October 11, 2020
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
Horatio G. Spafford was a lawyer and businessman in Chicago in the late 1860s. He was heavily invested in real estate along the shores of Lake Michigan. The disastrous Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his holdings. He immediately worked to rebuild the city and assist the many that were left homeless.
In 1873 he arranged to take his family to Europe. He was close to D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey and planned to attend their evangelistic meetings in England, then take a vacation. At the last minute, urgent business kept him home, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the S.S. Ville du Havre, planning to soon follow.
The night of November 22, 1873, the Ville du Havre, was struck by an English iron sailing vessel, the Lochearn. The ship sank in 12 minutes. Of the 273 people on board, only 47 of them survived. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Their four daughters did not survive. When she reached Cardiff, Wales, she cabled home, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Grief-stricken, Horatio immediately started to Europe to join his wife. En route, the captain pointed out the place where he believed the Ville du Havre had gone down. Returning to his cabin, he wrote, “It is well; the will of God be done.” He later wrote the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” based on these words.
Although Spafford in his hymn tells of the comfort that God gives no matter the circumstance, he does not dwell on tragedy. In the third stanza he directs our attention to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, and in stanza four, anticipates His Second Coming. As we, through faith, understand these things, we too can say, “It is well with my soul.”