Monday Morning Melody

Somehow I imagine that everyone knows the story behind the hymn, “It is Well With My Soul”. But just in case you don’t, here’s a quick summary to help you further appreciate his choice of words in the lyrics.

Horatio G. Spafford was a Christian lawyer and real estate owner who lost nearly everything in the great Chicago fire in 1871. However, a tragedy even this big wasn’t what led him to pen the famous words, “when peace like a river attendeth my way”.

Just two years later, Spafford decided to take his family to England where his children could attend school (the Chicago schools had not yet been rebuilt), but at the last minute was delayed by personal business and sent his family on ahead, planning to join them soon after. Sadly, there never was a family reunion. Though his wife and four daughters arrived safely in New York and boarded their ship, disaster struck again for Mr. Spafford when their ship collided at sea with an English sailing ship.  The ship floundered and sank, taking with it Spafford’s four little girls. Mrs. Spafford herself narrowly escaped, being found barely conscious but clinging to a piece of wreckage.

When encountered with such tragedy, it is easy to justify bitterness, or anger, or severe depression. But Horatio Spafford did not chose to travel down that path. He was overcome with sorrow like anyone would be in that situation, but he also gave it to the Lord, and sought Him for strength to continue.

It’s been said that he wrote the hymn while passing over the spot of the collision on his voyage to England. I don’t know if that has been confirmed as true, but I do know that he wrote it soon after receiving his wife’s cablegram which read, “Saved, alone”.

Knowing his story gives new meaning to the language used… “when sorrow like sea billows roll” …”Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come”… but the song continues on to include hope and victory in Christ, matching the soaring melody so brilliantly composed by Philip Bliss. It truly is a beautiful song with beautiful words!

You will notice below two additional verses not commonly sung from our hymnals. In them he mentions specifically the pain of death, but filtered through the loving hand of God: “No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.”

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has 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.

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.

It is well, (it is well)
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with 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 is well, (it is well)
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with 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.

It is well, (it is well)
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with 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!

It is well, (it is well)
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with 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.

It is well, (it is well)
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

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