Our Favorite Hymns#3
IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL
The Spafford women embarked on the French steamer, SS Ville de havre, and began their trans-Atlantic journey. Off the coast of Newfoundland, however, tragedy struck. The ship collided with an English sailing vessel, the Loch Earn, ripping a gaping hole in the ship's hull. So massive was the damage that the Ville de Havre plunged to the bottom of the frigid sea within twenty minutes.
In the moments before the ship sank, Anna Sspafford gathered her four young girls to her side and prayed with them, holding the youngest in her arms. As the icy waters of the North Atlantic swept over the decks, the three older children disappeaared, and eventually even the baby was washed from her mother's embrace. Alone and near death herself, Anna was spotted from a lifeboat and plucked from the sea.
It was ten days before the survivors of the shipwreck were landed safely in Cardiff, Wales. From there Anna Spafford wired her anxious husband a brief and poignant message: "Saved alone." Boarding the next available ship, Horatio sailed to England, where he was reunited with his grieving wife.
The Spafford's close friend, evangelist Dwight L. Moody, was in Edinburgh, Scottland, at the time of the tragedy and came from there to join the bereaved couple. He later reported of that meeting that, though they were experiencing deep sorrow, the Spaffords never lost their abiding faith in God. They attested to this with their affirmation to Moody. "It is well. The will of God be done."
Returning to Chicago, Spafford rejoined his legal practice, once again becoming active in the local Presbyterian church as an elder and working with the YMCA.
A visitor to his office two years after the shipwreck remarked about the framed cable above Spafford's desk carrying only the words, "Saved alone." Retelling the tale, Spafford again affirmed, "It is well. God's will be done." He would later report that the phrase, "It is well," inspired him to formulate the words of a poem subsequently set to music by Philip P. Bliss.
With the writing of this very personal, yet universally applicable hymn, Spafford seemed to turn the focus of his energies from his law practice to the fulfullment of a life-long dream. In 1881, at the age of fifty-three, he and his wife left the United Stats to settle in Jerusalem. There they founded an American colony where they spent the rest of their lives.
Although Horatio Spafford's family did not live on beyond the nineteenth century, his beautiful hymn of faith lives today as a tribute to the faith of a loving Christian father. Others facing trials as great as the sea billows that swept over the sinking Ville de Havre, have learned to say with Spafford, "It is well with my soul."
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come,
My sin--oh, the bliss of this glorious tho't;
And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
It is well, with my soul
Taken from HYMNS OF FAITH & INSPIRATION, Ideals Publications Incorporated, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990, pgs 20-23.