Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Story Behind It Is Well with My Soul

This hymn grew out of the personal tragedy of the hymn's author Horatio G. Spafford. He was a well-known Chicago lawyer in the early 1870s when the Lord chose to take home his young son after a bout of scarlet fever.

In October, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire swept through the city and destroyed all of Mr. Spafford's holdings. Tragedy appeared to be his constant companion. After all their losses, Mr. Spafford decided the family needed to get away and relax. He arranged a trip to Europe. The family traveled to New York to board the Ville de Havre. At the last minute, Mr. Spafford was called back to Chicago, but he insisted his family continue on the trip and he would join them as soon as possible.

On November 23, 1873, the Ville de Havre collided with the Lochearn, an English ship. The Ville sunk in 12 minutes and claimed 226 lives, including those of his four daughters. His wife cabled him once they reached Wales with the words, "Saved alone." She fell into despair until a friend told her that it is easy to be grateful when things are good but that we need to be careful not to be a fair-weather friend to God.

Mr. Spafford rushed to his wife's side. As the ship passed the spot in the Atlantic where his daughters lost their lives, the captain called to him. Immediately afterwards, he went to his stateroom and penned the words to this hymn.

Philip Bliss, impressed with the sentiment Spafford expressed in the poem, quickly put it to music. Shortly afterward, Mr. Bliss was killed in a tragic train accident.

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