It is Well

The Classic

It is no secret that I prefer the old hymns over much of the modern music used in churches today. Those enduring hymns were substantive, full of sound doctrine, and equivalent to a sermon set to music. Whereas so much of today’s music for worship is a mile wide and an inch deep, and maddening in its repetitions.

Of all the great hymns, my favorite has always been Horatio Spafford’s, It Is Well With My Soul.

What makes that hymn so meaningful to me is not only the song itself, but the story behind the song. If you’re unfamiliar with the origination of this song, here’s a synopsis:

  • Horatio Spafford (1828 – 1888) was a lawyer living in Illinois when he lost many of his real estate investments in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He invested in those properties in the spring of that year, only to lose most of them in the infamous October blaze.
  • That same year, Horatio’s only son succumbed to Scarlet Fever, dying at only four years of age.
  • Two years later, Horatio lost even more money in the financial crisis of 1873.
  • Deciding to take a family trip to Europe in November of 1873, the Spafford family, including Horatio, his wife Anna, and their four remaining children (daughters Tanetta, Elizabeth, Annie, and Margaret), all booked passage on the steamship Ville du Havre. However, an unforeseen change in business plans required Horatio to stay behind, sending only his wife and daughters, who he would meet up with later.
  • On November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic Ocean, it was struck by another ship, the Loch Earn. The Ville du Havre sustained too much damage to remain afloat and it sank, killing 226 people, four of which were Horatio and Anna’s daughters.
  • When Horatio’s wife, who survived by clinging to floating debris, reached England, she sent her husband a telegram. It said: “Saved Alone. What shall I do?”
  • Horatio promptly booked passage on a ship and headed across the Atlantic to be with his wife. At some point during the voyage, the captain of the ship informed Horatio that they were passing over the exact location where the Ville du Havre sank.
  • After learning this, Horatio retired to his cabin in the ship where he penned the hymn It Is Well With My Soul which has endured for nearly a hundred and fifty years. It’s been covered by many different musical artists and the chorus has even been grafted into moderns songs.

You can listen to this profound classic here:

The Modern

One of the modern songs which incorporates the chorus of Horatio’s hymn is one that I was listening to through the first month after learning of Kohen’s cancer diagnosis. Although nowhere as doctrinally meaty as Horatio’s magnum opus, this song, simply titled It Is Well, seemed to be the perfect song for the perfect moment.

With such great suffering, like we are experiencing right now with our son, this song is impossible for me to get through without shedding tears.

For those who are suffering, you will quickly recognize that this is much more than just a “pretty song.” If you’ve never heard it before, put a few minutes aside from your busy day and listen to it, cherishing the song for its beauty, its simplicity, and its reminder to “Let go, my soul, and trust in Him; the waves and wind still know His name.”


In 1902, a man was in attendance at a church in Worcester, Massachusetts when the story behind Horatio Spafford’s It Is Well With My Soul was featured. After singing the song and hearing the tragic story behind its writing, the unidentified man, who had recently suffered great financial loss, was recorded as saying:

“I will never again complain of my lot. If Spafford could write such a beautiful resignation hymn when he had lost all his children, and everything else save his wife and character, I ought surely to be thankful that my losses have been so light.”

I pray that no matter what we go through with Kohen, I am able to lift my head and my voice and emphatically proclaim that indeed, it is well with my soul.

4 thoughts on “It is Well

  1. Heidi Boge

    Jerry, I am so thankful the Lord is ministering to you through the songs of the Saints. May he continue to wash you with hope through His Word and worship and prayer. You will be okay, so will Kohen and Courtney and each of your children as you look up.
    Though Satan should Buffet, though trials should come, let this Blessed Assurance control that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed his own blood for my soul.
    The modern It is Well was shared with me at a very low time in Africa. We still continue to be blessed listening to it as well!


  2. Debbie

    It is my favorite song as well. When I was struggling so intensely with pain and my debilitating health it became even more dear to me than ever before. When people asked me how I was and it just seemed like too much to tell them of my earthly burdens I just simply replied, ” It is well with my soul.” Which was so true and I was eternally thankful to be able to say so. Praying your family will look back on this time and see the masterpiece for which God created out of each of your troubles, fears, pain, tears, agony and joy filled moments. May Kohen be a trophy of His grace and mercy and may each one of your children call Him Lord. Love you guys. You are continually in my prayers. God bless.


  3. jyllibean

    So so Beautiful. That song wrenches my heart every time. My little boy (13) always knows with in the 1st notes of a hymn which ones reach my soul to tears. Be well family. We think of your family daily. Can your wife and Kohen have visitors in the hospital during long stays?


  4. Nevada Back 40

    Immediately after receiving the news from Kohen’s first x-ray, this hymn was on my car radio. It is a moment I will never forget- it caused me to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and move forward in the moment.


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