It Is Well…

First printing of “It Is Well”

I’ve heard the story of the original song since I was a boy…

Horatio Spafford
1828 – 1888

Horatio Spafford lost his son at age two. His business was destroyed by The Great Chicago Fire in 1871. When his family planned a European trip a few years later, he sent his wife and four daughters ahead due to more business problems. During the voyage, their boat collided with another vessel. All four girls drowned.

Only his wife survived and sent the famous telegram message, “Saved alone…”

When Horatio sailed to be with his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the lyrics to the famous hymn as his ship neared the location where the tragic collision occurred:

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.

We don’t sing this hymn much in many churches I’ve attended recently. A shame. I always loved singing it. So when I saw this title on Spotify, I was intrigued. It’s a different song, but no less meaningful:

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well

However, the new song does eventually break into the original refrain. And it never ceases to inspire me. (I was only listening to it two or three times a day…when I originally wrote this.)

What possessed Spafford to write those words down in the midst of what must’ve been overwhelming grief, still amazes me…blesses me…and humbles me. We all have those awful moments in life where it’s beyond difficult to fathom that God is somehow at work with purpose in such tragedy, much less in our lousy job, lonely singleness, miserable marriage, financial failures, as well as all the other dysfunctional difficulties and monotonous grinds of everyday life. But the true power of art is in its ability to express the inexpressible—especially when the Spirit is working in the subtext. This is trustworthy. This is true. There is a plan. Redemption is coming. Everything lost will be returned. And we are going home.

It is well…

Posted in: History, Hymns

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