When is the last time you sang or lead “It Is Well With My Soul”? It is a beautiful song – and one that has inspired many across the years. It, like many of the world’s most memorable hymns, began by one man putting pen to paper.
Horatio Spafford was a very prominent lawyer who, in 1871, lost his only son. His grief would not be short lived. During the same year, the Great Chicago Fire drained him of his finances and dreams. Not only was Spafford an attorney – but he was also a very successful investor in Chicago real estate. Most of his holdings went “up in smoke” during the fire. A short time later, he and his family took a much needed vacation to Europe to take a fresh look at life. While in Europe, Spafford became involved in a business deal and sent his wife and four daughters back by boat while he stayed behind and tended to business.
Sadly, a new chapter in Spafford’s life was about to be written. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the same ship that his only remaining family were travelling on was hit by another ship and sank. His daughters were lost in the ocean – never to be found…and only his wife, Anna, pulled through. Once she arrived in England, she sent Horatio a telegram with only two words:
Once Horatio heard the news, he traveled by ship to England to be with his wife. At one point, the ship’s captain informed Spafford that they were crossing the point where his daughters most likely lost their lives. It was at that spot that Horatio, taking out a piece of hotel stationary, penned 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.