There is a story behind the song | Faith | The Press and Standard

by | May 29, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: May 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Oftentimes, we sing songs and have no idea of how they came into existence or their true meaning. One of the most popular songs that has been around for a long time is “It is Well with My Soul.” It is by far one of my most favorites. Not only do I love the tune, but the words are also very touching: “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. Refrain: 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 hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul (Timeless Truths).”
There are four other stanzas to this song, but the two above are the most popular. Each line has a deep meaning that is thought-provoking. I invite you to sit down in the quietness of your home and “feed on” the lyrics of this hymn. They will send chills down your spine just thinking of what the words truly mean.
According to 1 Corinthians 14:15, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also,” (KJV) we must understand what we are singing about.
As I grew up learning various songs, I had no idea what all of them meant; I loved the music. However, the song goes beyond the music. There’s a story behind the song. Well, just what was on composer Horatio Spafford’s mind when he so beautifully penned the lyrics to “It is Well with My Soul” in 1873?
Read the story, from the Sharefaith website, behind the song; trust me, you will feel totally different about this song after reading about its origin.
“Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.
“At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter, on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had. In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business.
“Several days later, he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.
“With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. When asked how he was doing, Spafford replied, “It is well with my soul.” (Glory be to God, what a reply in the midst of his trials!) It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, ‘When sorrows like sea billows roll…’
“Philip Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many songs, was so impressed with Spafford’s life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.
“For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul.”
What a story! I get chills every time I read it. When we see what this man and his family suffered, yet he had a positive song in his heart; then we, too, can go on amidst our trials because Philippians 4:13 affirms, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (ESV).
Have a wonderfully blessed week, and never leave home without Him!

(Anna Bright is a minister and educator in Walterboro. She can be reached at abrightcolumn@lowcountry.com)

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