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Poetry

Peace Like A River – The Story

PEACE LIKE A RIVER

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.

It is well…with my soul… It is well, it is well, with my soul…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well…with my soul… It is well, it is well, with my soul…

He lives–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, Oh my soul.

It is well…with my soul… It is well, it is well, with my soul…

And, Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be sight

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,

The trumpet shall sound, and the Lord shall descend;

Even so, it is well with my soul…

It is well…with my soul… It is well, it is well, with my soul…

~~Horatio Gates Spafford [1873]

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THE STORY

In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was all over, 300 people were dead and 100,000 were homeless. Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. A lawyer who had invested much of his money into the downtown Chicago real estate, he’d lost a great deal to the fire. And his one son (he had four daughters) had died about the same time. Still, for two years Spafford–who was a friend of evangelist Dwight Moody–assisted the homeless, impoverished, and grief-stricken ruined by the fire.

After about two years of such work, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation. They were to go to England to join Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades, then travel in Europe. Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business, but sent his family on ahead. He would catch up to them on the other side of the Atlantic.

Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and sank within 20 minutes. Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters–Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie–were killed. Horatio received a horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long: “saved alone.”

Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife, and the two finally met up with Dwight Moody. “It is well,” Spafford told him quietly. “The will of God be done.”

Though reports vary as to when he did so, Spafford was led during those days of surely overwhelming grief to pen the words to one of the most beautiful hymns we know, beloved by Christians lowly and great. Though not yet (to my knowledge) in Catholic hymnals, it has long been a favorite of Baptists (and other evangelicals) including Martin Luther King.

Special thanks to christianhistory.net

~ Dedicated to any parent who has ever lost a child ~

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