It Is Well With My Soul

Though this is not a Christmas song.

I chose it because the story behind it is incredibly powerful

and captures the true


It Is Well With My Soul

By Horatio Spafford

Horatio Spafford

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the Great Chicago Fire. During the two days the fires raged through the city, Horatio Spafford, heavily invested in Chicago real estate, literally watched his fortune go up in smoke! Although his home, being north of the city, and his family all survived, his financial fortunes had taken a tremendous blow.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Concerned about his wife’s health, the family doctor suggested a vacation and Spafford planned an extended stay in Europe. At the last minute, a business obligation prevented Horatio, a successful lawyer, from making the voyage, so he sent his family ahead: his wife and

Anna Spafford

their four daughters; Annie, 11, Maggie, 9, Bessie, 5 and two year old Tanetta.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on November 22, 1873, in the darkness of the North Atlantic, their

ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and 226 people perished in the sea when the Ville du Havre sank.

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Anna was picked up unconscious on a floating spar, but the four children had drowned.

A fellow survivor of the collision, Pastor Weiss, recalled Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”

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

Upon arriving in England, Anna sent a telegram to Spafford beginning “Saved alone…

Anna Spafford’s Telegram

Spafford then sailed to England to meet his grieving wife.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,

Bertha Spafford, the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna, one of three children born after the loss of the four daughters, recounted that during her father’s voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge.

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

The captain said, “A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.”

He wrote to Rachel, his wife’s half-sister, “…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.”

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

l-r Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta

As he passed over his children’s watery grave, Horatio Spafford wrote the great hymn declaring the comforting peace of the believer, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

That Spafford was able to write this hymn, full of pain, but also ringing with victory over death is one of the great testaments to faith I’ve found in music. It seems to have come straight from a loving God to help Spafford through the darkest hour of his life. It is the only song Horatio Spafford ever wrote.

Listen to: It Is Well With My Soul


To buy my Christmas novella A Home for Christmas, available as a special Christmas promotion for 99 cents…as an ebook only,

for Kindle click HERE

for Nook click HERE

Website | + posts

Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

16 thoughts on “It Is Well With My Soul”

  1. Mary – this is an absolutely tragic story. The words so fit the tragedy. It’s hard to imagine going on in the face of so much heartache. But I see so much faith in the lyrics too.

  2. This is a very touching song. To have enough faith to go on to try to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. I’ve heard this story several times, and every time I tear up. I can’t imagine Horatio Spafford’s grief, and then to see him counter it with an even more powerful faith…That moment on the high seas, when his own ship stopped over the watery grave, had to be beyond powerful. Some moments in life are sacred. That was one of them.

    Thanks for the post, Mary. It’s a great way to wrap up Christmas and move into the New Year.

  4. I heard this story years ago and every time we sing this song in church or I play it on the piano, I tear up thinking of this man’s grief and hi great faith. Mary, I agree it is one of the greatest testaments to faith in music. Thanks for this touching post.

  5. While I wrote the post I spent way to much time looking at those four precious girls. I got teary almost every time.
    I have four daughters so maybe that’s part of it but they’re so sweet.

    Okay, again with the misty eyes.

  6. Mary, this story left me breathless. What strength, and what a beautiful hymn.
    It’s one I’ve never heard before. Now I’m going to look for the music or a recording. I want to hear this sung.
    Thanks for an inspiring blog today.

  7. Mary, I absolutely love this hymn. It’s been a favorite of mine since I was a child, but became more dear one Sunday evening when a dear friend facing a violent cancer requested the congregation join her in singing “It is Well with My Soul.”

    Have you read Christine Schaub’s book “Finding Anna?” She did a super job with this story.

    Thanks for the beautiful blog!

  8. Mary, what a beautiful message, heart wrenching story, and touching faith. 2011 may not go in the books as my homestead’s happiest year, so this reminder of true trust and faith is just what I need. Thanks.

  9. There is a book about this story? I went to Amazon and there it is. Wow, I’ll bet that’s a tear-jerker!!!!!!!!
    I listened to this song performed quite a few times on YouTube and it really gets me.

  10. Mary,

    Yes. You the book should come with a “bring a box of Kleenex” warning. But it’s beautifully written.

  11. Mary, how very sad. I can only imagine how heartbroken they were to lose their children that way. And what amazing strength to be able to say that it was well with their souls. Very inspiring and makes me kick myself when I complain that life isn’t going my way. Thanks for the reminder that if the Spaffords could find peace and acceptance during their difficult hour then so can I.

    Wishing you a Happy New Year. All the best for 2012.

  12. Mary, the song is such a bequtiful testimony to faith on its own, but coupled with the story behind it, it almost brings me to my knees every time I hear it. Thanks for highlighting this beautiful true story.

  13. What a terrible blow this man and his wife took. I can’t imagine how they dealt with it. I am not familiar with this hymn, but it is lovely. We are the richer for the inspiration that led him write it. I hope it helped him deal with the heartbreak. His daughters’ pictures make the whole tragedy the more real and touching.

    Thank you for giving us the story.

  14. Thanks for sharing. What a beautiful story! I’m thinking this is one I want sung at my funeral.
    Have to buy that book. Thanks again.

Comments are closed.