In 1870 a series of events began to unfold that sent Horatio into the darkest of days. In 1870 the Spafford’s experienced unspeakable tragedy when their only son died at four years old to scarlet fever. Then the following year the great fire of Chicago tore through the city, reducing the majority of Horatio’s sizable real-estate investments to ashes.
Two years later, following the dark days of the year’s prior, Horatio decided it was time for his family to take a holiday to Europe with his dear friend D.L. Moody. When it came time to embark on their voyage across the Atlantic Horatio was delayed due to business dealings and sent his wife and four daughters ahead to England.
On November 22, 1873 the ship that was carrying Anna and the Spafford’s four daughters, the Ville du Havre, was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank to the bottom of the sea. Anna was the lone survivor from the Spafford family.
When word of the tragedy arrived home to Horatio he immediately set sail for England to be with his wife.
As he sailed across the Atlantic, passing over the location that his four beloved children perished, he was inspired to pen 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. • It is well (it is well),• with my soul (with my soul), • It is well, it is well with my soul. (cont’d.) …
As Horatio further wrote in the lyrics, “No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.”
In the midst of unspeakable tragedy and darkness Horatio experienced an unbelievable peace and somehow managed to keep moving forward.
We all experience darkness in our lives. Our whole world is at a place of unrest, grumbling for the return of our Maker. The news cries of desperation, hurt, darkness and despair. Some of us are even in the same boat that Horatio was today, sailing through incredibly difficult circumstances.
His situation was dismal and his loss was shattering, but his eyes were on Christ. The eternal brought peace in the temporal allowing him to pen the words, ‘it is well with my soul.”
It reminds me of the words Paul wrote for us in Philippians:
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
We are not alone. It is not in our strength that we push forward, but by Christ that we can face tomorrow. That is the truth of Philippians 4:13.
As a response, may we all sing with our thoughts and our actions, “For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live…it is well, it is well with my soul.”
Grace and Peace friends!