"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Friday, July 16, 2010

It Is Well With My Soul

Here is another one of those posts not directly related to The James 1:22 Project.

I recently heard, for the first time, the story behind the hymn "It is Well with My Soul." It was written by Horatio Spafford, a Chicago attorney. In 1871, the great Chicago fire swept through the city, and Spafford, who was heavily invested in Chicago real estate, was financially ruined. In 1873, Spafford had planned to travel to Europe with his family. Detained on business, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the SS Ville Du Havre. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank after colliding with another ship. All four of Spafford's daughters died. Spafford's wife, Anna, sent him a telegram: "Saved alone." As Spafford himself travelled to meet his wife and his own ship passed near where his daughters had died, Spafford went below deck and wrote the words to the hymn.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul

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 has 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!

It’s an amazing example that in his moment of greatest pain, Spafford found comfort in the cross. When we can’t understand how any good could possibly come from the evil and pain that we endure in our lives, we also should look to the cross. It is the best picture of how God can use profound evil and pain to bring about beauty and joy. John Piper says, “[In the cross] is where the worst that God ever ordained and the best that God ever ordained meet and become one.” In our own lives, I think we sometimes also see that the worst that God ordains for us and the best that God ordains for us meet and become one. From our pain, he brings joy. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” Psalm 126:5. At the cross, we see that our God has not subjected us to anything that He is not willing to suffer himself. Rather, when we look at the cross we see our God willing to bear ultimate pain—pain which we deserve but that He bears in our place.


  1. I love this hymn too, but I wasn't aware of it's history either. Nice thoughts on suffering and the mercy of God.


  2. I am ashamed that I complain at all after reading this! What a burden to bear, and yet he found comfort in the cross! I pray that I, too, can have that kind of unwavering faith and trust in the providence of God.