Horatio Spafford was a successful attorney in Chicago in the mid-1800s. He was also a savvy businessman, who had invested heavily in real estate on the shore of Lake Michigan. However, in 1871, the Great Chicago Fire wiped out all of his holdings. And just before this disaster, his only son had died.
Desiring a rest for his family he planned a vacation to Europe in the fall of 1873. Yet, a last minute and unexpected business development required him to send his wife and four daughters ahead of him. While en route, their ship was struck by an English vessel, the Lochearn, and sank in 12 minutes. Several days later, the survivors landed in Wales, and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband two words: “Saved alone.“
Horatio boarded the next available ship in order to be with his bereaved wife. And it is said that while on the sea, the ship’s captain informed Horatio that they were passing over the site of the tragedy that had claimed the lives of his four daughters. And in that moment of deep anguish that he penned a hymn that has encouraged literally millions of believers around the world…
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blessed assurance control, That Christ has 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!