The hurricane season this year has created devastation in many parts of the world and our hearts have been heavy as we have lifted prayers for all who have been affected and found ways to help personally. I have been praying for God to not only heal cities that have flooded but to heal hearts that are weary and souls that need encouragement and hope. It has brought to my mind the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford—one of my favorites.
The story of this hymn grips my heart every time I read it. Spafford was a prominent lawyer and a church elder in Chicago, Illinois. He lived there with his wife Anna and five children. He was a devout Christian and among his friends were Dwight L. Moody and other evangelists. The Spaffords were no strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died of pneumonia in 1871 and, that same year, Spafford lost much of his business in the great Chicago fire.
Then, in 1873, tragedy struck their family again. Anna and their four daughters boarded an ocean liner to head for Europe with Horatio ready to join them, coming on a later ship after dealing with a business problem that had arisen. About 4 days into the crossing, the ship that the Spafford ladies were on collided with another ship and went down in 12 minutes. All four daughters were lost, but Anna Spafford survived and sent this telegram to Horatio: “Saved alone, what shall I do?” He immediately booked a passage on the next available ship and when he sailed over the spot where his daughters perished he was inspired to write these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” Even in the midst of intense sorrow, he was trusting God to the depths of his soul. And this is not the end of the story. The Spaffords had 3 more children and moved to Jerusalem where they founded the American Colony, a Christian utopian Society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews, Muslims and Christians. They continued to serve God and find joy despite the hard things they had experienced. What an example for all of us to follow as we live out our lives where God has placed us.
God has placed me at the beach and I see sea billows roll often. I walk on the beach on calm days and also on days when the red flags fly, indicating rip currents and danger. When family and friends come to visit, we never know exactly what the weather will be, but it doesn’t matter, because there is something about the beach that makes us all feel that it is well with our souls no matter what is going on in our lives. There is a majesty of God’s presence there in the face of the awesomeness of His creation.
“This is what the Lord says: He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who declared the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that the waves roar–the LORD Almighty is his name.” Jeremiah 31:35
A few weeks ago our daughter visited with our grandson and some friends for a few days of R & R—we knew that hurricane Jose was going to be passing by during their time with us. Thankfully, it was far out to sea. We walked on the beach and were buffeted by the wind and saw the sea billows rolling—the pictures tell the story.
Watching my little grandson enjoy the windy, wild day with joy in his heart reminded me that we can find joy even on days when unexpected weather and unexpected challenges come our way. I have never experienced the level of loss and tragedy that Horatio Spafford did, and this year Virginia Beach has been spared from the effects of each hurricane that has come barreling through so far. I am grateful. And I can truly say that “it is well with my soul.”
Have you been able to find joy this session in spite of sorrow and pain? Have you been able to say “it is well with my soul” during hard times? Tell us how you have found joy this session. Your story will encourage others—even as the Spafford’s story and the song that came from it have encouraged many for over a hundred years.
Jeannie Blocher is the Founder and President Emeritus of Body & Soul Fitness. She is an ACE certified fitness professional and faculty member, and currently serves as the Director of Spiritual Impact for Body & Soul. She is the author of Make Today Your Best Day Ever and Encouragement for the Body and the Soul, and speaks to women’s groups inspiring them to grow in faith & fitness.