When I went to bed last night, the words of a song were on my mind. Since I was still thinking of this song when I woke up this morning, I thought I would share them with you:
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.
While you might know these words, you may not know the story behind them. They are the result of six words that were written by Horatio Spafford (1828-1888), who was a successful realtor and lawyer in Chicago. At the height of his success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered several tragic losses. The first of these was the death of their young son, and shortly thereafter, most of Spafford’s real estate holdings were destroyed during the Chicago fire of 1871.
Two years later Spafford decided to take his family to Europe. Due to some last minute business, he was detained, so he sent his family ahead of him. A couple of days later, he was notified that his family’s ship had been in a collision, and his four daughters had drowned.
Spafford took the next boat to England so he could comfort his grieving wife. As he sailed across the Atlantic, he wrote six words: “When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.”
A few years later, a songwriter named Phillip Bliss, took those six words and wrote the now famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. The song captured the essence of Spafford’s calm in the storm—the peace of God that attended his soul.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this when he said: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You (26:3).”
Even though he had suffered the untimely death of his children, and his financial empire had been burned, his faith was not shaken—Spafford’s mind stayed on God; peace prevailed; and, it was well with his soul.