Imagine everything in your life is coming up roses — you’ve married your soulmate, have five beautiful children and a booming career. Do you think you’d be able to say to God, “It is well with my soul?”
Now, imagine all of that is taken away — it’s just you and your grief-stricken spouse, nursing horribly broken hearts. Would it be as easy then to say to God, “It is well with my soul?” That is the powerful truth behind the classic hymn Well With My Soul and Psalm 23:6. When David writes “surely goodness follows me”, the meaning includes good, pleasant and agreeable. But what happens we experience tragedy, situations that are far from pleasant, and we don’t agree with what is happening to us?
No matter what happens in life Psalm 23:6 is true; goodness and mercy follow me.
Well With My Soul was written by Horatio Spafford. Much like Job, he placed his trust in God during his life’s prosperity, but also during its calamities. A devout Christian who’d immersed himself in Scripture, many years of his life were joyous. He was a prominent Chicago lawyer, who’s business was thriving. He owned several properties throughout the city. He and his beloved wife had four beautiful daughters and one son. Life was more than good — it was blessed.
But faith, no matter how great, does not spare us from adversity.
Just as Horatio hit the pinnacle of his profession and financial success, things began to change. It began with the tragic loss of their son. Not long thereafter, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed nearly every real estate investment Horatio owned. Just a few years later in 1873, Horatio decided to treat his wife and daughters to a much needed escape from the turmoil. He sent them on a boat trip to Europe, with plans to join them shortly after wrapping up some business in Chicago. Just a few days later, he received a dreadful telegram from his wife, “Saved alone…” It bore the excruciating news that the ship had wrecked and all four of his daughters had perished.
Horatio was on his way to meet his heartbroken wife, passing over the same sea that had just claimed the lives of his remaining children. It was then that he put his pen to paper and the timeless hymn was born, beginning with the words:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Famous hymn composer, Philip Bliss (1838-1876), was so moved by Horatio’s prose, that he composed a peaceful tune to accompany the words. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.
No Matter What Happens in Life
The words of this song echo the intention of Psalm 23. Goodness and loving kindness pursue after you no matter happens in life.
Goodness and mercy follow him always—”all the days of his life”—the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins. Spurgeon
I encourage you to read through Psalm 23 slowly and allow the Shepherd to meet you in your current circumstance. If you have not worked through my Psalm 23 Reading Plan, I invite you to do it now. It will settle your heart and bring health to your spirit. Use this link for more information.
(story adapted from godupdates.com)