This beautiful hymn touches my heart for a number of reasons:
Firstly, it speaks of the beautiful peace we can have when we know whatever gets thrown our way, we can have assurance that God is working things out for good for us because we love Him (Rom 8:28)
Secondly, it was one of my father’s favourite hymns. He loved the old ones, and he sung them with great gusto. This was like his anthem, peace personified in a turbulent world. I remember singing this at his funeral, struggling to get the words out.
Lastly, the story behind the song.
Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and property dealer in the 19th century. However, he lost his son Horatio Jr to Scarlet Fever when he was only four years old. Then he lost almost all of his property fortune in the great Chicago fire in 1871.
In order to get away from Chicago, Spafford decided to move his family to England. However, when the time came to set sail, a business emergency prevented him from sailing, so he sent his family on ahead and promised to set sail a few days later.
Tragically his wife’s ship was struck by a British steel ship and sank- most of the passengers drowned, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. Spafford took the next available ship to Britain to be with his wife Anna. During the journey, the captain called him to the bridge to inform him that that he believed he was passing over the site of the shipwreck. Spafford then went to his quarters and penned this great hymn.
Horatio and Anna soon returned to Chicago, and were blessed with three more children. One of the sons they also named Horatio, but unfortunately he also fell to the same disease as his brother, at the same age as well.
Spafford knew tragedy. He suffered immeasurable loss. But he also had a great comforter in his God. He knew that all things ultimately work for good because God was in control. Six of his eight beautiful children were at home with The Lord, and he knew that was a better place for them.
Soak in the beautiful words of this amazing hymn, remembering God’s wonderful peace and assurance.