Sunday, April 15, 2012

National Poetry Month, Day 15

According to, this hymn was written after 3 major tragedies in Horatio Gates Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son, and then in the same year, his financial ruin in the great Chicago Fire of 1871. Then in 1873, while crossing the Atlantic, all 4 of Spafford’s daughters died in a shipwreck. Surviving the tragedy, Spafford’s wife, Anna, sent her husband the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.” Several weeks later, after Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, he penned the words to this beloved hymn of faith in spite of his heartrending grief. Spafford, like Christians of all ages, rested in eternal hope in God, no matter what pain and grief befalls them on earth.

It is comfortingly poignant, then, that according to survivors of the Titanic, this hymn was played as that great ship sank beneath the Atlantic Ocean 100 years ago today.

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.

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