“When Peace Like A River” by Horatio Spaffordby Dr. Zelda Robinson on March 30, 2022
“When Peace Like A River” is a hymn that is most often associated with death. It is a favorite at many funerals. But it is not a funeral song. Although the hymn was written because of tragedy and death, it serves as a reminder: I have a valuable asset that must be guarded with care. It is my soul. While life can be unpredictable and there are circumstances, storms, and tragedies I must face, faith and trust in God assures me my most value asset is in safe hands. I can say with confidence, “It is well with my soul!”
This hymn was written by Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer and businessman from Chicago. He was faced with a series of tragedies. This husband and father of five children was hit with tragedy first when their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and then in the same year, much of his business was lost in the great Chicago fire. God blessed him and his business was restored and flourished.
Then in November of 1873, the French ocean liner, which his wife and remaining four children were on, collided with an iron-hulled Scottish ship. Within minutes the ship carrying the Spafford family sank in the dark waters of the Atlantic. Of the 300 plus passengers on the ship, 226 passengers, including the four Spafford children, went down in the waters. An unexpected business matter kept Mr. Spafford back in Chicago, but he had planned to take another ship to join them in Europe a few days later.
A sailor in a small boat was rowing over the spot where the ship went down and spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. The woman was Anna Spafford, she was still alive. They were picked up by another large vessel and nine days later when she arrived in Wales, Anna wired her husband. Her message read: "Saved alone, what shall I do?"
Horatio Spafford immediately set sail to meet his wife. During the voyage, the captain of the ship he was sailing on showed Horatio the spot where the ship his family had been traveling on went down. As he thought about his daughters, he began to pen the words of this hymn:
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul
The words of this hymn offer us comfort and hope. While life can be unpredictable, filled with joys and sorrows, blessings, and tragedies, we can still have peace. Knowing that our soul is securely placed in the hands of God should fill our heart and mind with peace. No matter what the storms of life bring, I can say, “It is well with my soul!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 4-7