They Walked Through Tough Times
There is an old hymn written by Horatio Spafford that Christians
sang as they walked through tough times.” It Is Well with My Soul
was inspired by Scripture and the tragic experiences that Spafford
and his wife Anna walked through during his sixty years of life on
In 1869 Horatio was a devoted husband and father, a man who loved
his family, he was a successful Chicago lawyer with a thriving
practice. He and his lovely wife Anna lived in a beautiful home
with their four daughters and one son. Horatio was a strong
Christian man who sought to know the Lord more and he taught
others to do the same. He walked with D.L. Moody and other well-
known Christian leaders of his day.
Though he walked in peace and favor Horatio Spafford was a man
well acquainted with trials and personal sorrows. The famous hymn
he wrote outlines his steps and the way that he walked through the
“When peace like a river attended my way” For forty-one years
Horatio basked in success and favor with God and man. Isa 48:18.
Things began to happen in his life where his peace could have been
disturbed, but his testimony speaks to us that he walked in peace
like a river that ﬂowed from God. It was well with his soul.
“When sorrows like sea billows roll” Sorrow stuck when Horatio and
Anna’s four-year-old son, their only son, Horatio Goertner
Spafford died of Scarlet Fever in 1870. It was a great and sad
loss for the faithful couple.
Though I have known this great song for many years it became real
to me while driving home one December evening from our oldest
son’s home. He is dying of ALS. We have fasted and prayed for his
healing, stood on healing Scriptures, he has been prayed for by
many others with the gift of healing, we have sought out every
possible avenue for medical help, but the fact is the disease has
progressed rapidly. Unless God steps in with a miracle he will
soon go home to be with the Lord. We are thankful he has turned
his life to the Lord. We know he will be with the Lord and will
love Heaven, but we will miss him terribly. His times remain in
God’s hands and I can truly say it is well with my soul.
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, “It is well; it is
well with my soul.” There are relationships that no matter what
you do or say things never to seem to get resolved. Go to the Lord
in prayer, talk it over with Him and make sure there are no ill
feelings that need to be taken care of on your part, put the
relationship into His hands and rest in Him. A while back it would
have seemed that a dear old Christian friend would have come close
again, but instead, that door shut. We cannot understand these
things, but we must search our hearts to see if there is something
that God wants to speak to us about and then put the friendship
into the Lord’s hands. I have found many times when we put people,
relationships, and things into the Lords hands He takes them. “The
Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the
Lord.” Job 1:21. 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.” The more I sing this song the more I ﬁnd
comfort released into our trials. It is becoming one of our
household songs. On night I woke up and began praying in the wee
hours. As I lay praying, I heard music coming from one of our
boy’s room. They like to sleep with Christian music playing. As I
listened I heard the song, It Is Well with My Soul.
“Though Satan should buffer tho’ trials should come,” It was
October 8, 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire occurred. Spafford was
still struggling over the loss of his son. He lost a fortune in
that ﬁre for he had invested heavily in Chicago real property.
Much of it was burned in the ﬁre leaving him and his family with
another great loss. Instead of thinking of his loss he plunged in
to help rebuild homes for the 100,000 people that lost their homes
in the ﬁre. It was well with his soul even in the midst of his
“Let this blest assurance control” God gives us living hope
through Jesus Christ in the midst of our trials. Whether we live
on earth or go on to be with the Lord He is always with us, He
will never leave us nor forsake us. Heb 13:5. Others may walk away
from us, but God will never leave us. We can be sure of one thing
on earth as we rest in the Lord He is there to carry us through
the trials and when we allow Him to do that it will be well with
“That Christ hast regarded my helpless estate” In early 1873
economic woes hit the country and Spafford’s business interests
were again hit heavily. In November of 1873 things were looking up
for Chicago and the Spafford’s decided to take a much needed
vacation and part mission. They planned to meet up with their
friend D.L. Moody who was conducting a revival in England. They
traveled to New York to board the luxury liner SS Ville Du Havre.
Just before departing on the cruise ship to cross the Atlantic
Ocean an urgent situation came up and rather than make the family
wait he decided to stay behind to take care of business at hand.
His plan was to join his family when the matters were cleared up
in a few weeks. Horatio’s wife Anna and daughters Maggie, Tanetta,
Annie, and Bessie boarded the luxury liner. It is recorded in the
book, Then Sings My Soul, that “that as Spafford settled his
family in their cabin, a sense of unease ﬁlled his mind, and he
decided to move them to a stateroom closer to the bow. Once that
was done, they said their goodbyes and he reluctantly left the
ship to complete his work.”
“During the small hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du
Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were jolted from
their bunks. Their ship had collided with an iron sailing vessel
and water poured in like Niagara. The Ville du Havre, tilted
dangerously. Screams, prayers, and oaths merged into a nightmare
of unmeasured terror. Passengers clung to posts, tumbled through
darkness, and were swept away by powerful currents of icy ocean.
Loved ones fell from each other’s grasp and disappeared into
foaming blackness. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished
beneath the waters. There were 226 fatalities, including all four
of Spafford’s daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mrs.
Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the
wreckage.” Spafford’s wife Anna was among the 47 survivors. After
being rescued she sent her husband a now famous telegram saying,
“Saved alone. What shall I do?”
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean to join his wife, Spafford’s
ship passed near the spot where his daughters died. The ship’s
captain slowed the ship to he could pay his last respects to his
daughters. While thinking about them and how precious they were to
him the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the hymn It Is Well with
My Soul. When Anna was ﬁnally reunited with her husband she said,
“I have not lost my children. We are only separated for a little
No matter what grief we have to walk through on earth our eternal
hope still remains that we will again see our loved ones in Heaven
if they are believers. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a
broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Ps
“And hath shed His own blood for my soul.” God desires for it to
be well for our soul. He cares for us; He died for us so that we
could have life. If you are upset and nervous, worried and
distressed, angry, it is not well with your soul. As you walk in
God’s righteousness, meaning right standing with God and man, in
the midst of great distress it will be well with your soul.
“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! “ Jesus was more
than acquainted with sorrow and troubles and unfairness than any
of us. He took the sins of all mankind unto Himself for us. John
2:2 He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our
iniquities, by His wounds we are healed.” Is 53:5. Though Him we
“My sin, not in part but the whole,” All of us are sinners, each
day we must come before the Lord and let go of sins that hold us
to earth. Out citizenship is in Heaven, not on earth. It must be
well with our soul.
“Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,” This great hymn
still gives hope and encouragement to us as we walk through deep
trials. In spite of all the good things Spafford walked through
many serious blows of life that were not fair. He gave all that to
Jesus who bore it all.
“Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” In 1880, after
returning to Chicago, the Spaffords had 3 more children, but their
second son also died.
In 1881 they decided to leave America and moved to Jerusalem,
Israel. The Spaffords gathered up baby Bertha and their newborn
daughter Grace to set sail for Israel. They formed the American
Colony to serve the poor and care for the homeless children. Years
later the colony was named for their work by the Nobel price
winner Selma Lagerlof.
“For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:” To learn to be
content in every circumstance that comes our way in life. Phil
4:11. God is the only One to teach us this valuable lesson in
life. We must look to our Teacher, Jesus Christ, if we are to
learn this lesson. Our experiences are our practice sheets. Set
your eyes on Him and you will not be shaken by circumstances and
it will be well with your soul.
“If Jordan above me shall roll,” If the river Jordan rolls over
our lives it can still be well with our souls.
“No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life” As we see through
Jeremiah’s eyes we see that though we have trials God has a plan
for our welfare, and His plan is to give us a future and a hope.
Spafford obviously learned that our times really are in God’s
hands. He holds the number of all our days.
“Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” Isa 26:3, “Thou dost
keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because
he trusts in thee.” “Great peace have those who love thy law;
nothing can make them stumble.” Ps 119:165, One little girl
misquoted the 23rd Psalm, but said the gospel so simply. She said,
“The Lord is my Shepherd, that’s all I need.” In the midst of
tragedy you can experience soul wellness.
“And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,” There will
be a day when the unfairness of life will become a dim memory when
Jesus returns with our loved ones and there is no more separation
for we will spend eternity together.
“The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;” The dark clouds of life
will be rolled back and we will forget our misery. Sometimes there
is misery in life, but God promises that we will be restored and
strengthened in Him. Job 11:16.
“The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,” When that
trump sounds and the Lord descends we will be reunited with our
loved ones. It will be a glorious day!
“Even so, it is well with my soul.” How can it be well with our
soul when things are not well with our life? Life is unfair at
times. God never promised us it would be fair. He said we would
experience difﬁculties and persecutions, but He also promised that
He would be with us through them if we will only look up and take
His hand. At one point my head was hanging down from all the
various situations we were facing. The Lord spoke to me and said,
“My hand is here waiting for you to take. I will help you, just
look up and take it.” It was amazing how quickly the hardship of
the situations vanished in my spirit and I was able to again say,
it is well with my soul.
This great hymn inspires us to praise God whatever happens in our
lives for He is the Source and comfort in our lives. No matter
what circumstance you ﬁnd yourself in you also will ﬁnd comfort in
these words. “It is well with my soul.”
Whether we are in peace or in sorrow God is greater than anything
that Satan can bring our way. Ro 8:35. In the midst of heartbreak
Christ is with you to strengthen you so that it will be well with
your soul. Nu 6:24-26.