One of the most encouraging and beloved hymns in Christendom was born out of incredible tragedy. Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer from Chicago, like all lawyers in those days, he was extensively invested in real estate as well. After loosing a large portion of his investments in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Spafford decided to take his wife and four little girls on a vacation to get away from it all.
He decided to take his family to England so that he could also meet with Dwight L. Moody in whose ministry he was very financially involved. Finishing up some last minute business in Chicago, for he had major damage control after the fire, and sent his family on ahead.
On November 22 of 1873 the ship his family was on got into a collision with another ship. It sank in 12 minutes, Spafford’s wife was the only one of his family to survive. As Spafford sailed to meet his wife in England, he passed over the very spot where his four girls, ages 11, 9, 7, and 2, drowned. I cannot even imagine the hurt, the anguish that he felt, the anger at God and at himself for not being with them. Maybe even blaming himself for their deaths. If he had only waited and not sent his family ahead, they would not have been on that ship.
In his pain, God sent peace on the site where his daughters died, and a song was born. Two years later, upon a visit from Moody and Ira Sankey, which doubtless brought back memories of his girl’s deaths: for it was them they were going to meet in England when their ship wrecked; the song was again brought to his mind and he penned the lyrics:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Note the use of water parallels here. Obviously this tragedy meant something to Horatio Spafford, so much so that he didn’t want to forget what happened that day and how God stilled his soul through it all. This is why it is called the peace the passes all understanding. We, in our human mind’s cannot begin to comprehend the peace through pain that Christ affords. We the unworthy, through impossibly pain can feel the peace of God and not fear life.
Whatever our lot, God hath taught us to say it is well. Is it well with your soul? Has God given you unfathomable grace in the midst of unimaginable hurt? Let God be your shelter in the time of storm, the peace in the time of trials and tribulations of this life. Through it all may we say that He is our all in all and it is well.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist