Expressions of faith are as important now as ever. We love words that remind and words that inspire that faith. The lyrics to the old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” certainly inspire great faith and perseverance.
As beautiful as the words to It Is Well With My Soul are, they are so much richer in the light of what their lyricist endured along with the heart they are written from. Be blessed and inspired as you read the story behind the beloved hymn.
Background and Story Behind It Is Well With My Soul
"I will praise Him while I have my being. May we each one arise, leave all, and follow Him." - Horatio Spafford
Written in 1873, many may be unaware that such a beautiful, well-loved hymn has such a tragic backstory. Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul after his children were lost at sea during a shipwreck.
Spafford's wife and four daughters were traveling to Europe when their ship collided with another and sank. Only his wife survived while his four daughters perished.
Several years before, the Spaffords lost their 4-year-old son to pneumonia and lost much of their prosperous business to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The trip to Europe was intended as a vacation for the family, where they would see Dwight L. Moody preach.
While on the ship traveling to meet his wife, Spafford penned the lyrics to It Is Well With My Soul. The tune was later composed by Philip Bliss and named "Ville du Havre," after the fateful ship.
This man, while in the midst of what may be the deepest sorrow earthside (the loss of a child, and for him, multiple children), still regarded His salvation and His Savior as greater than any earthly loss, or any earthly turmoil he would face. What a testament to the strength and peace that can be found in our Lord Jesus! What a comfort He is in times of sorrow and unrest!
Horatio Spafford chose the path of peace through our Savior and chose to praise Him continually regardless of circumstances. It is evident that he was focused on the life beyond this one. His focus was on the magnitude of what Christ did for us on the cross rather than the presence of sorrow.
Horatio Stafford went on to have three more children and tragically lost another. A son was lost to scarlet fever at age four. He later founded an American colony in Jerusalem. He died of malaria in 1888 at age 60 and is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Original It Is Well With My Soul Lyrics
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.
The original text of the It Is Well hymn includes only four verses of the song. The third verse was added by Spafford's daughter, Bertha Spafford Vester. The last line was changed from the original "A song in the night, Oh my soul," to "Even so, it is well with my soul."
Hymns are such a special part of our Christian heritage and tradition. We love this beautiful song and how it uplifts our faith every time we hear it and read those lyrics.
Knowing the soul who wrote those words and what they meant to his life gives it so much more meaning when reading or singing through this hymn. We have used this and other uplifting hymns throughout our shop and hope that they will bless you and remind you of the hope in our salvation.