It Is Well With My Soul

This post was inspired by the post "Content" at Cooking Up Faith.

The hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" has long been one of my favorites. I know some people aren't fond of hymns and feel that they're old-fashioned but I've really come to enjoy them more over the years...I suppose maybe that just means I'm getting older. Anyway, the story behind the song is incredible.

The song was written by Horatio Spafford, an American lawyer. He and his wife Anna were a well known couple in Chicago in the 1860's. They also were the proud parents of five children, one son and four daughters. Their lives were about to turn upside down though - their only son succumbed to scarlet fever at the age of four and shortly thereafter, the great fire of Chicago swept through the city and all the real estate Horatio had invested in was destroyed. Then just a year or two later, he and his family planned a holiday trip to England. He got busy with work though, and decided to send his wife and girls ahead on the SS Ville du Havre while he finished up. Tragically, the ship was struck and only his wife Anna survived. Once she arrived in England, she sent Horatio a telegram with the heartbreaking message, "Saved alone." He sailed to England soon after, passing over the spot where his daughters died, and during that journey penned this song:

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 (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.

And Lord haste the day, when my 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.

I would love to tell you that Horatio's life was easier after that and that he experienced no more tragedy but that's not the case. His wife ended up giving birth to three more children - two daughters and a son - and their son died at just four years old from pneumonia. After that, the family moved to Jerusalem with several other families and founded the American Colony that did philanthropic work and helped the poor. Horatio's life was not an easy one by any means but through it all he still managed to praise God and take courage in knowing that He would give him peace, even through the midst of tragedy and ruin. The hymn may have an older style of language but the message is still the same - regardless of my situation or the trials I face, I can still draw strength and hope from the Lord, and rest in his peace.

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." ~ Philippians 4:11-13

Sources:, Cyber Hymnal, and Wikipedia


  1. How SAD!! We take a lot for granted. :'(

    1. Indeed. A very good reminder for days I'm feeling discouraged.

  2. Love it - a story behind the song. Although a hard hard story, God beautifully and perfectly prepared him for his eternal home. I am sure Horatio has endless peace like a river now in Heaven.

    1. Amen to that! And what a legacy he left behind - a beautiful song, a life totally committed to the Lord and good work done for others who were in need.

  3. I love that song, and what a tragic life he lived. His spirit through it all reminds me of Job.


Thanks for leaving a comment! I really appreciate them. If you've left a question, I'll get back to you as soon as I can! Note: Don't be a jerk. I reserve the right to delete hateful, inappropriate, or otherwise not nice comments.