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 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 hath 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.

Words and Music by Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) © Public Domain

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Psalms 46:1-3

It Is Well With My Soul is a PowerPoint Worship Song about trusting in God fully when facing great hardships and trials in life. You may consider to add It Is Well In My Soul Hymn in your repertoire or worship line-up when the topics are about faith, trials, death, hope, depression and storms in life.

The Story Behind It Is Well With My Soul

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago. He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was also a devout Christian. Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago. 

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871. Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, he lost everything overnight. In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster. But the worst was yet to come. 

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story: “Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873. In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments, he had to remain in Chicago, but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre. He expected to follow in a few days.

“On November 22 the ship was struck by the Lochearn, an English vessel, and sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the survivors were finally landed at Cardiff, Wales, and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, ‘Saved alone.’” 

Spafford left immediately to join his wife. This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk. 

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880, though he later died of scarlet fever. After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881, Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land. There they established the American Colony, a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews, Muslims and Christians. 

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel, the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords.

On a personal note, this was a hymn often sung on Sunday evenings in my congregation as I was growing up. Its somber and peaceful music, written by gospel songwriter Philip Bliss (1838-1876) and named after the ship that carried Spafford’s daughters to their death, was spellbinding to a young boy. Yet I had difficulties identifying with the text in many ways. 

The hymn came to life for me in the summer of 1981. I had taken a group of youth to Chicago to work in an inner-city church that housed several congregations of immigrant groups. I chose to attend the Vietnamese service, which I was told consisted of refugees from the Vietnam War—the famous Boat People who had fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. 

I hadn’t been back to the Chicago area since I had graduated from a college in a nearby suburb in 1970. During my time in college, the draft was reinstated, protests of the Vietnam War were numerous and the riots surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the city were infamous. Returning to Chicago 11 years later, the memories of the Vietnam War were fresh on my mind. 

As the Vietnamese congregation gathered to worship, they sang the same song every Sunday to begin their worship, “It Is Well with My Soul.” I didn’t need the words in English as I had memorized them as a boy. I was amazed at how closely this text, written over 100 years earlier, coincided with the struggles of these immigrants as they fled a hostile Vietnam in frail ships, miraculously arriving in Australia and other places. 

As the Vietnamese congregation, now residing in Spafford’s hometown of Chicago, sang the final stanza, I understood the power of a hymn to transcend time and culture to address human tragedy with assurance. Though the hymn begins with loss, it ends in eschatological hope for the day when “faith shall be sight.” Source:

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