"A SHIPWRECK, A POEM, A HYMN, A TESTIMONY!" Of the Gospel . . .
A rendering of the French ocean liner SS Ville du Havre. The ship in which Spafford's family
was traveling when struck by another ship and his daughters perished.
“A Shipwreck, A Poem, A Song, A Testimony”
“It Is Well With My Soul!”
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.
It is well 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 the 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 pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
The Story Behind “It Is Well With My Soul”
This incredible story of faith belongs to Horatio Spafford (1828-1888). Much like Job, he placed his trust in God during his life’s prosperity, but also during its calamities. A devout Christian who’d immersed himself in Scripture, many years of his life were joyous. He was a prominent Chicago lawyer, whose business was thriving. He owned several properties throughout the city. He and his beloved wife had four beautiful daughters and one son. Life was more than good — it was blessed.
But faith, no matter how great, does not spare us from adversity.
Just as Horatio hit the pinnacle of his profession and financial success, things began to change. It began with the tragic loss of their son. Not long thereafter, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed nearly every real estate investment Horatio owned.
Just a few years later in 1873, Horatio decided to treat his wife and daughters to a much-needed escape from the turmoil. He sent them on a boat trip to Europe, with plans to join them shortly after wrapping up some business in Chicago. Just a few days later, he received a dreadful telegram from his wife, “Saved alone…” It bore the excruciating news that family’s ship had wrecked and all four of his daughters had perished.
Horatio was on his way to meet his heartbroken wife, passing over the same sea that had just claimed the lives of his remaining children. It was then that he put his pen to paper and the timeless hymn was born, beginning with the words:
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.
Famous hymn composer, Philip Bliss (1838-1876), was so moved by Horatio’s prose, that he composed a peaceful tune to accompany the words. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.
It’s incredible to think such encouraging and uplifting words were born from the depths of such unimaginable sorrow. It’s an example of truly inspiring faith and trust in the Lord. And it goes to show the power our God has to overcome even the darkest times of our earthly life.
We pray this brought you inspiration. Be sure to share this story with others who could use a reminder that our God will see us through any storm!