Friday, September 2, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

You would think that the person who wrote this song, had a pretty great life. You would not be farther from the truth. Horatio G. Spafford and his wife Anna lived in Chicago with their five children. Horatio was a successful lawyer and friends with many influential people, including D. L Moody.He was also a Presbyterian church elder and a dedicated Christian.

In 1870, their four year old son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever. The Spaffords were devastated.
In October 1871 Spafford lost most of his wealth in the Great Chicago Fire.  250 people died in the Great Chicago Fire and 90,000 were left homeless but the Spafford's home and family were spared.

They used what resources they had left to help those who had been affected by the fire.

In 1873, the Spaffords planned a trip to Europe for a vacation but to assist Evangelist D. L. Moody in a revival they were conducting in England. The day they were to sail for Europe Spafford had a business emergency and could not leave. Not wanting to disappoint his wife Anna and their daughters he sent them on ahead and planned to follow on another ship in a few days.

On November 22, 1873 the steamer Ville du Havre was struck by a British iron sailing ship, the Lockhearn. Only 81 of the 307 passengers and crew members survived this tragic shipwreck, the four daughters were among the fatalities. Anna Spafford was picked up from floating debris by the crew of the Lockhearn. She was taken to Cardiff, Wales where she telegraphed her husband Horatio. Anna's cable was brief and heartbreaking, "Saved alone. What shall I do..."

As soon as he received Anna's telegram, Horatio left Chicago without delay to bring his wife home. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean the captain of the ship called Horatio to the bridge. He informed Horatio that "A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." That night, alone in his cabin Horatio G. Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." Horatio's faith in God never faltered. He later wrote Anna's half-sister, "On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs."
After Anna was rescued, Pastor Nathaniel Weiss, one of the ministers traveling with Anna and Horatio's group remembered hearing Anna say, "God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why." Anna was utterly devastated. In her grief and despair, Anna heard a soft voice speaking to her, "You were saved for a purpose!" It was then Anna remembered something a friend had once said, "It's easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

God blessed Anna and Horatio with three children. They had a son in 1876 and a daughter in 1878. Tragically, their son did at the age of 4 just as his brother before him, he died from scarlet fever. They had another daughter in 1880. After the loss of little Horatio, the Spaffords decided to leave their home in America and settle in Jerusalem. In September of 1881 the Spaffords and a few of their friends left America for Israel. 

The group settled in the old part of Jerusalem and started a work which later became known as the "American Colony." There they served the needy, helped the poor, cared for the sick and took in homeless children. Their only cause was to show those living about them the love of Jesus.
Bertha Spafford Vester, wrote the following in her book "Our Jerusalem."
"In Chicago, Father searched his life for explanation. Until now, it had flowed gently as a river. Spiritual peace and worldly security had sustained his early years, his family life and his home . . . All around him people were asking the unvoiced question; 'What guilt had brought this sweeping tragedy to Anna and Horatio Spafford?' . . . Father became convinced that God was kind and that he would see his children again in heaven. This thought calmed his heart, but it was to bring Father into open conflict with what was then the Christian world . . .  To Father, this was a passing through the "valley of the shadow of death," but his faith came through triumphant and strong. On the high seas, near the place where his children perished, he wrote the hymn that was to give comfort to so many:"

It Is Well With My Soul 

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.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, 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!

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.

In 1876, P.P. Bliss put Horatio Spafford's words to music.

It is believed that Horatio took the words "It is well" from the words of the Shunammite woman who lost her only son but was later raised from the dead by Elisha. (II Kings 4:26 )

Horatio G. Spafford
Born October 20, 1828 in Lansingburgh, New York
Died of Malaria on October 16, 1888 in Jerusalem

Anna Spafford 
Born in Stavanger, Norway, in 1842, continued to work in the surrounding areas of Jerusalem until her death in 1923. 

The Spaffords were laid to eternal rest in Jerusalem.

It can be said that "It Is Well With Their Souls."

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