It is Well with my Soul

Horatio Spafford
Husband & Father, Businessman,
Experienced in grief

Horatio Spafford was a successful attorney in Chicago. He was happily married with four daughters and one son. He was a devout Presbyterian elder. In 1871 at age 43, Horatio lost his only son to illness and his financial security in the Chicago fire of 1871.

In 1873, Spafford planned a trip to Europe to coincide with an evangelistic crusade with DL Moody. At the last minute a business situation kept him from traveling, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the S.S. Ville du Havre and planned to meet them soon after.

On November 21, 1873 the S.S Ville du Havre was struck by a British vessel and sank rapidly in just twelve minutes. All of his daughters perished. Anna, his wife, was rescued unconscious by the Trimountain. Nine days later she telegrammed Horatio,

‘Saved alone, What shall I do?’

The following is from Our Jerusalem, by Bertha Spafford (born to the Spaffords, along with a brother who died at age four of scarlet fever, after the tragedy)
“In Chicago, Father searched his life for explanation. Until now, it had flowed gently as a river. Spiritual peace and worldly security had sustained his early years, his family life and his home……. All around him people were asking the unvoiced question; “What guilt had brought this sweeping tragedy to Anna and Hoaratio Spafford?” ….. Father became convinced that God was kind and that he would see his children again in heaven. This thought calmed his heart, but it was to bring Father into open conflict with what was then the Christian world……..”

On the way across the Atlantic, the captain called Mr. Goodwin and Father into his private cabin. ‘A careful reckoning has been made,’ he told them, ‘and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked.’

Father wrote to Aunt Rachel:

‘On thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the water three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs, and there, before very long, shall we be too. In the meantime, thanks to God, we have an opportunity to serve and praise Him for His love and mercy to us and ours. “I will praise Him while I have my being.” May we each one arise, leave all, and follow Him.’

To Father, this was a passing through the “valley of the shadow of death,” but his faith came through triumphant and strong. On the high seas, near the place where his children perished, he wrote the hymn that was to give comfort to so many:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
β€œIt 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 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!


O Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul !
(Changed later to:”Even so – it is well with my soul.”)