and real estate investor living in Chicago in the late 1800s. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 ruined him financially, as most of his holdings were destroyed. Devastating. Tragedy was not finished with him, though.

Two years later, while he stayed behind to attend to some business, his wife and four daughters sailed to England. En route, their ship was struck by another vessel, killing 226 people on board - including all of Spafford's children.

As Spafford sailed to England to join his wife following the accident, he wrote It Is Well With My Soul - crossing the ocean where he'd just lost his daughters (and probably passing near the same area).

Now - knowing that back story, consider the lyrics anew:

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

Refrain: It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet,
though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


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!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


What a testament to deep faith; Mr. Spafford certainly seems to have had it in spades. Something to aspire to. (By the way, there was even more heartache in Spafford's life. Following the loss of their four daughters, he and his wife were blessed with three more children - one of which, their only son, they lost at age four to pneumonia.)

The Spaffords and their two surviving children emigrated to Jerusalem where, joined by other Christians, they founded the American Colony - providing all manner of charitable support to the people of the area. He continued this philanthropic work for the next seven years until his death from malaria days before his 60th birthday. 

Join the Christian Gift Community

Be the first to know about the latest news, new products, and exclusive specials by subscribing to our free newsletter.

Our privacy policy includes information on how we keep your data secure.