It Is Well With My Soul

This is wordy, but worth it. It's from the Habakkuk study my mom gave me. It's a story about amazing faith. This is just part of one of the days. There's a lot to learn from Habakkuk. This is about Horatio Spafford. If you don't know him, read on. If you do know him, read on.
Most of you have probably heard this story, but I think it’s one always worth repeating. Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer and businessman in the mid-1800s. He and his wife, Anna, were close friends and prominent supporters of the evangelist D. L. Moody.

In 1870 the Spaffords’ only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, all of the Spaffords’ sizeable real estate holdings on Chicago’s lake shore (if you’ve been there, you know that’s prime property) were destroyed by the great Chicago fire.

So they had suffered two huge losses; of course, one was far greater than the other, but losing a son at the age of four, and then losing all their real estate holdings.

In 1873, after all they’d been through, Horatio decided to take his family to England for a much needed rest. They were just worn out from the whole experience, and Moody was in Britain conducting evangelistic meetings at the time.

The family planned to go meet him there and help out in the ministry. The Spaffords traveled together to New York from Chicago where they were to board a ship to cross the Atlantic.

Just before they were to set sail, a last-minute business issue came up that Horatio had to attend to. Instead of having the whole family delay their trip, he decided to send his family on ahead, as had been planned, and he would follow later after he attended to his business.

So his wife, Anna, and their four daughters set sail while Horatio went back west to Chicago to take care of the problem. Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife, who was, by this time, in Wales.

The telegram read simply, “Saved alone.” En route from New York to Europe, the ship that his wife and children were on had collided with another ship, and within 12 minutes the ship that his wife and family were on had sunk, and 226 people had lost their lives.

Anna had stood on the deck with her daughters, Anna, Maggie, and Bessie, clinging desperately to her, and then she watched as they were swept away into the sea.

Her last memory was of her baby, a little girl named Tinetta, being torn from her arms by the surging waters. Anna, too, was cast into the sea and became unconscious, but she was saved because a plank floated underneath her body and supported her until she was rescued.

When he heard the horrible news, Horatio took the next ship from New York to join his wife in Europe. At one point, while they were still in the Atlantic, the captain called Horatio to the bridge and said, “I believe this is the spot where the ship that your family was on went down.”

Horatio went back to his cabin on that ship where he wrote the words to this hymn that we’ve all sung, and it’s brought comfort to how many millions of believers in the many years since then:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot,
[pleasure or pain, sun or rain, gain or loss, life or death],
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well; it is well with my soul."
Though Satan should buffet,
[and by the way, this is really just a variation on Habakkuk’s song],
Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has 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!

Now remember, the man writing those words at that moment was in a ship over the place in the ocean where he had just lost his four daughters. What’s he thinking about? He’s exercising faith.
Faith. “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). He’s focusing on the redemptive work of God that makes every other suffering in life seem inconsequential by comparison, as huge as his loss was.

And then, with eyes of faith, joining with Habakkuk and Peter and Paul and James and Jesus and saints through all the centuries who have joined this song, he wrote for the choirmaster, to be set to music, the words of this last stanza:

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.2

Ladies, the day is coming when faith will be sight. I know it may seem like a long way off, but it’s really not. So what do you do until then? You do what Habakkuk did. You quietly wait, and you actively rejoice.

You live out your psalm, your prayer, your song. You give it to the choirmaster. You say, “Set it to music, so I can sing it, so my family can sing it, so others can sing it.” And then we join with those throngs in the heavenly crowd singing, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name”!

We live for that day when faith will be sight, prayer will be praise, every tear will be wiped away, and forever in the presence of the Lord we sing and sing and sing.

To read the entire study for that day, click HERE.
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  1. W.O.W! That is beautiful! All I can say is AMEN!

  2. Our pastor just told this story on Sunday! I love it - gives me chills and tears every time!

  3. I love that song. Although I usually cry during it. :) I've heard that story before- thanks for the reminder of it!


  4. Wonderful blog and a wonderful story! I'd heard the story behind the hymn before, but everytime I hear it I think I find something different that hits me. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. welcome