As the high school chorale prepared to sing Horatio G. Spafford’s classic hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” a teen stepped forward to tell the song’s familiar history. Spafford wrote the song while on a ship that was near the spot at sea where his four daughters perished.
As I listened to that introduction and then the words sung by the teenagers, a flood of emotions washed over me. “Where his four daughters perished” were hard words to grasp as I listened again to Spafford’s words of faith. Having lost one daughter suddenly, I find the idea of losing four unfathomable.
How could it be “well” for Spafford in his grief? I hear the words “When peace like a river attendeth my way” and remember where peace can be found. Paul says in Philippians 4 that it can be found as our heart-prayers are voiced to God (v.6). By trustful praying, we unburden our hearts, divest our anxieties, and release the grip on our grief. And we can gain “the peace of God” (v.7)—an inexplicable, divine calmness of spirit. This peace supersedes our ability to understand our circumstances (v.7), and it is a guard on our heart, through Jesus, that protects us enough to allow us to whisper, even in the pain, “It is well with my soul.”
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. —Spafford
Jesus never makes a mistake.