This week has seen the passing of a little known anniversary.

It was on 22 November 1873, when the French passenger ship, the Ville du Havre, sank in the Atlantic Ocean, on its way to England, from the USA.

On board the ship were the wife, and four daughters, of a middle-aged Chicago businessman, Horatio Spafford. Horatio had stayed behind to wrap up some business interests, fully intending to follow his family a few days later.

When Anna reached England, she sent home a telegram, which contained just two words: “Saved alone.

Horatio immediately booked his passage on board another ship, to join his wife in England.

As it steamed over the spot where his daughters had perished in the wreck of the ship, he began penning some plaintive and defiant words in his notebook. ‘It is well with my soul,’ he wrote, even as his soul cried out in anguish, grief and despair.

He would make an intentional decision. He would not be defeated. He would not give in. He would absorb this devastating loss – because his Christian faith had taught him that God would be with him, and it would be well.

Later, he used these six small words to write the lyrics to the famous hymn of the same name, and Philip Bliss composed the haunting, mournful and deeply sad music to accompany them.

Here are 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.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (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.

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!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the 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.

For a beautiful acapella version of the song, please listen here. Or to find out what happened to Horatio and Anna in the years that followed the shipwreck, then I recommend setting aside 15 minutes to watch this wonderfully narrated version of the story, from actor, Hugh Bonneville, of Downton Abbey fame, here.

For all of us, 2020 has been a difficult year.

However, even in the midst of our difficulties; even when life throws us grief, anguish and despair; even when all seems lost, all of us face a decision.

Will we choose, as Horatio Spafford did, to put our trust in God, and to declare, with Him, “It is well with my soul“?

Photo by Mturner from Pixabay 


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