Posted by: rcottrill | February 26, 2018

It Is Well with My Soul

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Words: Horatio Gates Spafford (b. Oct. 20, 1828; d. Oct. 16, 1888)
Music: Ville du Havre, by Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Mr. Spafford was a well-to-do lawyer who owned much property in Chicago. All of this was swept away be the Chicago fire in 1871. The death of his children was a grief heaped upon other things, including the earlier death of a son. Praise the Lord, prior to their tragic deaths, all four of the Spaffords’ daughters had put the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In North America we have wellness centres and clinics. There’s one in our own town, where seniors can have weight and blood pressure checked, receive immunization shots, and so on. But it may raise the question: what exactly is wellness?

One definition says it is “not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, [but] a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Fine. I agree. But it’s striking that no concern is expressed there for the spiritual welfare of the individual. Another definition includes that aspect: “Wellness is defined as making healthy lifestyle choices regarding mind, body and spirit.”

The World Health Organization states, “Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of, and making choices, toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.”

In the Bible, the word “well” (sometimes rendered “good”) is used many times. In the Old Testament it translates the Hebrew word twob, which includes a number of things. It may describe someone or something pleasant, attractive, cheerful, excellent, valuable, good morally, or good in the sense of being suitable, appropriate and useful. The context will often determine the particular emphasis.

At creation, God proclaims what He has made to be “good” (twob) seven times, culminating in an assessment of it all as “very [exceedingly] good” (Gen. 1:31). All was well made, excellent and beautiful, appropriate and valuable for its usefulness.

A few other examples. “The Lord has promised good [twob] things to Israel” (Num. 10:29). “Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good” (Jer. 32:41). “You [Lord] are good, and do good” (Ps. 119:68). “It will be well [twob] with those who fear [reverence and honour] God” (Ecc. 8:12). “Is it well with you?” (II Kgs. 4:26).

Good question there. And what might we include, to answer, “Yes, it is well with me,” if we’re talking about spiritual wellness?

¤ There will be a wholesome sense of well-being and contentment, growing out of an assurance of sins forgiven, through Christ (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7). In Him there is peace with God (Rom. 5:1), and “full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).

¤ In addition, God’s peace will suffuse our hearts, as we trust Him for what concerns us, day by day (Phil. 4:6-7; Heb. 4:14-16).

¤ There must surely be, as well, a living hope for the future, the joyful certainty of future and eternal blessings in heaven (II Tim. 1:12; I Pet. 1:3-4).

The dramatic story of what happened to Horatio Spafford and his family is one of the best known in the history of our hymns. The Spaffords lived in Chicago. When his wife Anna and their young daughters, Tanetta, Maggie, Annie, and Bessie left to enjoy a time in Europe, Horatio promised to join them shortly, after caring for some business matters. But the Spafford’s ship, the S.S. Ville due Havre, struck another in mid-Atlantic, sinking in only twelve minutes.

The Spafford’s daughters were among the over two hundred who perished, and Mrs. Spafford was taken from the water unconscious. Later, she wired her husband from Cardiff, Wales, and he joined her there. When evangelist Dwight Moody, a family friend, met with them, he found them trusting in the Lord and at peace. “It is well. The will be God be done,” they said.”

It’s out of that experience that Mr. Spafford penned the stirring song of testimony, It Is Well with My Soul. Check the complete hymn in the Cyber Hymnal. You’ll find there a couple of stanzas not usually used today.

CH-1) 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.

CH-2) 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.

May that confidence be true for each and all of us, as we put our faith in God for today, and all our tomorrows.

1) Is there something that threatens your sense of spiritual “wellness” today?

2) What can you do to restore spiritual health regarding what is referred to above?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Reblogged this on Seeking God Daily and commented:
    Yet another old hymn that carries a powerful message is “It Is Well With My Soul.”

    When at some of the hardest, most trying points in my life I have asked: How do I go on believing? How can I hold on to my faith when things are not going my way? How do I hang on when things look so bad?

    I cannot help but wonder if perhaps the composer of this song felt the same.

    Sometimes, it takes God’s holding our hand and seeing us through the fire for us to see how blessed we are. For we are not always delivered from the fire, but rather… by it.

  2. I appreciate your insights, having just run across you blog today and realize this is an old post. Just wondering if you were aware of the rest of the sad story of Spafford’s life, and simply chose not to go there?

    • Yes, I think I know quite a bit. I’ve written several articles on the hymn and Mr. Spafford. Another one here deals with his later insanity. And this one has lots of pictures. Thanks for writing. God bless.


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