The other night I pulled into my garage to behold an early birthday present sitting there – a piano! This piano (although electric it sounds almost like the real thing) is an answer to prayer as I’ve wanted one for a long time but for various reasons it hasn’t become a reality…until now. As a bit of a sentimentalist this piano holds special value to me because it was my husband’s Grandmother’s (with an upcoming move, there isn’t room for her to take the piano).
I’ve been digging out my music & am enjoying a favourite past time once again. The piano is linked to many memories for me, including playing in church & listening to my mother play hymns every Sunday afternoon (before we all had to watch “Hymn Sing” on the television). Yes – I grew up surrounded by those cherished hymns & so (call me sentimental again) I have a number of favourites! One of my all time favourites is “It Is Well With My Soul”. I’m not sure why exactly it holds such special value to me, except that the words & harmonies are just so beautiful. I was intrigued to find out the history of this piece, so I looked it up & like a good book, was captured by the story that goes with the song (excerpt below taken from biblestudycharts.com).
This hymn was written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford; a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.
Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. 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 Spaffords’ only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. 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. And, not only did they need the rest — DL Moody needed the help. He was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer ‘Ville de Havre’ across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned. He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago.
Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: “Saved alone.”.
On November 2nd 1873, the ‘Ville de Havre’ had collided with ‘The Lochearn’, an English vessel. It sank in only 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. 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 she immediately recalled the words of a friend, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”
Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father’s voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. “A careful reckoning has been made”, he said, “and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.” Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.
The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told “her soul is vexed within her”, she still maintains that “It is well.” And Spafford’s song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was.
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…
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billow roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
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!
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!
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.