Hymns of Glory: It is Well With My Soul

“Hymns of Glory” will be a recurring series. Its purpose is to reflect on beautiful, sound, and spiritual hymns, both old and modern, that have made a tremendous impact in the lives of those who write for The Reformed Alliance, and have glorified God through it’s all-around composition. May you be blessed by the series, and consider these hymns for personal, family, and corporate worship.

In the late 1800s, lived a man by the name of Horatio G. Spafford. He was a wealthy and successful businessman who lived in Chicago along with his four children and his wife. His investments in Chicago real estate made him very wealthy and gave him a comfortable living. Not only was he successful with his family and with his finances, he was also a devout Christian, who even had a lasting friendship with an American evangelist named D.L. Moody.

To Spafford, there was nothing to worry about. His children couldn’t be more healthy, his wife grew more beautiful every day to him, his financial assets were increasing, and his faith seemed stronger than ever. That was all true until a tragedy occurred. In the year 1871, Spafford’s youngest son died from pneumonia. That same year, the Great Chicago Fire affected the properties he invested in. All of the homes were turned to ruins, and overnight his wealth dwindled. However, the worst was yet to come.

On November 1873, Spafford planned to join Moody’s evangelistic campaign in Europe. He did it not only to spread the gospel and assist his best friend, but also to get away from all the suffering that he had experienced. He arranged for his wife and his other four children to sail on a French ocean liner, and then to meet up with them after he was finished with last minute business in Chicago. Sadly, only four days into the journey, the French liner collided with a Scottish liner. The ship sank in a matter of 12 minutes and claimed the lives of 226 people.

However, one sailor saw what happened and came to rescue any survivors. He found a woman who was floating on one of the wreckage. It was Spafford’s wife. The sailor, after rescuing others, then heard the woman say, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me.” One survivor was prepared to console the grieving mother, but the woman continued, “Someday I will understand why.”

Of course, after hearing about the death of his last four children, Spafford booked the first passage to Europe to meet up with his grieving wife. After four days of sailing, the captain of the ship approached Spafford in his cabin and told him they were passing the place his children died. As Spafford stood on the deck, looking over the railing into the sea… his heart began aching. He then talked about how the only thing that gave his mind ease was the gospel of Christ. It was at that moment, where Spafford sailed past the place where his children died, that he began to write one of the most well know hymns of all time: It Is Well With My Soul.

We all have gone through great loss, hurt, and trials that seem too hard to deal with. Some who read this have suffered through depression and through great anxiety. I empathize with those people, and even to this day I still have moments where I feel as though I am useless and not good enough. Despite all that, can we not agree that the Gospel is the greatest news ever told?

I never knew the story of the hymn, and neither did I know how much pain the writer had felt while writing this hymn. I didn’t know all this, but it does not change the fact that this hymn’s legacy has gone on for a long time. It is many of my friends’ favorites, and I can see why. It is a hymn that reminds us that no matter what we go through, Christ has regarded our sinful state and has saved us from it. His blood has been shed so that I could be forgiven, and now my hope lies in Heaven.

Spafford and his wife never got the answer they needed in this life. Neither were they able to rebuild the life they had prior to 1871. Though all that occurred, Spafford spoke of nothing on his deathbed but his excitement to finally see Heaven’s throne. Oh, how I wish we could have that same attitude in life. A man like Spafford had every right to give up, to fall into depression, and to lose faith; God was too precious for him. Jesus Christ was what made his soul at peace. The troubles of this world can’t compare to the glorious love of Jesus Christ, a love which is so great that He would shed His blood for my soul.

It is not because of my wealth, my titles, and my possessions that I have peace, but it is because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross that I can say it is well with my soul. That is why this hymn is not only a favorite of mine, but it truly is a hymn of glory.

The lyrics to this deep, poignant, and rich hymn are below. (To listen to the hymn, click here.) May this hymn be as much of a blessing to you as it was for me and Horatio G. Spafford.

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 bare it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O 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

Soli Deo Gloria.

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