The Story Behind “It Is Well with My Soul”

Pastor DaronCrossLife Blog

Horatio Spafford enjoyed a good life. His health, his career, his family, his home, his reputation—all were going well. 

The good life

He was a devout Christian who regularly read the Bible, a prominent Chicago lawyer and he owned quite a number of properties throughout the city. His wife, his four daughters and a son gave him great joy. Professionally and financially he had it made.

But faith, no matter how devout, does not isolate anyone from the troubles of this world. 

The Lord has taken away

Horatio’s son died tragically, and shortly after that the Great Chicago Fire destroyed every one of his real estate investments. 

A few years after that, Horatio planned a trip to Europe with his family to get away and spend time together. He sent them off on a ship, with plans to join them later. Unfortunately, the ship wrecked and killed all four of his daughters. 

He got on the next ship and over the very waters that claimed his girls, Horatio penned some poetry that became a well-loved song. This is the story behind “It Is Well with My Soul.”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

How could anyone say that after such tragic loss? Because faith believes that circumstances cannot take our peace. Instead, peace frames our circumstances to be tools of God’s promises. And God always keeps his promises.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). 

For an inspirational setting of this beautiful hymn, the The Nashville Studio Singer Community arranged a virtual cell phone choir to perform this arrangement by David Wise. 


Lord, you give me blessings today and all of them are because of your love. Lord, you also withhold or withdraw blessings from me to day, and all because of your love. Give me the faith of Job to say: “may the name of the Lord be praised,” whether you give or take away. Amen.

Further Meditation 

Listen to the link above. Sit for 10 minutes after watching the video and pause in reflection and prayer. What has the Lord given you? What has the Lord taken away from you? Praise him for both.