Horatio Spafford is the writer of the popular hymn ”It Is Well”. Looking at the title, one would think it was written at the happiest moments of Mr Spafford’s life but, alas, the highly inspirational hymn was written in the awake of a series of calamities that had befallen the Spaffords’ household.
Mr Spafford had been a successful Chicago lawyer and a close friend of D.L Moody’s. Apart from his flourishing legal career, he also had a lovely family and a blooming business (he was a heavy investor in real estates). Everything seemed to be going on fine for him until the early 1870s when disasters began to strike. First was the loss of his only son to scarlet fever at the age of four. Then came the Chicago Fire of 1871, which wiped out every one of his holdings.
To relieve his family of the strain of these strategies, Spafford decided that the entire household travel to Europe for a short vacation. Besides, since D.L Moody would be touring Britain at about the same time, it was arranged that the family would be of help to him on hia missionary outreaches. However, as they made preparations for the trip, Spaffords, whose finances had dwindled considerably, got a call from someone who wanted to buy a parcel of land he had put up for sale. Not wanting to miss the business opportunity or spoil his family’s plans, he discussed the developments with his wife and they agreed that she and their four daughters continue with the trip; he would join them immediately after the transactions.
Thus in November 1873, Spafford accompanied his family to where they boarded a Europe-bound ship while he returned to Chicago. But just few days after the voyage began, the ship conveying the Spafford’s family had a ghastly collision with another ship and within 12 minutes, it had sunk below the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, the four daughters of Spafford, aged 11, 9, 7 and 2, were among the 226 people who perished in the accident.
Mrs Spafford herself was almost dead before she was rescued.
When the few survivors of the wreck were brought to Wales, Mrs Spafford considered herself as good as dead with all her children gone. She might have done something drastic but for the strange voice which whispered to her: “You were saved for a purpose.” This instantly reminded her of what a friend had told her some time ago: “It is easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.” With this, she summoned up courage and sent a touching telegram to her husband: “Saved Alone. What Shall I Do?”
As soon as he got the message, Spafford boarded a ship to bring his bereaved wife back home. At a point during the voyage, the captain of the ship called Spafford and said,” A careful reckoning has been made, and I believe we are passing the place where (the ship) was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.” The announcement stung Spafford and evoked painful memories of his lovely daughters. But instead of breaking down in self-pity or blaming God, He simply withdrew to solitude of his cabin and wrote the lyrics of the great hymn that has continued to bless and encourage millions of people worldwide:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has 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 has 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 the 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 pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the 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.
Spafford and his wife were later blessed and comforted with two children who greatly helped them in their missionary and humanitarian activities.!