Psalms 61;2b

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It is Well...

This is my favorite story behind a hymn...This became one of my favorite songs after hearing the story...

The song had its beginnings in Chicago. Horatio G. Spafford was a successful attorney making his way in the rough-and-tumble world of a growing Chicago economy. He was a Christian who had no idea how soon his faith would be tested. In the late 1860's, tragedy struck Mr. Spafford with the death of his son. Then he was devastated by the great Chicago fire of 1871. He had invested heavily in real estate along the shores of Lake Michigan, and his holdings were wiped out by this disaster.

In 1873 Spafford was advised by doctors that his wife needed a change of location due to health problems. At the same time, he had become involved with the evangelistic work of Dwight L. Moody and his partner Ira Sankey. Moody was preaching in England, and Spafford decided to sail over the Atlantic with his family to be of assistance.

A last-minute business emergency arose, and Spafford was forced to send his wife and daughters ahead on schedule. His plan was to join them on another ocean crossing later. But on the fateful day of November 22nd, 1873, the ship his family had boarded was struck by an English ship and sank in 12 minutes. Mrs. Spafford survived, but all four daughters -- Tanetta, Maggie, Annie, and Bessie -- were among the 226 who drowned in the icy waters of the Atlantic. From Cardiff, Wales, his wife Anna sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.”

Who among us can imagine the grief that filled Horatio Spafford's soul when word of the disaster reached him? Perhaps even fewer of us can imagine what it was like for Spafford to board another ship to cross the swirling waters alone, knowing that he would pass right over the watery graves of his four daughters on the way to meet his grieving wife.

But on that ship, the light of faith illuminated the darkness of Spafford's life. Out of the depths of his despair arose the certainty that God was in control, and that he would see his daughters again.

As Spafford's ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the words to this beautiful hymn. They speak to the eternal hope that all believers have, no matter what pain and grief may befall them on earth.

Philip P. Bliss was so impressed with Spafford's text that he very shortly afterward wrote the music for it. The hymn tune is named Villa du Havre after the ship on which Spafford's children perished. Ironically, Bliss himself died in a tragic train wreck shortly after writing this music. He survived the initial impact, but died when he went back into the flames in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue his wife. So this beloved song, which has helped so many, was born in unspeakable pain and grief.

For everyone who has lost a loved one, especially a child, there is no song that has brought more hope than the one Spafford penned while looking out over that endless ocean: “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.”

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And has shed His own blood for my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my 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.

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