It is well with my soul

During the times in my life when I feel that life is throwing me a curve ball at every corner, reading about the life of hymnist Horatio Spafford always brings me back to reality.

Mar 31, 2023

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

During the times in my life when I feel that life is throwing me a curve ball at every corner, reading about the life of hymnist Horatio Spafford always brings me back to reality. One of my favourite, go to inspirational, real life, Christian stories, at times when I’m feeling low and life seems to take a tumble towards a bottomless pit, is about the life of the author of the hymn It is well with my Soul. My life doesn’t seem so bad after all, compared to the trials and tribulations that Horatio went through, and many other people go through, every day of their lives.

Why Horatio Spafford?
Horatio, a devout Christian, was a lawyer and a senior partner in a large law firm in Chicago. In 1870, Horatio’s only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, fire ravaged real estate holdings along the shores of Lake Michigan where Horatio had heavily invested in. Each and every one of these holdings were destroyed by the great Chicago Fire of 1871.

After the devastating toll these disasters had taken on his whole family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. It was supposed to be a combining holiday for the family while helping his friend, DL Moody, who was a preacher and evangelist, as he travelled around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns.

Horatio and his wife Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873 and the Spaffords travelled to New York in November to catch the French steamer, ‘Ville de Havre’ across the Atlantic. Just before they set sail, a last-minute business development caused Horatio to delay his voyage.

Instead of letting the developments throw a damper on the family holiday, Horatio persuaded his family to go as planned and he would follow later. Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Horatio returned to Chicago. Nine days later, Horatio received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: “Saved alone.”

On November 2, 1873, the ‘Ville de Havre’ had collided with ‘The Lochearn’, an English vessel. It sank within 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck with her four daughters aged between 12 years old and 18 months old but all their four children perished in the incident.

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. During his voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge and told Horatio that the ship was now passing the place where the ‘Ville de Havre’ was wrecked. Horatio returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of the great hymn.

The words which Horatio wrote that day reveals a man whose trust in the Lord was unwavering. How would we react or respond in such overwhelming circumstances? Who would we blame first as the source of all our troubles or have the grace to believe that God is not responsible for all our troubles?

Would we be able to say just as Horatio had said that “It is well with my Soul”? It is easy for us to be grateful and thankful when everything is good in our lives but when faced with challenges, often, we falter.
Despite all that his family had gone through, when they got back to Chicago, the Spaffords tried to get on with their lives. In 1878, a daughter was born and the couple had another daughter in 1881. After contemplating on his tragedies and life, he decided to seek solace in the holy city of Jerusalem with a group of friends where they carried out charitable works.

He did not write the words ‘It is well with my Soul’ because of his great success. They came as a reflection at a time of great personal tragedy from a man whose commitment to the Lord was unwavering.

I’ve had my fair share of personal tragedies which have made me at times waiver in my faith and question why these things happened in my life.

I was widowed at the age of 30 in 1994, when my husband passed away two months after being diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 37. I was questioning why my children, who were aged seven, four and two had to lose their father at such a tender age.

After he passed away, I was even more paranoid about even the slightest pain, fearing that my children would be orphaned if something happened to me. Throughout the short period that he was ill, the hymn God gives His people strength kept reverberating in my head and when the hymn was sung during his funeral, I broke down when I realised God was preparing me for that exact moment.

My eldest daughter, then aged seven, asked a priest why God had let her father die when he knew that Appa had little children who needed him around in their lives. Even the priest had no answer for her then.

Six years ago, when I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, I was much calmer and took it in my stride. I am thankful for God’s abundant blessings during those trying years which enabled me to give my three daughters the best in life without ever having to feel short-changed since their father was no longer around.

Every curve ball or personal tragedy in our lives presents an opportunity for us to learn something. Life would be easier without curve balls. Curve balls don’t have to take us out of the game and we do have a choice in how we respond to the challenges thrown our way.

For me, it is my faith in God that has brought me thus far, and I hope that, like Horatio Spafford, I will always remain spiritually committed and unwavering in my faith, come what may.

(Regina William is an ex-journalist turned head of communications, now full-time grandmother to three, crisscrossing the globe to play the role. She can be reached at

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