If you grew up with “traditional church music,” you undoubtedly sang It is Well with My Soul. This and other once-popular Gospel songs are making the rounds on social media as many seek encouragement and strength in this time of crisis.
But, do you know the story behind the song? In the mid-1800’s, a prominent attorney named Horatio Spafford, and his wife, Anna, were devout Christians and friends of evangelist DL Moody. Spafford was also a wealthy Chicago real estate investor with highly valued property along Lake Michigan.
Tragedy struck dramatically in the 1870’s when the Spafford’s young son died of Scarlet Fever and the Great Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out Spafford’s prized real estate. Those events were devastating, but there was more.
Following the tragedies, Spafford planned a family trip to Europe, where his friend, DL Moody would be preaching. However, urgent business plans arose as they were about to leave, so Spafford, not wanting to disrupt the family vacation, sent his wife and 4 daughters on, with a promise he would join them soon.
In November of 1873, the ship hauling his family and hundreds more passengers was stuck by an iron vessel, sinking the ship. Anna was one of the few who survived, but the incident took the lives of their 4 young daughters. Anna was rescued, and when she arrived in England, she sent a telegram to Horatio, stating only: “Saved alone.”
Horatio boarded the next vessel to England and, upon sailing past the point his daughters had met their Maker, he was called to the bridge to look out over the waters. It was there he penned the words to the enduring song, It is Well with My Soul. If you have never heard it, here it is. But there is more to the story, so stick with me!
With material success gone, Horatio and Anna committed themselves even more fully to God’s call, hosting prayer meetings and starting a small movement called the Overcomers. In 1881 they moved to Jerusalem to set up the American Colony, and engaged in philanthropic work among Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. Spafford died there in 1888, but the charming little American Colony remains to this day.
Now, fast forward to November 2019. At the end of our Israel tour, we stayed at a hotel just blocks from the American Colony, so several of us went there to see the tiny museum and visit the quaint hotel. There, we saw Spafford’s hand-written words to that amazing song.
As a huge unexpected bonus, one of Horatio Spafford’s descendants (a great grandson, I believe) is a film producer, and happened to be there when we visited! We talked at length with him and enjoyed his warm smile and pleasant demeanor. What a treat! You just never know what you will encounter on a trip to Israel! We were so blessed!
Now you know the rest of the story!