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  • Writer's pictureChurch Muse

Dealing with Heartbreak - "It is Well with My Soul"

The text for the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" was written by Horatio Spafford. Though a prosperous lawyer, he fell on difficult times. His only son died at age 3 in 1870, and the very next year, the great Chicago fire destroyed most of his holdings, Chicago real estate, in which he had invested heavily. Two years later he planned a trip with his wife and 4 daughters to England, a vacation partially planned to hear their dear friend, Dwight L. Moody speak on foreign shores. (Some of you may know this name - the Moody Bible Institute.)

At the last minute, Horatio was delayed on business, and sent his family ahead, planning to join them later. The ship they were on, the SS Ville du Havre, was struck by another ship. The Ville de Havre quickly sank, taking with it 226 passengers, including Spafford’s four daughters, but sparing his wife. She sent him a telegram which simply read, “Saved alone.”

Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the words to “It is Well with My Soul” as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. The music for Spafford’s text was written by Philip Paul Bliss, who entitled the tune, “VILLE de HAVRE” after the ill-fated ship.

If you’ve been reading the Church Muse regularly, you may have noticed that I have not posted anything for over a month; I have felt no inspiration to write, feeling blue and heavy of heart a good deal of the time. To be sure, we all have a reason to feel blue nowadays, but I think I made it worse by admonishing myself for feeling sad when I am doing okay when so many people have more difficult challenges. I have a roof over my head, and I’m still working, and so is my husband. We are able to put food on the table. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

To quote someone’s words I just read on Facebook, “OK, God, what is it? My heart feels heavy. I need to write, but I don’t have words. What is this feeling?” Certainly it is a new feeling; even when I have felt depressed in the past, it hasn’t lasted this long. Now I think I have identified it - it is heartbreak. One reason, among others, is that I am separated from my children because they are in another country (Canada) and my heart is heavy because I have not seen them since last summer. But unlike Mr. Spafford’s profound feeling of loss on that Atlantic crossing, I am comforted to know that my children are alive and healthy.

In spite of the deep heartbreak he must have felt, Spafford found the words that expressed his faith in God, knowing that despite disastrous trauma in his physical life, he knew his soul was in God’s hands. And he prayed, “It is Well with My Soul.”

The text of the first verse reads:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know

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

The rendition/arrangement offered here is by the BYU Vocal Point, a group from which I have enjoyed several other arrangements of traditional hymns. This song is especially meaningful for me because we sang it at my Mom’s funeral, requested by her brother.

On a related but separate note, I am SO excited that SPC will be offering in-house services starting on September 13, God willing! It will be wonderful to see your faces (albeit with masks) again. Just to let you know, I’ll be playing a lovely arrangement of this hymn by our own Kansas City composer, Mark Hayes, for the prelude. I can’t wait to see you back in our sanctuary! And for our Facebook attendees, keep checking in! We plan to continue our services online for those who are not able to attend in person.

Be well with your souls, my dear friends!

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1 Comment

kristi bruton
Sep 06, 2020

This was beautiful and just what I needed today. Thank you for posting, Kelly! Love you!

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