“It Is Well With My Soul” is one of my favorite hymns. Born out of tragedy and loss, it points to the only thing that matters. Period.
I’ve told the story of the hymn many times. Briefly, in 1873 Horatio Spafford, a Chicago businessman, sent his wife Anna and four daughters to England on vacation. He was to follow later and they would all meet up with their old friend and preacher, Dwight Moody (who was holding revival meetings in England at the time). But the ship carrying his family was accidently struck by another vessel and sank in only twelve minutes. Only Anna survived. Arriving in England, she cabled her husband: “Saved alone.”
Mr. Spafford boarded a ship immediately for England. On the voyage one evening, the captain met him on deck and said: “As near we can tell, this is the place where the SS Ville de Harvre sank with your daughters.” Spafford returned to his stateroom and wrote the hymn that night.
The Spafford story continues through many “toils and snares” and he and his wife ended up in Jerusalem as missionaries. They founded what would become “The American Colony” and the “American Colony Hotel” is one of the present monuments to their efforts. Just off the lobby is a room dedicated to the Spafford story – including the original manuscript of the hymn and the telegram Anna sent to Horatio.
I was overjoyed the evening I arrived in Jerusalem when I noticed my hotel was just across the street from the American Colony Hotel. Though it was late when I arrived, I walked over to snap these photos: A picture of the hymn manuscript, one of Anna, and one of Horatio (click the pictures for a better view).
We sing the hymn regularly in worship – and especially at funerals. But it is not just a beautiful hymn. It is a personal declaration: “It is well with my soul.”
Is it well with yours?