It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
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

Maybe you grew up like me, singing these lyrics on Sunday morning, with hymnal in hand. This hymn was my favorite. Something about the words settled deep within my soul every time we sang them. When I think back to the problems of my youth, while challenging and traumatic in their own way, none of them compared to the challenges I’ve encountered since. As we grow older, our problems tend to get bigger, and rarely does a bandaid make it all go away.

I’ll never forget hearing about the story behind the hymn, “It Is Well.” Horatio G. Spafford, the author, had suffered great loss. In 1873, his wife and four daughters took a voyage on a French ocean liner across the Atlantic Ocean from the United States to Europe. A successful lawyer and businessman, Spafford was scheduled to take the trip with them but was detained in Chicago for business matters and planned to take a later ship to meet them there.

Four days into the trip, the ship collided with a Scottish vessel and began to sink. Stafford’s wife, Anna, took their daughters to the deck, knelt, and prayed that God’s will would be done. She asked that He spare them or give them the strength to endure what was about to happen, whatever His will may be. Within twelve minutes, the ship went down and took their four children with it. However, Anna’s life was miraculously spared. Soon after, a sailor found her on a piece of wreckage and made sure she made it safely to land where Horatio later met her.

Another passenger recalls Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday, I will understand why.” Horatio penned these lyrics on the ship traveling to meet his wife.

Maybe you’re going through a tragedy in your life. I’ve seen many lose loved ones and even children. I’ve even experienced loss of my own. The grief that washes over us when we lose a loved one can often feel far too heavy to bear. I can’t imagine being Horatio G. Stafford, losing all of his children in a moment, or his wife Anna who reacted with such dignity and grace. But the God of all peace and comfort promises to be with us even in our darkest hours, when sorrows like sea billows blow. 

Even in the most difficult times of my life, it is well with my soul because He is with me, walks beside me, holds my head up, and dries my tears. He goes where no one else dares to go.

In the middle of the night, when the sobs threaten to strangle us, He is there.
In the middle of aisle 5 at Target, when a memory invades our thoughts, He is there.
In the middle of worship on Sunday morning, when the tears stream down our face, He is there.

And it is well with my soul.

It can be well with your soul too, my friend. Hold tightly to Jesus and trust in Him for He will give you peace like a river and soothe your aching heart and soul no matter what you may face.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 NIV

Journal: Have you suffered loss that is crushing your heart and soul? It doesn’t have to be a person. It could be a marriage, a friendship, a job, or something else. How has this affected you?

Prayer: God, I’m hurting right now and don’t have the words to say everything I’m feeling. I’ve lost _____, and it’s left an emptiness in my heart. Please feel that void with the peace that passes all understanding and that only You can give. Thank you! Amen

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