Thanksgiving in the Midst of Adversity - Pastor Boniface Mgonja
Sunday, October 8th, 2023 - Bethel Pentecostal Church, Barrhead, Alberta
"It Is Well with My Soul"
Written by Horatio Gates Spafford, 1828-1888
Born: October 20, 1828, North Troy, New York.
Died: October 16, 1888, Jerusalem, Israel, of malaria.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
“It Is Well with My Soul” is a very influential hymn written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G.
You might think to write a worship song titled, “It is well with my soul”, you would indeed have
to be a rich, successful Chicago lawyer. But the words, “When sorrows like sea billows roll ... It
is well with my soul”, were not written during the happiest period of Spafford’s life.
On the contrary, they came from a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.
Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, (who were blessed with 1 son and 4 daughters) were
pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because of Horatio's legal career and
business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L.
Moody, the famous preacher.
In 1870, however, things started to go wrong.
The first was the death of his only son who was killed by scarlet fever in 1871 at the age of four.
A year later, was the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful
lawyer). Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871,
every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.
Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife
and four daughters on a holiday to England in November 1873, but sent the family ahead while
he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire.
While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch
Earn, Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie
and Tanetta clinging desperately to her.
Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her
daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the
survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete
despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose” and all four of
Spafford’s daughters died.
Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife Anna in Wales. It read: “Saved
Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join
his grieving wife. When the ship was passing at the place of accident, the captain of the ship
said, “... we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three
miles deep.” Horatio knew that’s where his daughters had died, he then returned to his cabin and
penned the lyrics of his great hymn.
It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under circumstances
similar to those experienced by the Spaffords. But we do know that the God who sustained them
would also be with us.
No matter what circumstances overtake us may we be able to say with Horatio Spafford ......“It
is well with my soul”