Life can be hard. And when it gets that way we have two choices. We can quit or we can absorb the blows and use them to better ourselves and help others. Experience the Spafford’s story…

’But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.’

Years ago, I walked into church on Easter Sunday, shook the pastor’s hand, and asked him how he was doing.

He looked me square in the eyes and said, “It is well with my soul.” His facial expression spoke for his sincerity.

I was deeply touched by the pastor’s reply. This guy had something I wanted. So I made it my business to dig in to the origin of “It is well with my soul.”

What I found was fascinating, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

“It Is Well with My Soul”

Fact is, growing up in the United Methodist Church, I’m familiar with the pastor’s words. I’ve sung the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” dozens of times.

Here’s the first verse…

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.

The lyrics of the hymn were written by Horatio Spafford, the music composed by Philip Bliss. It was first published in 1876.

I’ll tell the tale…

A family’s remarkable story

Horatio Spafford well with my soul

Horatio Spafford

Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer who’d significantly invested in Chicago property.

Unfortunately, most of his properties were in the area of the city that was horribly damaged by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The losses financially ruined him.

If that wasn’t enough, what remained of his business portfolio was decimated by the financial Panic of 1873.

Spafford knew It was time to get away, so he and his wife Anna planned a family trip to Europe on the French steamship Ville du Havre.

However, due to ongoing business challenges, a decision was made that Anna and their four daughters would make the trip, Spafford joining them later.

Tragedy strikes

On November 22, 1873, as seen in our featured image, the Ville du Havre (on the right) collided with the British ship Loch Earn and sank in 12 minutes. All four of their daughters were among the 226 souls lost.

Miraculously, Anna survived; floating unconscious on a plank of wood.

A fellow survivor recalled her saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”

Nine days later, Anna landed in Wales and cabled her husband, “Saved alone. What shall I do…”

Horatio sets sail

Anna Spafford well with my soul

Anna Spafford

Horatio made the trip to Europe to meet the grieving Anna and accompany her home.

During his passage, the ship’s captain called him to his cabin to tell him they were passing over the spot where the Ville du Havre sunk.

Horatio, a devout Presbyterian, wrote to Anna’s half-sister: “On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.”

Not long after, Horatio wrote the words for what would become “It Is Well with My Soul.” When Philip Bliss put the words to music, he named it “Ville du Havre.”

Absorbing the blow

Back in the States, the Spaffords had three more children. Sadly, one of them died at age four of scarlet fever.

The Presbyterian Church considered their tragedies divine punishment, so the Spaffords formed a Christian utopian society.

In 1881, the Spafford family, with a small number of society members, left for Jerusalem – setting up what they called the American Colony.

Helping others

The Colony provided aid to the Christians, Jews, and Muslims of Jerusalem – without proselytizing motives. Their soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable ventures were critical during and immediately following World War I.

The American Colony became world renowned after being featured in the novel Jerusalem, written by Nobel Prize winning author Selma Lagerlöf.

What about you?

Life’s going to get hard – count on it. And we can either throw in the towel or take the hits and turn them into positive thinking and action.

That’s what the Spaffords did. What about you?

images: public domain {{PD-US}}

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