The fact that Horatio Spafford could pen the words “it is well with my soul,” is truly amazing when you understand that it was not well with his circumstances. It had not been well for many years.
Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago Lawyer who had invested heavily in real estate. Yet, because of the Great Chicago Fire in October 1871, the Spaffords lost almost everything they owned. This occurred in the midst of Horatio and his wife, Anna, grieving the death of their son whom they lost earlier that year.
Two years later, in1873, Horatio’s friend, D.L. Moody, was holding evangelistic crusades in England. Spafford felt that his family needed a break from the sadness, and he decided to take his family on a holiday in Europe to see their friend. He sent his wife and daughters ahead, and he was to join them as soon as he had wrapped up some business dealings.
On November 21, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic, the ship carrying Spafford’s wife and children was struck by an iron sailing vessel. On that dark day, two hundred and twenty-six people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. His wife, Anna, was reportedly found floating unconscious on a piece of the ship’s mast. When she and the remaining survivors arrived in England, she sent a telegram to Horatio containing these profound words--"Saved alone."
Can you imagine his heartbreak? First, the death of his son, then the loss of personal wealth and business, and then the deaths of his remaining children. The human soul can only absorb so much sorrow. It was not well with his circumstances. According to Bertha Spafford (a daughter born later to Horatio and Anna), Spafford boarded a ship to go to England to meet his grief-stricken wife. As he sailed past the place where his daughters had died, he penned the moving words that we now know as “It Is Well With My Soul.”
1. 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.”
Chorus: It is well (it is well),
With my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
“IT IS WELL” TRIVIA:
Horatio’s four daughters that were lost in the tragedy were named Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta.
After the tragedy, the Spaffords had three more children: a son, Horatio, who died from scarlet fever when only a few years old; a daughter, Bertha, born in 1878; and a daughter, Grace, born in 1880.
In August 1881, the Spaffords set out for Jerusalemas a party of 13 adults and 3 children, and they lived together as a group with other Christians who relocated with them. The group was called the American Colony. The American Colony helped serve the poor in Jerusalem for many years. The ministry that was begun by the Spaffords is still in existence today. It is called the Spafford Children’s Center, and it provides medical help for Arab children and their families living in Jerusalem. The former home of the Americans is now a famous hotel that is called The American Colony Hotel.
Horatio Spafford died of malaria on October 16, 1888 in Jerusalem, four days before his 60th birthday. He was buried there in Jerusalem. Anna Spafford and her daughters continued to live in Jerusalem for many decades.