It is well with my Soul

Some of the sweetest Christian hymns have been born out of the great depths of tragedy. The classic hymn “It is Well with My Soul” is one such song.

In 1871, Horatio G. Spafford told some of his friends that he was “sitting on top of the world.” And why wouldn’t he feel that way? He had a loving wife, five adorable children, a profitable real estate business and a successful law practice in Chicago. He was also a devout Christian whose close friends included evangelists like D. L. Moody.

However, a little later that year, tragedy struck and he lost his 4 year old son to scarlet fever. Little did Spafford know that this was only just the beginning of a series of tragic events reminiscent of the life of Job. That very same year, much of his business was lost in the great Chicago fire. All that was left of his business empire was his university diploma!

But very soon God allowed Spafford’s business to flourish once more. A few years later in 1873, Spafford planned a much-needed family trip to Europe upon the suggestion of his wife’s doctor. He sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England, planning to join them by another ship after he finished attending to some pressing business needs. However, a few days into the journey, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was involved in a terrible collision and within twelve minutes the ship sank into the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean. More than 200 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. A sailor, rowing a small boat spotted a woman floating on a piece of wreckage where the ship went down and rescued her – It was Anna, Spafford’s wife. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to her husband that said: “Saved alone. What shall I do?”

Spafford immediately set sail for England to join his grieving wife. About four days into the journey, as he was sitting out on the deck, the ship’s captain approached him and told him that they were over the same place where the ship carrying his children went down. One would have expected myriad emotions of sorrow and anguish to have filled his heart at that moment. But as he thought about his daughters, instead of being grief-stricken, Spafford felt a peace come over him. As much as he was shattered by the loss of his daughters, he did not wallow over their tragic end in that ocean which was now their grave. Instead he was filled with thoughts of comfort and hope in knowing where his daughters final resting place would be -in the arms of Jesus. His heart turned to the faithfulness of God, the saving work of Jesus on the cross and His
glorious return. He is believed to have rushed to his cabin and then jotted down the words of this timeless hymn.

God had truly comforted Spafford and his wife. Anna was heard telling one of the ship’s survivors, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.” When Spafford returned with his wife to the U.S., he told his friends; “I never felt more like trusting God than I do now”. This example of faith and trust in the Lord only goes to show the power our God has in helping us overcome even the darkest trials of our life. It reminds us that God is not just present in our troubles but is indeed greater than them.

Life can be unpredictable and challenging. All our dreams and plans can change in an instant. The way the current pandemic has thrown the life of everyone in the world out of gear is a grim reminder of this fact. How then can we find peace amid such turbulence? It is in such moments that we need to take our eyes off our trials and instead lift it up to the Holy & unchanging One, who alone can save us. We need to encourage ourselves in the Lord by holding on to the assurances of His promises. We should not let ourselves get entangled in the web of despair. We must remember who holds our future. We must open our eyes of faith and trust in God and no matter what our situation, we must be able to say like Job, “Blessed be your Name”.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” – 2 Cor 4:17,18

All the glory and tragedy of this world is but a fleeting moment and will pass. If our hope is set on Jesus – the one who overcame this world, then no tragedy in this world can devastate us. We can also then say like the hymnist – Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul!

There is soon coming the day when the trumpet will sound, and the Lord shall descend. Our eyes will soon behold the Author and finisher of our faith. That will be the  glorious day when it will truly be well with my soul!

Sr. Smitha Vijay