Scripture references – Psalm 42.1–11, 103.1–22, Romans 8.31–39
Horatio Spafford was born in New York in 1828, and God blessed him and his wife with five children and considerable wealth. Horatio was a lawyer and owned property.
In 1870 his then four year old son died of scarlet fever, and a year later much of his property was lost to fire. Two years after that in 1873, tragedy struck again. Whilst crossing the Atlantic on their way to England, their ship was struck by another vessel and sank. Horatio was delayed due to business, but his wife and four daughters were aboard. His wife, Anna, survived and cabled her husband which included the phrase “saved alone”. All four of his daughters died.
Horatio dropped everything and set off for England to be with his wife, and whilst on the journey the captain told him they were passing over the very spot where that fateful ship had sunk. Horatio returned to his cabin and wrote ‘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 soulIt is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soulThough Satan should buffet,though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soulMy 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
His life had further ups and downs, and Horatio died in 1888 of malaria. He entered into the rest of his Saviour and was laid to rest in Jerusalem, where he had been caring for the sick, poor, and orphaned with Anna.
If Horatio Spafford can experience such peace and comfort in a time of such horrible, gut-wrenching loss, then so can we. It was well with his soul, as he wrote, because he knew that in his own words,
“We passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep.
But I do not think out dear ones there…
they were safe…dear lambs…”
This wonderful hymn encourages us to praise our gracious God no matter what the circumstances, for, as Paul writes to the Romans, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.