By Melissa McLaughlin
Some of the old hymns comfort my heart like a warm blanket on a cold night. In these times of heightened division, violence and fear, humming an old tune like “It is Well with My Soul” can reframe my vision and be a healing balm to my aching heart.
The hymn “It is Well with My Soul” is always found on the list of favorites. Many people are familiar with the story that inspired this great hymn, but allow me to recap briefly so the lyrics can take hold and anchor us in Christ anew.
A Heartbreaking Story
“It is Well with My Soul” was written in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer, following a series of horrific tragedies. The first heartbreaking event was the loss of his four-year-old son to illness, followed shortly thereafter by the Great Chicago Fire. Spafford’s finances collapsed at this time, as he had invested in many properties now destroyed by the fire. In 1873, Spafford planned to sail with his family to England, in order to assist D.L. Moody with an evangelistic crusade. However, at the last minute, Spafford sent his family ahead, while he stayed behind to attend to some business matters.
On that fateful voyage, the unthinkable happened. The ship struck another vessel and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. Remarkably, his wife, Anna, survived the catastrophe and sent him a short, but heartrending telegram… “Saved alone.”
Soon after, Spafford sailed to join his now grieving wife. As his ship passed near the area where his daughters lost their lives, with incredible soul-strength, Spafford penned the lyrics to the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.”
Christ Gives Peace in Life and in Death
We know that one day soon, we will meet Christ. Whether we breathe our last or He returns to judge the world and initiate His kingdom rule, that Day is coming. Although the days in which we live are heavy with turmoil and strife, we also know the Day of Christ’s return will be wonderful and yet fearsome.
These words, recorded in Revelation 6:12-17, capture this sobering truth and are contrasted in the final verse of the hymn:
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Though others may fear the days we are in or fear that great Day of Christ’s return, for those of us who are believers, who are found in Christ, these are His words that hold us fast, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
Because of Jesus, come what may in this life, it is well with my soul.
Because of Jesus, my sins are forgiven and I am heaven bound.
Because of Jesus, it is well with my soul.
As we read the lyrics of this hymn today, against a backdrop of storm clouds rolling in, against the knowledge that Christ’s return is on the horizon, the words still echo with a timeless peace.
It is Well With My Soul
I have included the lyrics and links to various performances of this moving hymn below. As the words and music wash over you, I pray that like Horatio Spafford, we will say, “It is well with my soul.”
It is Well with My Soul – Lyrics by Horatio Spafford, Music by Philip Bliss
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It 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 hath 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!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
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.
May you be blessed by these beautiful renditions of It is Well With My Soul, sung here by:
Additional Sources and Resources: