It is very likely that many are familiar with the timeless hymn “It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. Just as a quick refresher, here are the words to the song:When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
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! 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. Refrain: It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
In looking at the life of the author of this song, it is rather astonishing to know he wrote this hymn. From what one can find out by researching his life, this song was written during one of the most sorrowful points of his life. Horatio Spafford and his family faced the tragedy of the death of their only son and then, were ruined financially by the great Chicago fire. In hopes of getting his family away from the tragedy, he sent his wife and daughters on a ship for England where he would join them later. However, due to a shipwreck, his daughters perished and only his wife was miraculously spared. It is said that he penned the words to this famous hymn as he was on a ship to join his wife in England, and the captain told him that they were passing over the site where his family had perished.
How can one say in the midst of such a tragedy, “It is well with my soul”?
This question struck me after I heard this story about the author several years ago. I yet again was struck by the question a few weeks ago as I was singing the words during an assembly at a singing school. This song was the theme song at the singing school this year. A pastor got up and mentioned briefly the history of the words and how Horatio was able to respond in this manner in the midst of such a tragedy.
It is so easy to say “It is well” when things are going well and there seems to be no pain in sight. Yet, how can one say “It is well” when everything seems dark and uncertain in the midst of a storm in life?
As this dear brother put it at singing school that Sunday evening: “Horatio was able to say ‘It is well with my soul’ because he knew in Whom was his hope. Just take a look at the third verse.”
The third verse points to Horatio’s hope in that he knew that despite all he was going through, this was not the end. Above all else in this world, his sin was paid for and his hope was in Christ. It is very much a parallel to the life of Job. After everything was taken from Job, he praised the Lord because just as the Lord giveth, He also taketh away.
I haven’t been met with the same tragedies others have in my young life. However, I have witnessed how others have handled some of the greatest tragedies in life. Some of my dearest friends in the last several years have been met with sorrows that seem so difficult to bear. I have often been astonished how they have handled these trials. This is not to say that they don’t struggle with the pain and grief. They do feel the pain, but they look beyond it knowing that this is not all there is in life just as Horatio was able to do.
Presently, so many of my dearest friends and relatives are facing difficult circumstances and tragedies in life. There are so many people in need of prayer and comfort right now. It doesn’t make sense why bad things happen to good people. However, something always comes to mind whenever I start questioning why something bad is happening to an individual.
Each journey and each experience is different for each person. Their story is not the same as another. It is not given to us to judge what a person should go through or not go through. God always has a purpose in each trial and in each tragedy because He knows best how to mold and shape each of His children. As Job said in the midst of his dark trials:
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
If you have ever read any of the books of The Chronicles of Narnia, there is a part, I believe, in The Horse and His Boy when the boy questions Aslan about the story of another character. Aslan responds to his question that it is not for the boy to know the story of another’s life, that it is only given to him to know his own story. In effect C.S. Lewis was putting forth this same wisdom. We should be willing to help others, yes. However, God is the one that knows how best to try each child that they may “come forth as gold”.
This hope in Christ and His workings in a person is how someone can say “It is Well” in the midst of a hard time. We are not left without hope or comfort in the midst of a tragedy. Neither is this all there is as Horatio pointed out in the last verse of this hymn. One day the trumpet shall sound and we shall be at peace with God away from the sorrows of this life.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Rev.21:4-7
These were just a few thoughts I have had over the last few weeks especially at this moment. I pray that they may be a blessing to you.