This hymn has been going through my mind in preparation for Pastor Andy’s upcoming sermon series entitled “Good Grief.” I looked up the story of this hymn in the book Then Sings My Soul, 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories. Here is a synopsis of what is written in that book (Robert J. Morgan, p. 185):
This hymn was written by Horatio G. Spafford, an attorney who lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire, and, during the same time, lost his only son to scarlet fever. Two years later, he decided to take his wife and 4 daughters to Europe. He was, however, detained by an urgent matter in New York, and sent his family ahead of him on the French liner Ville du Havre. During the night of November 22, 1873, the liner collided with another ship. His four daughters perished. His wife survived, found nearly unconscious and clinging to a piece of the wreckage. She and the other survivors were taken to Wales.
Horatio immediately booked passage to join his wife. While passing through the waters, the captain told him that they were passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down. Morgan writes: “Spafford went to his cabin, but found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “It is well; the will of God be done.” He later wrote his famous hymn based on those 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.” Horatio G. Spafford