“It is Well:” Faith-Building Lessons in an Old School Hymn

Happy Sunday! I hope this post finds each of you well, in spirit, soul, and body! I’m listening to one of my all-time favorite hymns, “It is Well with My Soul.” It’s so beautiful! Please indulge me by reading a bit of its lyrics:

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.

You may have heard about the harrowing circumstances surrounding the song’s composition. I’ll give you the Spark Notes version:

The hymnist,– also a close friend and supporter of evangelist D.L. Moody – Horatio Spafford, was an attorney living in Chicago in 1871 when the Great Fire swept through the city, nearly destroying everything he owned. Just one year prior, his only son had died of scarlet fever at the age of four.

Horatio Spafford

In 1873, Spafford planned a European holiday with his family which would coincide with one of Moody’s meetings being held in England (like a Billy Graham crusade, I would imagine). Due to an unexpected business delay, Spafford stayed behind in Chicago a while longer and sent his wife and four young daughters ahead of him to France. Tragically, their steamship was struck by an iron sailing vessel, and 226 lives were lost, including those of his daughters. His wife Anna was spared her children’s fate simply -and yet, profoundly -because a wooden plank floated beneath her unconscious body and held her above the waves. She heard a disembodied voice (wonder Who it was!) speak, “You were spared for a purpose.” (More on that specific “purpose” below!)

“It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.” – words recalled by Anna Spafford

It was while sailing back across the Atlantic, having viewed the very place where his daughters had perished, that Spafford  was inspired to pen what has become one of the most enduring and beloved hymns, especially for those surrounded, struggling, or immersed in their own dark sea of sorrow, grief, anguish, and travail.

"Ville du Havre"

Does this story remind anyone else of a pious patriarch in particular found in the Old Testament?  Just like Job, right? Job loved the Lord and had been abundantly blessed with a large family, land, and extraordinary affluence; the dude owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys.  Job 1:3 says he was “the greatest man among all the people of the East.”

You know his story. Satan – literally, the “Adversary” – is allowed by God Himself to torment Job; this age-old “Accuser” believes Job will curse God when his health, wealth, and family are destroyed.  Despite losing his  possessions seemingly overnight – including all ten of his children – and suffering painful boils from head to toe, Job continues to worship and trust God:

“Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of Lord” (Job 1:20-21).

That’s not to say Job didn’t cry out in his distress or ask God for reprieve, for just a moment’s glimmer in an hour of gloom. In fact, many times Job could not perceive God’s presence at all! But Job’s faith was so firmly fixed, his spirit so unshakeable, that not one sinful, murmuring word of cursing or complaint ever escaped his lips. He humbly acquiesced to what God had ordained and endured the depths of this world’s sorrows with a spirit fully surrendered to following the Father, despite the bleak horizon…after all, he didn’t know how his story would end…

The story did end very happily for Job, as it ended happily for Mr. Spafford. Job’s health returned, and his wealth was restored with double the number of livestock, seven more sons and three more daughters! (His original ten kids were in Heaven, so that’s technically double the children, too! 😉 )

Mr. Spafford and his wife bore three more children, and despite losing yet another young son to illness, they continued to faithfully serve the Lord.

And as for that “purpose” Anna’s life was spared to fulfill, she and her husband followed a call to settle in Jerusalem where they founded the “American Colony” with a mission to show and share Christ’s love by serving destitute, outcast, and ailing people, no matter their religious affiliation or ethnicity.

The couple’s ministry throughout orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens, and other charitable institutions continues to this day in Jerusalem with the name, the Spafford Children’s Center It is a well-respected, highly venerated outreach in the Holy City that serves over 30,000 both Jewish and Arab children each year. Talk about “legacy!” 

I had no intention to dedicate an entire post to a song I was listening to on Pandora, but one thing does tend to lead to another, especially with the Internet at your fingertips! I hope you find Mr. Spafford’s story inspiring as we continue to “fight the good fight of faith”…and stay fit while we do it! 😉

Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di

P.S. Click here to check out an awesome modern version of “It is Well” by Kutless!

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging –
Psalm 46:1-3



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