Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee (Psalms 128:1-2).
It is Well with My Soul is another of my very best favorites; in my top five loved Christian hymns. The hymn is another song I heard, and one which my heart has admired, since my first memories of attending the Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga. I have heard It is Well with My Soul hundreds of times since and never enough. I didn’t learn the background and history of the song until my twenties; then it meant even more to me.
I say now that I will never wish to go through what the author of the hymn, Horatio G. Spafford, endured. He was close to a modern-day Job. Spafford was a successful attorney in Chicago in the 1860s and 1870s. He invested much of his wealth in real estate development on Lake Michigan; much of that investment was lost in 1871 in the Great Chicago Fire. Spafford’s young son had died around this time as well. Mr. Spafford and his wife planned a trip to Europe so they and their four daughters could rest. Spafford, a devoted Christian, also desired to help Dwight Moody in his evangelistic campaign in England. The Spafford family purchased ocean-liner tickets for departure scheduled for the fall of 1873. When it came time to leave Mr. Spafford was needed in Chicago on matters pertaining to the investment loss from the great fire. Not wishing to delay the rest of his family, he sent them on with the promise that he would leave within a few days. On November 22, their ship, the S.S. Ville du Havre, was struck by another ship, the Lockhearn, and sank. Mrs. Spafford survived, his daughters did not. Upon arrival in Wales she telegraphed Mr. Spafford with the words “saved alone.” At this time Mr. Spafford must have realized that he had lost all of what this life had given except his dear wife.
Horatio Spafford travelled to England to be with his wife; the captain of his sailing vessel stopped near where the S.S. Ville du Havre had sunk so that Mr. Spafford could solemnly remember his daughters. Shortly after arrival in England Mr. Spafford word the now famous lyrics to It is Well with My Soul. The lyrics do address the sorrows and pains of life but they turn the focus to the Christian’s redemption for humans and the second coming his second coming.
As Christians we can be assured that we will be buffeted by Satan and the forces of Hell (1 Cor 4:11; 2 Cor 12:7; Eph 6:12). However, as Christians we can know true peace and love. Christ said in John 14:27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. He also gives us strength to meet our challenges. It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect (Ps 18:32).
For Christians it is most well because we have been forgiven and saved through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:9). To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:6-7). Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet 1:18-19). Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal 3: 13-14). Because we have been saved we can have that peace that only God can give; let’s rejoice. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:1-2).
But that still is not the end; Christians may be well in their soul about their eternal future. Christ himself told us: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:1-6). Further, not that we need any more word, Paul gave us this sure promise: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thes 4:13-18).
Phlip B. Bliss wrote the music for It is Well with My Soul. Bliss turned to full-time evangelism in 1874 and on the way to a revival meeting with his wife in December 1876. Both perished on that trip along with about 90 other people as the a bridge collapsed near Ashtabula, Ohio. One account says that Mr. Bliss survived the fall but went back to the firey train to be with his wife as he has committed to be with her in sickness and in death. It must have been well with Philip Bliss’ soul. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools (Ps 84:5-6).
The lyrics of It is Well with My Soul remind me of Psalms 23: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
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 has 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!
And Lord, haste the day when my 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.
My friend, can you say it is well with your soul? Christ is there right now to help you. Believe on him if you are not a Christian. Trust him to care for you if you are.
Sources: http://www.suite101.com/content/hymn-it-is-well-with-my-soul-a32616, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/t/i/itiswell.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul; King James Version, Holy Bible