The Story Behind The Hymn ‘It Is Well With My Soul’

This Hymn Just Got Even More Powerful!

Imagine everything in your life is coming up roses — you’ve married your soulmate, have five beautiful children and a booming career. Do you think you’d be able to say to God, “It is well with my soul?” Now, imagine all of that is taken away — it’s just you and your grief-stricken spouse, nursing horribly broken hearts. Would it be as easy then to say to God, “It is well with my soul?” But that is the powerful truth behind this classic hymn — a truth that brings even more conviction to the soul-stirring lyrics.

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Pictured: Horatio Spafford and family Credit: Library of Congress

This incredible story of faith belongs to Horatio Spafford (1828-1888). Much like Job, he placed his trust in God during his life’s prosperity, but also during its calamities. A devout Christian who’d immersed himself in Scripture, many years of his life were joyous. He was a prominent Chicago lawyer, who’s business was thriving. He owned several properties throughout the city. He and his beloved wife had four beautiful daughters and one son. Life was more than good — it was blessed.

But faith, no matter how great, does not spare us from adversity.

Just as Horatio hit the pinnacle of his profession and financial success, things began to change. It began with the tragic loss of their son. Not long thereafter, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed nearly every real estate investment Horatio owned.

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Just a few years later in 1873, Horatio decided to treat his wife and daughters to a much needed escape from the turmoil. He sent them on a boat trip to Europe, with plans to join them shortly after wrapping up some business in Chicago. Just a few days later, he received a dreadful telegram from his wife, “Saved alone…” It bore the excruciating news that family’s ship had wrecked and all four of his daughters had perished.

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Credit: Library of Congress

Horatio was on his way to meet his heartbroken wife, passing over the same sea that had just claimed the lives of his remaining children. It was then that he put his pen to paper and the timeless hymn was born, beginning with the words:

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.

You can hear a breathtaking version of the classic hymn in the video below:

Famous hymn composer, Philip Bliss (1838-1876), was so moved by Horatio’s prose, that he composed a peaceful tune to accompany the words. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.

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Credit: Library of Congress

It’s incredible to think such encouraging and uplifting words were born from the depths of such unimaginable sorrow. It’s an example of truly inspiring faith and trust in the Lord. And is goes to show the power our God has to overcome even the darkest times of our earthly life.

We pray this brought you inspiration. Be sure to share this story with others who could use a reminder that our God will see us through any storm!

Now that you know the full story, watch as it is told against the backdrop of the beautiful song in the video below (keep the tissues on hand!):

Story of “It is well with my soul” from howard4christ on GodTube.

h/t: Share Faith

Here’s a powerful prayer for the times you are feeling weak!