Is it Well with Your Soul?

In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was all over, 300 people were dead and 100,000 were homeless.
Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. A lawyer who had invested much of his money into the downtown Chicago real estate, he’d lost a great deal to the fire. And his one son (he had four daughters) had died about the same time.
Still, for two years Spafford–who was a friend of evangelist Dwight Moody–assisted the homeless, impoverished, and grief-stricken ruined by the fire. After about two years of such work, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation. They were to go to England to join Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades, then travel in Europe.
Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business, but sent his family on ahead. He would catch up to them on the other side of the Atlantic.
Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and sank within 20 minutes.
Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters–Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie–were killed. Horatio received a horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long: “saved alone.”
Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife, and the two finally met up with Dwight Moody. “It is well,” Spafford told him quietly. “The will of God be done.”
Though reports vary as to when he did so, Spafford was led during those days of surely overwhelming grief to pen the words to one of the most beautiful hymns we know, beloved by Christians lowly and great. Though not yet (to my knowledge) in Catholic hymnals, it has long been a favorite of Baptists (and other evangelicals) including Martin Luther King.
Who can say what it is about life that leads us to such a peace … like a river.
Who can say what ingredients it takes, for this person or that, that transforms such overwhelming sadness into personal peace, or brings healing, or … leads our souls to a new depth, or compassion.
Perhaps the answers lie in the heart.
And for each one, whatever the answer is, it comes in a kind of poignant solitude unapproachable in any other way. I ask this, though I just don’t know for sure.

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.

It is well…with my soul…
It is well, it is well, with my soul…

He lives–oh, the bliss of this glorious thought;
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, so I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Oh my soul.

It is well…with my soul…
It is well, it is well, with my soul…

And, Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trumpet shall resound, and the Lord shall descend;
Even so, it is well with my soul…

It is well…with my soul… It is well, it is well, with my soul…

~Horatio Gates Spafford [1873]

Luanne, over at ‘Less of Me’, posted a video on this story behind the beloved old hymn “It is Well with my Soul” the other day. And, maybe like me, you’ve heard tidbits of this inspiring story somewhere along the way. But seeing and reading the more complete story on this video has left me just amazed. And wondering: How do you get to that point? Of such utter acceptance of whatever may come and surrender to a Heavenly Father Who never promises you a pain-free journey? Only that He’ll be there for you when you do fall.

This morning, our pastor Scott was reminding us to Consider it a sheer gift, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. For, you know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2)

So, I ask you, along with myself: “Is it well with your soul?” I mean, truly well. Unconditionally, unwaveringly undeniably well? With a peace so steady that it cannot be shaken by loss of a job or loved one? A peace so certain that it forges ahead not the least bit threatened by your circumstances? A peace that could only come from a life that is truly devoted to the Father?

How many of us can truly, honestly say: “It is well with my soul” ?

I can’t speak for you, but I just pray that the Father continues to teach me to say, with the utmost heartfelt conviction: “Father, it IS well with my soul!” Realizing that as long as I have Him, together, we can face anything. And He’s not going anywhere.

Thank You, Father.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have to tell you the funniest thing. I was looking for the story about another old hymn over the weekend, and stumbled upon the same story. Maybe God had both of us read it for a reason…

  2. I love that song and had heard part of that story about the writer. I didn’t realize he was involved in the Chicago fire and also had lost a son. Wow! What a trajic story. But what an awesome song!

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